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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Corporate Communications (March 15, 2009b). Among others vailable at SSRN:


Sievert, Holger and Stefan Porter (2009), An Expanded View from the Corner Office: Further Discussions and Research on the Global Navigation of International Corporate Communications (July 1). Institute for Public Relations, Forthcoming.

Among others available at SSRN:


Sievert, Holger (2009): All quiet on the western front. Heuristic remarks on old and very new research about “European journalism”.

In:http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1308088, visited 22/12/2009 at 6.30 pm Statista: Dänemark: Netto-Sparquote der Haushalte als Anteil am verfügbaren Einkommen eines

Haushalts von 1981 bis 2006. In:

http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/14576/umfrage/daenemark:sparquote-als-anteil-amhaushaltseinkommen/, visited 15/12/2009 at 1 pm Statista1: Polen: Netto-Sparquote der Haushalte als Anteil am verfügbaren Einkommen eines

Haushalts von 1995 bis 2006. In:

http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/14589/umfrage/polen:-sparquote-alsanteil-amhaushaltseinkommen/, visited 15/12/2009 at 1 pm 720


1 Unfortunately, it is not available on the Institute’s website (only in its preliminary version awarded with the IPR Bledcom Special Price 2009 at www.instituteforpr.org/about/global_commission/icpublications), but at the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1371507).

2 In this essay, the author chose a working model that, in the final analysis, starts from systemtheoretical concepts from German-speaking countries (cf. instructively Sievert 1999). Corporate communications is understood here to refer to a territorially differentiated subsystem of the economic system. The present essay does not provide the necessary space or the appropriate context to discuss related questions. An essay on that issue is in the planning stages.

3 The author of this paper appreciate that in no way, in the modern world, is PR simply media relations, but rather concerns many other fields of application. There is a certain narrowness to the perspective when these two terms are used synonymously. The understanding of media systems, however, continues to be vital for PR work, and therefore this definition seems to be wholly justified.

721 Organic Integration: The Natural Process Underlying Communication Integration

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Integrated communication research has, so far, emphasized definition debates and normative models of implementation. This research progresses understanding and practice of integrated communication through a case study of an organization with a high level of integration, demonstrating the philosophy and processes of integration. This qualitative study, which uses depth interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, reveals that communication integration operates organically, through cross-functional connections and knowledge sharing and facilitated by an open organizational structure whereby integration occurs naturally.



Integrated communication is at a critical stage in its development, as much of the research emphasizes definition debates and underexplored models for implementation (Kerr, Schultz, Patti, & Kim, 2008; Gronstedt, 2000; Duncan & Caywood, 1996). There is a need to move scholarship from semantics to execution. The current study, a case analysis of successful integration at Adventure Communications 17, demonstrates that integration is implemented organically—even naturally—through cross-functional connections and knowledge-sharing.

Literature Review Integrated communication is a philosophy and process by which organizations seek to reach the heart and mind of stakeholders by coordinating of multiple communication functions to fulfil stakeholder needs (Schultz, 2007; Debreceny & Cochrane, 2004). Integration recognizes “the added value in a program that integrates a variety of strategic disciplines…to provide…maximum communication impact” (Kerr, et al., 2008, p. 515), and features the concepts of branding (Madhavaram, et al., 2005), synergy (Moriarty, 1996), and information control (Reid, 2003; Schultz & Kitchen, 1997). Integration involves managing “stakeholders, content, channels, and results of brand communication programs" (p. 140).

Integrating stakeholders requires communication focus beyond consumers to all potential stakeholders (Kerr, et al., 2008; Gronstedt, 2000). Gronstedt (1996) has argued that public relations and marketing “targets” are not mutually exclusive (i.e. an employee may also be a consumer or a consumer may also be an opinion leader) (p. 292). Stakeholders are the primary focus of integration because they are already integrating organizational messages (Schultz, 2007). They inform strategy, as practitioners seek to fulfil stakeholder needs and build relationships based on stakeholder interests (Kim, Han, & Schultz, 2004; Kitchen, Brignell, Li, & Spickett, 2004).

Integrating content involves building communication synergy, or the added value of synchronized content (Kliatchko, 2008; Stammerjohan, et al. 2005). Synergy occurs when “various marketing and communication activities interact with each other in the marketplace [and] come together to impact…the host of other stakeholders that are involved in today’s marketplace success” (Schultz, 2005, p. 7), and it requires every department to “speak the brand language” (Kitchen, et al., 2007, p. 154). Research by Kerr, et al. (2008) confirms the holistic effect of coordinating all messages, rather than only marketing messages (p. 516).

Channel integration includes consideration of all access points between a company and its stakeholders (Stammerjohan, et al., 2005), with strategic consideration of a “diversified media sector… varying consumers’ needs, and clients’ desires to develop a cost-efficient and effective marketing strategy” (Kitchen, et al., 2007, p. 33).

Finally, integration involves cross-functional measurement of a program’s components (Liodice, 2008; Zahay, et al., 2004). Kerr, et al. (2008) argue for consideration of long-term results, such as relationships.

