«SPEAKING OF FAITH: PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTICE AMONG RELIGION COMMUNICATORS IN THE UNITED STATES Committee: Dominic L. Lasorsa, Co-Supervisor Ronald ...»
His reanalysis of Broom’s 1979 data determined that public relations managers carried out the tasks of the expert prescriber and problem-solving facilitator. Public relations technicians did what Broom and Smith (1979) described. Dozier also identified two minor roles: media relations specialist and communication liaison. Media relations specialists were technicians who specialized in work with outside journalists rather than internal communication. Communication liaisons were a subcategory of managers.
Liaisons were senior advisers to decision-makers but not decision-makers themselves.
Dozier speculated that communication liaisons were managers thwarted by organizational culture from participating in decision making. These two minor roles did not hold up in later factor analysis but were eventually confirmed in surveys developing Excellence Public Relations Theory (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002). Therefore in 1983, Dozier concluded that manager and technician were the most parsimonious way to look at public relations roles. Nevertheless, he argued that Broom’s original four-part typology provided useful tools for dissecting the manager function. Broom (personal correspondence, June 12, 2006) made the same point. He said his original four roles could be reduced to manager and technician. But that approach masked many potential differences among the three manager functions.
Broom and Dozier (1986) resurveyed PRSA respondents from the 1979 sample.
The goal was to see what, if anything, had changed. The new survey found that many technicians had moved into manager roles. Mean scores for the four roles on a seven-point Likert scale (1=never do, 7=always do) were 5.7 for expert prescriber, 5.4 for problemsolving facilitator, 4.7 for communication process facilitator and 4.4 for communication technician. The most dramatic increase was among practitioners playing problem-solving facilitator roles (from 16% to 50%).
As part of the team developing Excellence Public Relations Theory (see Chapter 3), Dozier incorporated roles research into that body of knowledge. For the initial book in the Excellence literature, Dozier (1992) summarized the scholarship on roles to that point. He laid out 15 propositions about public relations managers and technicians. He observed that unless a manager led a communication department, it could not contribute to strategic planning or organizational effectiveness. He said public relations managers would be involved in environmental scanning (ongoing research), strategic decision making, program planning and evaluation, and organizational decision making. They would run communication departments that practice primarily two-way asymmetrical or two-way symmetrical public relations in organizations with management open to the outside environment and not afraid of outside threats. Technicians would handle the day-to-day creative functions of a communication department. Technicians would most commonly dominate communication departments in non-excellent organizations (those not open to two-way relationships with publics).
Dozier and Broom (1995) did another survey of PRSA members in 1991 using Broom’s (1982) 28 items for measuring roles. The goal was to compare public relations manager role enactment to results from 1979. Results confirmed that the managertechnician typology still accurately described practitioner functions. Sex was positively related to professional experience, and men generally had more experience than women.
Professional experience was positively related to acting as a manager, job satisfaction and salary. Acting as a manager was positively related to participation in organizational management decision making. Nevertheless, after controlling for experience, men were only slightly more likely to act as managers in 1991 than women. Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients for the 1991 were 0.94 for the manager scale and 0.74 for the technician scale. Factor analysis of the 1979 and 1991 data gave continued evidence of a senior adviser management subcategory (what Dozier, had originally called communication liaison) and a media relations specialist subcategory of technician.
Excellence researchers asked top communicators in 327 organizations (237 in the United States, 57 in Canada and 33 in the United Kingdom) what they did and what they thought their chief executives expected them to do. Three-hundred-sixteen communicators responded. Then scholars asked top executives in those 327 organizations what they expected from their public relations departments. Responses came from 292 chief executives. Excellence researchers used Dozier’s four roles categories: manager, senior adviser, media relations specialist and internal communication technician. Excellence questionnaires used four items—drawn primarily from the original seven used since Broom (1982)—to measure each role. Top communicators were asked how well each item described the work they did. Senior organizational leaders were, in turn, asked how well each item described what they thought communicators should do. For manager the scale
+ I am the organization’s expert on diagnosing and solving communication problems.
+ I take responsibility for the success or failure of my organization’s communication programs.
+ I observe that others in the organization hold me accountable for the success or failure of communication programs.
+ I make the communication policy decisions.
For the senior adviser role the scale items were:
+ I am the senior counsel to top decision makers when communication issues are involved.
+ I create opportunities for management to hear the views of various internal and external publics.
+ I represent the organization at events and meetings.
+ Although I don’t make communication policy decisions, I provide decision makers with suggestions, recommendations and plans.
For the media relations specialist role the items were:
+ I use my journalistic skills to figure out what the media will consider newsworthy about our organization.
+ I keep others in the organization informed of what the media report about our organization and important issues.
+ I maintain media contacts for my organization.
+ I am responsible for placing news releases.
For the communication technician role the items were:
+ I edit and/or rewrite for grammar and spelling the materials written by others in the organization.
+ I write materials presenting information on issues important to the organization.
+ I produce brochures, pamphlets and other publications.
+ I do photography and graphics for communication materials.
