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«SPEAKING OF FAITH: PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTICE AMONG RELIGION COMMUNICATORS IN THE UNITED STATES Committee: Dominic L. Lasorsa, Co-Supervisor Ronald ...»

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The second cross tabulation looked for relationships between those 32 statements and the highest level of training respondents had received in communication, journalism, public relations or marketing. The training levels were no formal training in communication, journalism, advertising, public relations or marketing; some continuing education courses; some undergraduate-level college courses; a bachelor’s degree; some graduate-level courses; a master’s degree; a doctoral degree.

The third cross tabulation considered connections between the 32 statements and responses about reading communication trade periodicals. Respondents could select “none,” pick from a list of 15 titles or name additional publications under “other.” Listed publication titles were Communication World, Public Relations Journal, Public Relations Tactics, Public Relations Strategist, Public Relations Review, International Public Relations Review, PR Reporter, PR News, O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, Communications Briefings, PR Week, Regan Report, Editor & Publisher, Advertising Age and Ad Week.

The fourth cross tabulation checked for relationships between the 32 statements and membership in professional communication or public relations associations.

Respondents could select from a list of eight organizations, pick “none” or specify another group. Listed groups were Religion Communicators Council, Public Relations Society of America, International Association of Business Communicators, Women in Communication, a fellowship related to their faith group, Society of Professional Journalists, Radio-Television News Directors and Society of News Design.

Chi square tests were run to determine the statistical significance of all relationships.

–  –  –

RQ8 asked how much religion communicators and faith group leaders agreed about contributions of the communication department to faith group operations. To answer that question, a comparison of means was used. RCC members and faith group

leaders both responded to statements about communication department contributions to:

+ Strategic planning.

+ Response to major social issues.

+ Major initiatives.

+ Routine operations.

+ Regularly conducted and routine research activities.

+ Specific research activities conducted to answer specific questions.

+ Formal approaches to gathering information for use in decision making other than research.

+ Informal approaches to gathering information.

+ Contacts with knowledgeable people outside the organization.

+ Judgments based on experience.

Both groups responded on a five-point scale. Responses were (1) no contribution, (2) minor contribution, (3) average contribution, (4) major contribution and (5) extremely strong contribution. Means higher than 3.5 indicate major contributions. Means from 2.51 to 3.49 show average contributions. Those lower than 2.50 signal minor contributions.

Independent samples t tests of means were run. They checked for the statistically significant differences in mean responses between the two groups. Pearson’s correlations were computed. They checked how closely mean responses to the 10 statements were associated. In addition, Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients were determined for each scale.

–  –  –

H1 said that communicators for mainline Protestant denominations would more likely agree with survey items describing two-way symmetrical public relations than practitioners for other U.S. faith groups. This proposition reflected how dynamics of Church-Sect Theory might logically interact with Excellence Public Relations Theory at the individual level of analysis. Mainline denominations were the most churchlike groups on the church-sect continuum (Carroll & Roof, 1993; Finke & Stark, 2001, 2005; Johnson, 1963; Michaelsen & Roof, 1986; Niebuhr, 1929; Roof, 1998; Roof & McKinney, 1987;

Stark & Bainbridge, 1979, 1980, 1985; Stark & Finke, 2000). Mainline denominations were, therefore, more likely than other U.S. faith groups to seek to accommodate secular social values. In such an organizational milieu, communicators might be more likely than those from less churchlike groups to advocate two-way symmetrical public relations. That approach allowed social groups to influence the denomination as much as it influenced those groups. That mutual accommodation corresponded to the primary behavior of a church in Church-Sect Theory.

A comparison of means was used to test H1. Religious affiliation of communicators was recoded from specific faith groups to “mainline” and “other.” Respondents from the American Baptist Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church were put into the mainline category.

Scholars have consistently recognized those Protestant denominations as “mainline” for at least 80 years (Carroll & Roof, 1993; Finke & Stark, 2001, 2005; Johnson, 1963;

Michaelsen & Roof, 1986; Miller, 2008a, 2008b; Niebuhr, 1929; Roof, 1998; Roof & McKinney, 1987; Stark & Bainbridge, 1979, 1980, 1985; Stark & Finke, 2000; Twitchell, 2000; 2007). In addition, the Association of Religion Data Archives (www.thearda) and the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (Miller, 2008a, 2008b) classified these seven denominations as mainline. The association did not define “mainline Protestant denominations” but maintained data about these seven groups under that label. The Religious Landscape Survey, sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, cited the Religion Newswriters Association’s definition of “mainline Protestant





denominations” for the way it categorized faith groups:

This term refers to a group of moderate-to-liberal Protestant denominations: the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Predominantly African-American Methodist denominations are also sometimes associated with this grouping: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the AME Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. The term “mainline” harks back to a time when this mostly white group was tied to the political and cultural establishment. Since the 1960s, membership in most mainline denominations has fallen precipitously, as has their influence. (Connolly, 2006, p. 45) RCC members responded to the 16 statements about public relations practices used in RQ 3 on a five-point Likert scale. Possible answers were (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) neither agree nor disagree, (4) agree and (5) strongly agree.

Means were calculated for responses to each of the 16 statements by mainline and non-mainline communicators. Composite means for the two groups were also calculated for each model (average of means for each four-statement scale) and all 16 measures as a whole. Means higher than 3.50 were judged to show agreement. Those from 2.51 to 3.49 were taken to show neither agreement nor disagreement (generally neutral opinions).

Those below 2.50 were rated as showing disagreement. Independent samples t tests of means were run. They checked for the statistically significant differences in mean responses from the mainline and non-mainline groups. Effect size was considered as well.