Some scholars have prescribed models for integrating stakeholders, content, channels and results. Duncan and Caywood (1996; also Caywood, 1997) propose that integration begins in response to changing business landscapes and leads organizations to coordinate the look and feel of the organization (image integration). Higher levels of integration include coordination of traditionally disparate departments (functional integration) and customer touch-points (consumer

Names of the organization and its members have been changed for confidentiality.17 723

integration), and finally, the coordination of the full range of organizational stakeholder relationships (relationship management integration).

Most research on integrated communication has explored favorability of integration (Kitchen, et al., 2007; Kitchen & Li, 2005), and scholars have called for research that identifies how integrated communication works and its effect on communication structures (Hallahan, 2007; Schultz, 2005). This study seeks to fulfil this research need using the model proposed by Duncan and Caywood (1996) to identify the processes underlying communication integration.

Research Questions RQ 1: How is the integration of communication defined and understood at an organization with a high level of integrated communication?

RQ 2: How is integration implemented at an organization with a high level of integrated communication?

Method This research comprises a qualitative case study of an exemplary case of integrated communication, featuring interviews, participant observation and document analysis as data collection sources. Case studies are commonly used to examine organizational phenomena and are useful for theory evaluation, particularly through the evaluation of exemplary representations of an occurrence (Yin, 2003).

I used a purposive sample (Miles & Huberman, 1994) based on organizational location, willingness, and fit with advanced levels of integrated communication. As incentive, I offered executives a research-based analysis of the organization’s communications. Informal interviews were used to determine preliminary fit with the Duncan and Caywood model, and contacted six organizations before choosing one that demonstrated high levels of integration. I sampled individuals, documents, and participant observation experiences based on theoretical sampling, recruiting participants who could discuss as many categorical concepts as possible to reach a point of saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).

I gathered data from three sources: interviews, participant observation, and document analysis. The following table outlines my data sources.

Interviews 9 Observation 6 hours Documents: Web Sites Network sites (6), Blog/Fan sites (20), Twitter page, Intranet Portal, Strategic documents, company investor and client presentations, corporate newsletters (2) I conducted nine 45-75 minute informant interviews (Lindlof, 1995), in-person and overthe-phone, with professionals in both marketing and public relations capacities. Participants included males and females with varying levels of tenure, position and responsibility (from associate to executive levels). Interviews were purposive, conversational and loosely structured (Rubin & Rubin, 2005) around integrating stakeholders, content, channels, and results (Klitachko, 2008), and were based on an interview guide I pretested with three professional contacts. Interviews were recorded with permission and transcribed. During interviews, I noted reflections and patterns.

Participant observation, which is based on the notion that enacting roles provides understanding (Sanday, 1979), and document analysis were used to confirm interview findings (Yin, 2003). My six hours of participant observation involved analyzing a company event and included meetings with the event coordinator and pre- and post-event evaluation. I also produced 724 an analysis for the event that was delivered to company executives. To secure this experience, I requested opportunities to work with the company from my interviewees, offering my services as an unpaid intern and promising transparency. Documents, which were obtained from interviewees and from personal online research, included both internal and external materials, newsletters, presentations and websites (organizational and third party).

To analyze data, I combined structured analysis with the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), “keeping a box score along the way (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 86) to identify all possible themes. I began with a literature-based coding list and added themes missing from the literature throughout analysis. Data were coded, summarized, and then were used to produce conceptual categories designed to answer each research question. I used the conceptual categories and summaries to write “the story” of integration through a reflexive process of evaluation, working through connections and writing notes.

Case Overview: Adventure Communications Adventure Communications 18 is a media company that broadcasts nature, learning, and exploration programs through over 100 worldwide television and digital networks. Adventure boasts top-rated cable programming across its several networks. Adventure’s networks operate under the umbrella corporate brand of Adventure, but feature their own name, brand, logo, and management structures. Though corporate headquarters sets the overall direction for the company and its networks, each network operates as its own unit, maintaining its own management structure and programming decisions. Communication at Adventure is divided into two main functions: advertising, which includes advertising, business to business, and sales functions, and communication, which fills responsibilities in public relations, viewer relations, promotion, crisis communication, as well as internal, employee communication.

Results RQ 1: How is the integration of communication defined and understood at an organization with a high level of integrated communication?

Individually held concepts of integration are central to understanding the execution of integrated communication at Adventure Communications. Primary among considerations of integration are interdependence, strategic communication, and message unity.

Interdependence Integration involves recognition of “being part of the same team,” and that other functions are integral to completing a project or conducting a campaign. As a network publicity director explained, “We all work very closely because what I’m doing is affected completely by what the other team is doing.” To this end practitioners recognize interdependence among communication and marketing functions. “You need to balance each other. So, if marketing is going hardcore one way, we might play a little more straight and narrow knowing that we’ll balance each other out.” Adventure demonstrates a focus on collective approach, as one respondent said, “We all work towards the greater good here and we all want to be a successful company.” Company presentations also showed this collective approach, lumping networks and communications and marketing teams into the holistic success of the organization.

Strategic Communication Integrated communication is also considered a strategic endeavour, because, as one publicity agent explained, it involves the coordination of communication activities for an

18 The organization’s name has been changed to maintain confidentiality. 725

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