«SPEAKING OF FAITH: PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTICE AMONG RELIGION COMMUNICATORS IN THE UNITED STATES Committee: Dominic L. Lasorsa, Co-Supervisor Ronald ...»
Seven measures of public relations models showed significant associations with
statements about public relations expertise:
+ Of RCC members who agreed with the press agentry/publicity measure saying that the purpose of communication was to get good publicity and avoid bad publicity (43% of 108 responses), 39% claimed their offices had average expertise for getting publicity. Another 26% said their offices had better than average expertise, and 4% rated their knowledge was tops in
+ Of RCC members who disagreed with the public information measure saying people in communication were too busy writing stories to do research (47% of 111 responses), 33% said their offices were better than average at preparing news stories that journalists would use. Another 29% rated their expertise tops in the field (p.05).
+ Of RCC members who disagreed with the public information measure saying that clipping files were the only way to gauge public relations effectiveness (78% of 109 responses), 47% claimed their offices were better than average at providing information about their organizations to the public. Another 32% rated their expertise as tops in the field (p.01).
+ Of RCC members who agreed with the two-way asymmetrical measure saying they should do research after a communication campaign to see how attitudes had changed (83% of 109 responses), most claimed they had little or no expertise to use attitude theories in such an effort (36% saying none, 23% saying less than average and 14% saying average) (p.01).
+ Of RCC members who agreed with the two-way asymmetrical measure saying they should use advance research to determine how best to describe their organization and its policies (64% of 107 responses), most claimed they had little expertise for persuading publics that the organization was right
Cross tabulations of the 16 measures for public relations models and the related 16 measures for public relations expertise with responses about reading trade publications and belonging to professional organizations showed no significant measures of relationship at the p.05 level. No more than 12 respondents acknowledged reading any of 15 professional magazines in the survey questionnaire. One magazine had no readers, and three had only one. Forty-nine of the 185 respondents (26%) specifically said they read no trade publications.
The 185 RCC respondents generally did not belong to any other professional communication group besides the communication fellowship within their specific faith group. Sixty-four RCC members (35%) said they were members of a communication organization related to their particular faith group (i.e., Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian or United Methodist). But only 15 belonged to the Public Relations Society of America. Seven were members of Women in Communication. Six had joined the Society for Professional Journalists. Four were part of the International Association of Business Communicators. One belonged to the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Society for News Design.
RQ 8 asked how much RCC members and faith group leaders agreed about the contribution of the communication department to organizational operations. Table 7 shows a solid correlation (r=.97, p.001) between the two groups concerning statements about contributions to strategic planning, issue management, major initiatives, routine operations and information gathering for management decision making. T tests of independent samples showed no differences at the p.05 level of significance between religion communicators and faith group executives concerning communication department contributions. Communicators generally ranked their contributions to strategic planning and information gathering for decision making lower than their supervisors did. On only 1 of 10 measures (routine operations) did RCC members say their departments made major contributions to the organization. Communicators rated their contributions as “average” on five other indicators. Leaders, on the other hand, said those contributions on 6 of 10 measures were average or major for a department in the organization.
High Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for both groups gave solid evidence that both 10-item scales were reliably measuring views about contributions. Alpha was 0.92 for the
H1 said RCC members from mainline Protestant denominations would be more likely to agree with survey statements about two-way symmetrical public relations than communicators from other faith groups. Tables 8 and 9 show no support for this proposition. Based on Church-Sect Theory, the hypothesis predicted significant differences in responses from the mainline and non-mainline groups. But independent samples t tests of means showed differences at the p.05 level for only two of the 16 measures. Those two statements on Table 9 related to the public relations role in dealing with coverage of news the organization would consider bad. One statement described a
get favorable publicity into the media and to keep unfavorable publicity out” (M=2.86 for mainline communicators, M=3.29 for non-mainline communicators). The other statement from the public information model said: “In communication accurate information should be disseminated but unfavorable information should not be volunteered” (M=2.59 for mainline communicators, M=3.02 for non-mainline communicators). Overall, survey results from the two groups presented substantially similar answer patterns for the 16 measures (r=.93, p.001).
Composite means for the two-way symmetrical model (Table 8) were—contrary to H1 and what Church-Sect Theory would seem to predict—essentially the same for the two groups (M=3.61 for mainline communicators, M=3.62 for non-mainline communicators).
Mainline communicators were, consistent with H1, less likely than non-mainline communicators to agree with survey statements about the other three models. But composite means for the two-way asymmetrical (M=3.47 for mainline communicators, M=3.51 for non-mainline communicators), press agentry/publicity (M=2.70 for mainline communicators, 2.73 for non-mainline communicators) and public information models (M=2.47 for mainline communicators, M=2.60 for non-mainline communicators) were all pretty close. Only the public information model had an effect size worth noting (d=.28 or small). But the t test was statistically insignificant. The mainline composite mean for the public information model was the only one in the analysis showing general disagreement.