Differences in means of 0.2 pooled standard deviations were considered small, 0.5 SD medium and 0.8 SD large (Cohen, 1992). In addition, Pearson’s correlations were computed. They checked how closely mean responses to the 16 statements from the two groups were associated.

–  –  –

H1—only among faith group leaders. H2 said leaders of mainline denominations would be more likely to agree with survey statements about two-way symmetrical public relations than leaders of other faith groups. The rationale for H2 was similar to H1.

Mainline denominations were considered the most churchlike on the church-sect continuum. That meant they should be more likely than other U.S. faith groups to seek to accommodate secular social values. Finke and Stark (2001) and Stark and Finke (2000) showed that mainline Protestant clergy members sometimes did lead their congregations to reduce tensions with secular society. Pastors believed they would attract more members by avoiding absolute moral teachings, emphasizing tolerance concerning conflicting moral positions, and encouraging openness to all participants and opinions. In that way pastors expected to increase their congregation’s community influence and their personal reputations inside and outside the church. Mainline leaders—most of whom are clergy members—should, therefore, be more likely to agree with statements about twoway symmetrical public relations than the other corporate communication approaches.

A comparison of means was used to test H2. As with communicators, religious affiliation of leaders was recoded from specific faith groups to “mainline” and “other.” Respondents from the American Baptist Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and United Methodist Church were put into the mainline category.

That grouping matched what was done with RCC members. Faith group leaders responded to the same 16 statements about the four public relations models as RCC members. Leaders used the same five-point Likert scale as communicators. Possible answers were (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) neither agree nor disagree, (4) agree and (5) strongly agree.

As in H1, means were calculated for responses to each of the 16 statements by mainline and non-mainline leaders. Composite means for the two groups were also calculated for each model (average of means for each four-statement scale) and for all 16 measures as a whole. Means higher than 3.50 were judged to show agreement. Those from 2.51 to 3.49 were taken to show neither agreement nor disagreement (generally neutral opinions). Those below 2.50 were rated as showing disagreement. Independent samples t tests of means were run. They checked for the statistically significant differences in mean responses from the mainline and non-mainline groups stated in H2.

Effect size was considered as well. Differences in pooled means of 0.2 standard deviations were considered small, 0.5 SD medium and 0.8 SD large (Cohen, 1992). In addition, Pearson’s correlations were computed. Those correlations checked how closely mean responses to the 16 statements from the two groups were associated.

–  –  –

One-hundred-seventy of 479 Religion Communicator Council members responded to the initial online survey between October 1 and December 31, 2006. Initial response rate was 35%. Twenty-three of the initial 479 e-mail invitations were undeliverable. Fifteen more RCC members from the original list responded to a paperand-pencil version of the questionnaire in April 2007 during the organization’s annual convention. Those additions brought the final response number to 185 and response rate to 39%.

Researchers have found that mode of survey administration influences response rate. Online surveys generally had lower response rates than mail surveys. A metaanalysis by Cook, Heath and Thompson (2000) reported a mean response rate for 56 online surveys of 39.6%. Subsequent studies of online survey methodology reported response rates from 13% to 43% (Cobanogulo, Warde, Moreo, 2001; Fraze, Hardin, Brashears, Haygood & Smith, 2003; Kwan & Radler, 2002; Porter & Whitcomb, 2003;

Sax, Gilmartin & Bryant, 2003; Sills & Song, 2002).

Only 117 RCC members (24%) reached the end of the questionnaire and responded to most of the 142 questionnaire items. Accordingly, response totals were higher for items at the beginning of the online questionnaire than at the end. Field testing had not indicated that questionnaire length might discourage respondents from completing the online survey. High break-off rates were not a problem in earlier online studies (Cobanogulo, Warde, Moreo, 2001; Kwan & Radler, 2002; Porter & Whitcomb, 2003; Sax, Gilmartin & Bryant, 2003). The paper-and-pencil questionnaire did not show the same break-off rate. Respondents answered almost all the questions on the paper version.

Ninety-five RCC respondents (51% of 185) represented mainline Protestant denominations. The breakdown was 39 Methodists, 29 Lutherans, 12 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 3 American Baptists, 3 Disciples of Christ and 1 United Church of Christ.

Sixty-eight RCC members (37%) identified themselves with other faith groups—both Christian and non-Christian. Among the other Christians were 18 Roman Catholics, 13 Southern Baptists, 6 Christian Scientists, 3 Seventh-day Adventists, 2 members of the Church of Christ, and individuals from Mormon, Moravian, Mennonite, Quaker, and various non-denominational groups. Non-Christians included nine Baha’is, two Hindus, two Unitarians, a Muslim and a Jew. Twenty-three (12%) did not specify a faith group.

Nearly 20% of RCC respondents worked for national-level faith organizations, such as denominational agencies or organizational headquarters. Another 21% worked for regional judicatories, such as synods, dioceses, conferences or state conventions. Nine percent served local entities, usually individual congregations or temples. Thirty-four percent had jobs with other faith-related agencies. Those included children’s or retirement homes, colleges, religious publications or special organizations, such as religious orders, men’s fellowships and anti-hunger agencies. Fifteen percent did not indicate where they worked.

Two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they reported directly to the chief executive. Thirty-six percent said they were members of the senior management executive team (“dominant coalition”). The most common position titles were “director” (46%), “vice president” (8%), “manager” (8%), “coordinator” (7%) and “specialist” (7%). Forty-six percent of survey respondents had “communications” in their job designations. “Public information” or “media relations” were the second most popular designations at 10%. “Public relations” was used in 7% of titles. “Marketing” and “editor” each accounted for 5% of titles. No other title category was listed higher than 3%.



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