Mean responses from communicators on an open-ended fractionation scale (100 is average for the activity) were 156.2 for manger tasks, 116.8 for senior adviser tasks, 121.1 for media relations specialist tasks and 72.1 for technician tasks. Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients for the four four-item scales among communicators were 0.89 for manager,
0.54 for senior adviser, 0.87 for media relations specialist and 0.81 for internal communication technician. Means for the roles among senior leaders were 162.7 for manager tasks, 148.3 for senior adviser tasks, 132.2 for media relations tasks and 62.5 for technician tasks. Cronbach’s alphas for the scales among top leaders were 0.61 for manager, 0.45 for senior adviser, 0.65 for media relations specialist and 0.84 for internal communication technician (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002).
One item in the senior adviser scale for communicators reduced overall reliability.
That item said communicators did not make policy decisions but offered suggestions. In surveys of top executives, alphas for the manager, senior adviser and media relations specialist scales were unacceptably low. Those results indicated that among top executives the scales were not measuring a single, unified construct (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002).
Researchers factor-analyzed responses from communicators in the 316 surveys concerning manager and technician tasks. The goal was to see if such statistical analysis could empirically confirm roles categories developed conceptually by Broom and Smith (1979) and Dozier (1983, 1984). Results for the eight management items did not confirm the manager/senior adviser distinction. Seven of the eight items loaded on the manager factor. But results for the eight technician items did show empirical and conceptual distinctions between media relations specialists and internal communication technicians.
Nevertheless, the two roles were closely related. Three measures from each four-item scale heavily cross-loaded. A third factor analysis of all 16 roles items again confirmed the manager-technician typology. Eight items loaded on the manager factor (Cronbach’s alpha 0.91). They represented tasks assigned to expert prescriber, communication process facilitator and problem-solving facilitator in Broom (1982). Seven items loaded on the technician factor (Cronbach’s alpha 0.87). One item about using journalistic skills to find newsworthy material for publicity loaded almost equally in both factors (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002).
Low reliability coefficients in the results from top executives hinted that senior leaders conceptualized the communicator role differently from public relations practitioners. A factor analysis of the 16 items in the roles scale showed that senior leaders had a more fragmented view than communicators about what public relations practitioners should do. Five factors emerged from executive responses: manager, technician, media relations specialist, senior manager and organizational representative. Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients for the first four factors—which did not exactly match factors from communicators—were 0.84 for technician, 0.80 for manager, 0.73 for media relations and
0.69 for senior manager. The fifth factor, organizational representative, included only one item. The manager role was a less defined amalgam of the expert prescriber, communication facilitator and problem-solver functions than the communicators understood. Top executives saw the technician roles as limited to internal communication tasks, such as writing, taking photographs and editing. Media relations—a technical role among communicators—was a separate, more important function for senior leaders. The senior adviser and organizational representative task groupings had no equivalent among responses from top communicators. Nevertheless, the overall manager/technician typology endured among senior leaders (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002).
Perception differences between top communicators and chief executives were in line with Dozier (1992). He found high levels of role ambiguity among practitioners. The expectations of supervisors were sometimes at odds with professional expectations learned through formal education or work through professional associations. Nevertheless, Excellence survey results showed that managers headed public relations operations in all organizations deemed excellent. Technicians ran less excellent operations. Communication managers in general were more likely to be technical supervisors than strategic executives.
If a woman were the top communication executive, she was more likely than a man to mix work as a manager and technician—even in excellent operations. As a result, women had fewer opportunities than men to develop their strategic expertise. To be considered a manager by senior leaders, top communicators needed to demonstrate administrative and strategic knowledge as well as technical communication skills. Chief executives in excellent organizations wanted their public relations department to participate in strategic decisions and use both symmetrical and asymmetrical two-way communication. Senior leaders often hired public relations executives because of their technical skill, especially in media relations. (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002).
Responses from nonprofit organizations in the Excellence surveys were often significantly different from those given in corporations or government agencies. In nonprofits, top communicators were both technician and manager. They practiced press agentry and public information models as much as they did two-way asymmetrical and symmetrical models (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002). These findings and the body of
work about practitioner roles prompted these research questions:
RQ1: How do the roles that religion communicators play compare to those of secular practitioners?
RQ2: How do the roles that religion communicators play compare to what faith group leaders expect?
While religion communicators debated whether they were flacks or hacks, American businesses faced a changing society. The nation became increasingly urban and industrial in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Large corporations began to dominate the U.S. economy. Some corporate leaders, such as John D. Rockefeller, were seen as profit-driven robber barons. They did not care how their business decisions affected the public. That attitude prompted a public backlash. Muckraking journalists did investigative reports on business practices. Trust-busting public officials moved to limit the power of corporate tycoons. Public relations practices emerged in the late 19th century as ways to help businesses address the evolving social and economic scene and counter negative public perceptions (Cutlip, 1994; Cutlip, Center & Broom, 2000;
Newsom, Turk & Krunkeberg, 2007; Twitchell, 2000; Wilcox & Cameron, 2005).
This chapter traces public relations’ development in the United States. The chapter reviews early practices, outlines how definitions of public relations evolved during the 20th century and how changing ideas about the field laid a foundation for Excellence Public Relations Theory.
Early examples of activities now seen as public relations practices grew out of the 19th century entertainment business. In the 1830, for instance, Matthew St. Clair Clark used newspaper stories and dime novels to make Davy Crockett into a national hero.