Individual measures of the two-way symmetrical model (Table 8) did not reflect the hypothesized church-sect dynamic. Non-mainline communicators agreed more strongly than mainline communicators with two statements reflecting characteristics that Church-Sect Theory would ascribe more to “churches” than “sects”: “The purpose of communication is to develop mutual understanding between the management of an organization and the publics the organization affects” (M=3.86 for mainline communicators, M=4.10 for non-mainline communicators), and “The purpose of communication is to change the attitudes and behaviors of management as much as it is to change the attitudes and behaviors of publics” (M=3.19 for mainline communicators, M=3.33 for non-mainline communicators). In fact, of the four statements about two-way symmetrical public relations, mainline communicators agreed least with the idea of mutual influence. Such mutual influence reflects a key way that Church-Sect Theory says that faith groups move from sect to church. Non-mainline communicators, on the other hand, agreed more strongly with the mutual understanding statement (M=4.10) than any other measure of public relations practice.
Mainline communicators agreed most strongly with a statement from the two-way asymmetrical model (Table 8): “After completing a communication program, research should be done to determine how effective it has been in changing people’s attitudes” (M=4.09 for mainline communicators, M=3.92 for non-mainline communicators). Both groups agreed with two of the three other statements about asymmetrical public relations.
But concerning persuasion, both groups tended to disagree that they should be trying to influence behaviors of publics (M=2.56 for mainline communicators, M=2.84 for nonmainline communicators) RCC members from both mainline and non-mainline groups disagreed most strongly with a statement from the public information model (Table 9): “Keeping a clipping file is about the only way to determine the success of communication” (M=1.94 for mainline communicators, M=1.96 for non-mainline communicators).
H2 said leaders of mainline Protestant denominations would be more likely to agree with survey statements about two-way symmetrical public relations than leaders of other faith groups. Tables 10 and 11 show no significant support for this hypothesis.
Based on Church-Sect Theory, the hypothesis predicted significant differences in responses from the mainline and non-mainline groups.
But independent samples t tests of means showed no differences at the p.05 level for any of the 16 individual measures of public relations practices. Only the composite mean for the press agentry/publicity model (Table 11) showed that the group significantly influenced the result. Effect size for that model was small (d=.32). Overall, survey results from the two groups presented substantially similar answer patterns for the 16 measures (r=.79, p.001).
Responses did follow the predicted pattern. Table 10 shows mainline leaders had slightly higher composite mean scores than those from other faith groups for statements about two-way symmetrical public relations (M=3.44 mainline, M=3.41 non-mainline).
Mainline leaders had lower composite mean scores than those from other groups for the other three models (M=3.06 mainline, M=3.31 non-mainline for two-way asymmetrical;
M=2.56 mainline, M=3.06 non-mainline for press agentry/publicity; M=2.42 mainline, M=2.46 non-mainline for public information).
the hypothesized church-sect dynamic. Non-mainline leaders agreed more strongly than mainline representatives with a statement about using advance research to learn how much organizations and publics understood each other (M=3.53 mainline leaders, M=4.00 non-mainline leaders). The two groups registered the same mean (3.00) for a statement reflecting a key “church” dynamic in Church-Sect Theory: “The purpose of communication is to change the attitudes and behaviors of management as much as it is to change the attitudes and behaviors of publics.” Mainline leaders did agree more strongly than those from other groups that communication was intended to develop mutual understanding between organizations and publics (M=4.24 mainline, M=4.09 nonmainline). Mainline executives were also more positive about communication’s mediation role (M=3.00 mainline, M=2.55 non-mainline).
On statements about the other three public relations models, means for mainline leaders were higher than means for non-mainline leaders on two of 12 measures. Those statements came from the public information model (Table 11): “In communication nearly everyone is so busy writing news stories and producing publications that there is no time to do research” (M=3.12 mainline, M=2.83 non-mainline), and “Keeping a clipping file is about the only way to determine the success of communication” (M=1.94 mainline, M=1.92 non-mainline).
Leaders from both groups agreed most strongly with the same statement from the two-way symmetrical model (Table 10): “The purpose of communication is to develop mutual understanding between the management of an organization and the publics the organization affects” (M=4.24 mainline, M=4.09 non-mainline). Both groups disagreed most with the same statement from the public information model (Table 11): “Keeping a clipping file is about the only way to determine the success of communication” (M=1.94 mainline, M=1.92 non-mainline).
This study set out to determine five things: (1) how religion communicators in the United States practiced public relations, (2) if they approached their work differently from secular practitioners, (3) what faith group leaders expected from public relations, (4) if Religion Communicators Council members representing mainline Protestant denominations had different perspectives on public relations from those representing other faith groups and (5) if mainline Protestant communicators might be contributing to the decline of their denominations. Survey results from this study have answered those questions. But those results leave unresolved the ethical quandary concerning the twoway symmetrical model raised in Chapter 1.
RCC members generally work as communication technicians, not managers. That makes them different from public relations practitioners in 316 secular organizations studied by Grunig, Grunig and Dozier (2002). While both groups report similar public relations expertise, secular communicators work more as managers than technicians. As a result, religion communicators spend their days carrying out different tasks from secular practitioners.
Furthermore, religion communicators and faith group leaders do not understand public relations practice the way the four Excellence Theory models describe it. Religion communicators and faith group leaders do not agree that all statements in the models go together to characterize specific approaches to communication work. Religion communicators associate statements about research and publicity more with persuasion than relationship building. RCC members see little need for tasks assigned to the public information model. Nevertheless, they do recognize three mutual-influence statements from the two-way symmetrical model as one approach to public relations.
No matter how they understand public relations, however, religion communicators generally do not know what their supervisors expect from them or their departments. Likewise, communicators rate their contributions to their organizations lower than their supervisors do.