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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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Fifty-nine percent of respondents said their organization had five or fewer people on the communication staff. Twenty-six percent said they were the only communication staff person in their organization.

Sixty-nine percent of RCC respondents were women. Median age for communicators was 49. Ages ranged from 23 to 92.

Respondents in 2006-07 had worked in communications jobs between 1 and 50 years. The median experience level was 20 years. Their religion communication experience ranged from 1 to 40 years. The median was 10 years.

Ninety-four percent of RCC respondents said they were college graduates. Fortyseven percent had graduate degrees. Seventy-three percent said they had at least some academic training in communication, journalism or public relations. The other 23% reported no college-level work in those disciplines.

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In the second survey, 29 of the 87 faith group leaders contacted in January 2008 returned paper questionnaires by mail by May 31. Those replies represent a response rate of 33%. Item completion was consistently high. Few respondents skipped any of the 73 items.

Seventeen (59%) of the faith group leaders represented mainline Protestant denominations—11 Methodists, 3 Lutherans, 2 Episcopalians and 1 American Baptist.

The other 12 (41%) came from six Christian denominations—Mennonite, Moravian, Reformed Church in America, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist and Southern Baptist.

Forty-one percent of leaders headed regional judicatories. Twenty-four percent led faith-related organizations, such as religious orders, ecumenical associations, service agencies or seminaries. Seventeen percent ran denominational agencies, and another 17% were denominational chief executives. Their most common titles were “bishop” or “general secretary” (41%), “president” or “chief executive officer” (28%) and “executive director” (21%).

Fifteen of the 29 leaders (52%) were men. Ages ranged from 43 to 74. Median age was 59.5.

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RQ1 asked how the roles religion communicators played compared to those of secular practitioners. Table 1 shows that RCC members are significantly different from secular communicators in how much they carry out technician (p.05) and manager tasks (p.001). RCC members were much more likely than secular communicators to work as technicians. Secular practitioners were much more likely than religion communicators to function as managers. Effect size in this small population was moderate for technician role differences (d=.5) and small for the manager role (d=.25). Differences between religion and secular communicators for the media relations and senior adviser roles— while present—were not significant at the p.05 level.

Both religion and secular communicators said they took responsibility for the success or failure of communication programs (a manager measure). But secular practitioners put more emphasis on manager tasks (M=117 RCC, M=156 secular). Those included solving communication problems, being accountable for the success or failure of communication efforts and making policy decisions. RCC members filled more of their days writing, editing, producing publications and taking pictures (all technician tasks) than did secular practitioners (M=123 RCC, M=72 secular). Secular communicators registered other low mean scores for one senior-adviser and one media-relations task that

did not reflect manager-level influence:

+ I don’t make communication policy but provide suggestions (M=125 RCC, M=77 secular).

+ I am responsible for placing news releases (M=118 RCC, M=81 secular).

Religion communicators showed wide differences from secular practitioners on whether they were senior counselors to top management (M=104 RCC, M=160 secular) and whether they created opportunities for management to hear views from publics (M=87 RCC, M=118 secular). Those differences might signal a lower status in the organization than secular respondents had.

Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients for scales in the RCC sample mirrored results reported by Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) for three of four roles: media

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(0.84 for RCC members, 0.89 for secular communicators) and senior adviser (0.50 for RCC members, 0.54 for secular communicators). The RCC results recorded a lower alpha than Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) reported for the technician scale (0.61 for RCC members, 0.81 for secular communicators). That lower alpha suggests that the four items may not have measured the technician concept as well among RCC members as among secular communicators. Eliminating the item about writing materials that present important information could boost the alpha in this study to 0.64. That item had the lowest inter-item correlation of the four (0.223). The other three had moderately high inter-item correlations (.40). Dropping other items, therefore, would reduce the alpha further. Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) did not discuss item covariance for their technician scale. Therefore, additional comparisons with their more reliable findings were not possible.

In both Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) and this study, alphas for the senior adviser role did not meet the 0.60 minimum usually seen in social science literature for scales with few items (Leech, Barrett & Morgan, 2008). Consequently, the reliability of the senior adviser scale in both studies is questionable. In the RCC results, two items reduced the senior adviser alpha. One said, “I represent the organization at events and meetings” (inter-item correlation 0.162). The other said: “Although I don’t make communication policy decisions, I provide decision makers with suggestions, recommendations and plans” (inter-item correlation 0.198). Eliminating either item from the scale in this study would not boost the alpha to 0.60. Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) reported that the second item about not making policies but offering suggestions had also reduced their senior adviser alpha. Nevertheless, they continued to use all four senior adviser items in their research.





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RQ2 asked how the roles religion communicators played compared to what their supervisors expected them to play. Table 2 shows differences between the groups. RCC members and faith group leaders gave significantly different answers about the expert prescriber and problem-solving facilitator roles. Differences on the communication process facilitator and technician roles were not significant at the p.05 level.

Top executives showed their strongest support for communicators being expert prescribers (M=3.43 RCC, M=4.03 leaders). Leaders expected communicators to recommend courses of action, take responsibility for diagnosing and solving communication problems, make communication policy decisions, and be accountable for the success or failure of communication efforts. Communicators said they sometimes did those things. Effect size was small to moderate for this statistical difference (d=.37).

