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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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This case study provides a unique look at a nearly decade-long crisis as it was played out in the national media in its first days, then viewed behind the scenes as the company worked to bring the ongoing crisis to a close and avoid further labor, community, stockholder and regulatory complications. Acting in opposition to several of today’s professional PR values, the company’s actions violated trust, thus creating negative relationship histories, ripe for the velcro effect. Although the company fell short in various ways in terms of modern best crisis communication practice, it performed well in other aspects and clearly understood the power of strategic planning and messaging.

Finally, future crisis communication research should consider the power of associative crises and the influence of industry performance histories and reputations on organizational crisis response.

795 The First Look at Media Non-transparency Practices in the United States (abstract only)

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The goal of this research was to explore whether indirect payments and influences on the media exist in the United States, according to communication professionals who are members of the five international professional associations. Previous studies were conducted in countries with transitional economies, and no study investigated media non-transparency in North America. The research which examined perceived influences in current media relations found that surveyed American professionals (n=128) consider news sources (M = 3.08, SD = 1.27) the biggest influence on media relations practices. Corporate publisher/owner was only the second most-cited influence (M = 2.63, SD = 1.20). These results differed from previous findings in transitional countries, such as Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine, when the biggest influences were corporate publishers, advertisers, and government.

The findings of this study indicated that indirect payments and influences on media exist at different levels. While paid-for materials are not disguised as editorials and journalists usually state in their reports when they benefited from the provision of a product or service, news releases that are not newsworthy appear in trade publication in exchange for advertising (M = 3.30, SD =.904). Such practice (advertising sales departments influence decision of editors) was reported as most spread in the trade publications (M = 3.35, SD =.977), news Websites (M = 3.29, SD =.863), and local radio (M = 3.09, SD =.888). In addition, results showed that news sources put financial pressure on the certain types of media in the USA, particularly trade publications (M = 3.23, SD =.937), news Websites (M = 3.15, SD =.962), local daily newspapers (M = 3.19, SD =.914), local television (M = 3.18, SD =.902), and local radio (M = 3.20, SD =.863). Discussion of the findings and implications for research and practice are offered.

796 Ethicality of Media Opacity as a Predictor of Acceptance of Non-Transparent Media Practices among the Romanian Media Professionals (abstract only)

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This study continues the line of research on media transparency around the world. The goal was to identify the predictors of acceptance of non-transparent media practices in Romania.

The data was collected from Romanian journalists and public relations professionals via online survey during the spring and summer of 2009 (N = 190). Findings showed that Romanian communication professionals consider acceptance of direct and indirect payments as a normal practice. At the same time, this practice is rarely regarded by Romanian communication professionals as professional, and even less so as ethical. A linear regression analysis demonstrated that the only predictor of acceptance of the non-transparent practices by media professionals was the perception of the non-transparent practices as ethical (B =. 402, p.001).

Perceptions of the practice as normal or professional did not predict the acceptance of the practice. The results also showed the acceptance of this practice does not depend on age, years of experience, or gender of communication professionals.

This is a surprising finding, as previous research argued that the perception of this nontransparent practice as normal and professional should predict the acceptance of this practice by media professionals. However, the results of this study demonstrated that in order for nontransparent practices to be accepted, these practices first and foremost must be perceived as ethical. The results call for additional research on the predictors of the media non-transparent practices. Further evaluation of the current professional ethical standards in Romania and across the world will help to determine how perceptions of this media practice as ethical or non-ethical are formed. Results of this study suggest that the Romanian media professionals believe the standards of professional ethics must be established (M = 3.96, SD = 1.05), and regulated (M = 4.02, SD =.97) by professional organizations, such as Romanian Public Relations Association and the Romanian Center for Independent Journalism.

797 Applicability of the Generic Principles of Excellent Public Relations in a Different Cultural Context: The Case Study of Kyrgyzstan Elira Turdubaeva, Kyrgyzstan-Turkey Manas University, Kyrgyzstan


This study relies on the generic principles of excellent public relations proposed by Vercic, L. A. Grunig, and J. E. Grunig (1996), which was developed based on the findings of what has come to be popularly known as the Excellence Project (J. E.