Faith group executives also expected communicators to help solve problems facing the organization (M=3.23 RCC, M=3.88 leaders). Leaders said communicators should point out the need for systematic communication planning, encourage management participation in communication decisions, keep leaders actively involved, improve communication skills of other managers and act as a catalyst for decision making. Communicators said they sometimes or seldom did these things. Effect size was moderate for these differences (d=.55). Interestingly, response patterns for RCC members

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(r=.83, p.05).

RCC members, on the other hand, concentrated almost equally on being technicians (M= 3.44) and expert prescribers (M=3.43). They put much less emphasis on facilitating the communication process (M=2.99) or solving communication problems (M= 3.23). RCC members said they mostly wrote, edited, monitored news media content and maintained media contacts. Of those tasks, top executives said they valued maintaining media contacts and media monitoring.

Leaders said they most expected communicators to do systematic communication planning, encourage management participation in important communication decisions and recommend courses of action for solving communication problems. Top executives did not expect communicators to spend much time taking pictures or editing materials written by others for grammar and spelling.

Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients (0.75 to 0.90) for all but one set of statements (expert prescriber among leaders) mirrored results for these scales reported by Broom (1982). Among faith group leaders, however, the six statements about expert prescribers did not appear to be measuring a single concept. That might mean executives did not see the six expert-prescriber tasks as part a unified role as clearly as communicators did. Only two of the six responses from faith group leaders had moderately high inter-item correlations (.40). Those statements said that communicators should plan and recommend courses of action to solve communication problems (interitem correlation 0.47) and that communicators should take responsibility for the success or failure of communication efforts (inter-item correlation 0.42). Dropping either of those would lower the alpha. But eliminating any of the other four items would not boost the alpha to more than 0.56. The low alpha raised questions about just what faith group leaders meant when they appeared to want their communicators to be expert prescribers.

Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) used 11 of the 24 measures in Table 2 in their analysis of manager, media-relations specialist, senior adviser and technician role enactment among communicators. Those items are noted in Table 2. RCC members and faith group leaders gave significantly different answers for the three manager (p.05) and two media relations measures (p.01) listed on Table 2. Faith group leaders emphasized the importance of those tasks more than did RCC members.

The manager measures were part of the expert-prescriber scale. They called for practitioners to take responsibility for communication programs, make communication policy and be accountable for the success or failure of communication efforts.

Cronbach’s alpha for those three items was 0.81 among RCC members and 0.54 among leaders. One media relations measure was in the technician scale. The other was in the communication process facilitator scale. These tasks called for communicators to maintain contacts with reporters and keep their organization informed about news reports relating to it. Cronbach’s alpha among communicators for the two media relations items was 0.61 but among leaders was 0.13. Inter-item correlation was moderately high (0.43) among RCC respondents but very low (0.067) among faith group leaders. The low alphas for leaders again suggested that they did not see the manager and media relations tasks as part of clearly defined roles. Nevertheless, faith group executives considered these tasks important for communicators to perform.

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RQ3 asked how much RCC members and faith group leaders agreed about practices described in the four models of public relations (Grunig & Grunig, 1992;

Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002; Grunig & Hunt, 1984). Columns 1 and 3 of Table 3 show generally consistent views on the 16 statements describing public relations practices (r=.99, p.05). T tests of independent samples showed no differences at the p.05 level of significance between religion communicators and faith group executives concerning any of the four models. Responses from the two groups correlated significantly for the two-way asymmetrical (r=.97, p.05) and public information (r=.99, p.05) models.

Agreement approached significance for the two-way symmetrical model (r=.94, p=.055).

Communicators and leaders showed their widest disagreement over three statements. Two came from the press agentry/publicity model and concerned the

importance of publicity:

+ The purpose of communication is, quite simply, to get publicity for this organization (M=2.20 RCC, M=2.86 leaders).

+ In communication one mostly attempts to get favorable publicity into the media and to keep unfavorable publicity out (M=3.04 RCC, M=2.41 leaders).

The other came from the two-way symmetrical model and concerned communication as a mediation tool: “Communication should provide mediation for the organization—to help management and publics negotiate conflicts” (M=3.43 RCC, M=2.41 leaders).

Low Cronbach’s alpha coefficients in both groups for all four models raised

–  –  –

symmetrical model, 0.81 for the two-way asymmetrical model, 0.60 for the public information model and 0.78 for the press agentry/publicity model. Grunig, Grunig & Dozier (2002) reported alphas for results among communicators in 316 Excellence studies of 0.72 for the two-way symmetrical model, 0.70 for the two-way asymmetrical model, 0.56 for the public information model and 0.78 for the press agentry/publicity model. For their samples of chief executives, Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002) had reported alphas of 0.65 for the two-way symmetrical model, 0.59 for the two-way asymmetrical model, 0.70 for the press agentry/publicity model and 0.68 for the public information model.

In this study, alphas among religion communicators were 0.62 for the two-way symmetrical model, 0.55 for the two-way asymmetrical model, 0.24 for the public information model and 0.54 for the press agentry/publicity model. Alphas for faith group leaders were 0.34 for the two-way symmetrical model, 0.61 for the two-way asymmetrical model, 0.36 for the public information model and 0.71 for the press agentry/publicity model.



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