Grunig, 1992) to address public relations management in Kyrgyzstan. Similar to the strategy followed by Sriramesh et. al. (2005), this study limits its scope to the four generic principles that are related to the contributions that public relations makes to

strategic management:

1. Involvement of public relations in strategic management.

2. Empowerment of public relations in the dominant coalition–direct reporting relationship.

3. Use of the two-way symmetrical model of public relations.

4. Knowledge potential for managerial role and symmetrical communication.

Data will be gathered through a self-administered survey, a series of qualitative interviews with public relations practitioners in Kyrgyzstan. Governmental, private, public, international and nongovernmental organizations with public relations departments will be sampled by this study. In the analysis and discussion, I shall also address how the unique socio-cultural and political system of Kyrgyzstan influences the practice of public relations. It is hoped that this study will add a different perspective to the body of knowledge helping to expand it.


Brief Introduction to Kyrgystan

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The mountainous region of the Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country with the remainder made up of valleys and basins.

It is a multiethnic society with a varied linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage. Its population of 5.4 million, of those, 34.4% are under the age of 15 and 6.2% are over the age of 65. The country is rural: only about one-third of Kyrgyzstan's population live in urban areas. The nation's largest ethnic group are the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people, who comprise 69% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the south (Statistics Committee of Kyrgyz Republic, 2009).

Kyrgyzstan is one of the two former Soviet republics in Central Asia to retain Russian as an official language (Kazakhstan is the other). It added the Kyrgyz language to become an officially bilingual country in September 1991.Generally, people understand and speak Russian all over the country, except for some remote mountain areas. Russian is the mother tongue of the majority of Bishkek dwellers, and most business and political affairs are carried out in this language. Until recently, Kyrgyz remained a language spoken at home and was rarely used during meetings or other events. State language of the country is Kyrgyz, but Russian is also a second official language in the country. The major religions are Islam (75%) and Russian Orthodox (20%) (Statistics Committee of Kyrgyz Republic, 2009). Islam in Kyrgyzstan is more of a cultural background than a devout daily practice for many.

Since 1991, when Kyrgyzstan became an independent republic, several political parties have appeared in the country. Tulip Revolution in March 2005 in Kyrgyzstan happened after the sporadic protests against widespread fraud during the parliamentary runoff elections in March 2005 erupted into calls for the government to resign. By March 24, 15,000 pro-opposition demonstrators called for the resignation of the president who had been ruling the country for 15 years and his regime in Bishkek. Protestors seized the presidential administration building, after which President Akayev left the country for Kazakhstan, and then Russia.

The second president of the country Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in an April 7, 2010 uprising that left 86 people dead in the Kyrgyz capital. He fled to neighboring Kazakhstan and arrived in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Kyrgyzstan has had economic difficulties following independence. Initially, these were a result of the breakup of the Soviet trading bloc and resulting loss of markets, which impeded the republic’s transition to a free market economy. Reforms led to Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 20, 1998. While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net. The government and international financial institutions have been engaged in a comprehensive mediumterm poverty reduction and economic growth strategy. Its GDP is composed of agriculture (29.8%), industry (19.7%) and services (50.6%) (2008 est.).

Characteristics of the country such as its border with China, its position as the “backyard” of Russia, as the strategic airbase of the USA, the hypothesis that it is 799 the most democratic country of the region, the country in transition, as the stock of energy source give importance to Kyrgyzstan and also public relations activities in this country (Tunca, 2009).

Public Relations in Kyrgyzstan: History and Development The body of knowledge of public relations in post Soviet countries has developed only in the last decade (Ataol et.al., 2005). However, much of the published information has been predominantly limited to a few post Soviet countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan (e.g., Clarke, 2000; Guth, 2000;

Pocheptsov, 1998; Pocheptsov, 2001; Terry, 2005; Terry, 2003; Tsetsura, 2009).

Kyrgyzstan which is in transition, has not yet been included in PR pedagogy.

Less than a handful of publications exist on the public relations profession in Kyrgyzstan (Ataol et. al., 2005; Turdubaeva, 2008; Tunca, 2008;). Although it was not based on a theoretical framework, Ataol et. al’s (2005) survey attempted to provide an analysis of the public relations model in Kyrgyzstan and concluded that public relations operating in Kyrgyzstan were not “advanced” (strategic) in their practices and practitioners in corporations operate almost exclusively in the technician role. Turdubaeva’s quantitative study (2009) was not based on a theoretical framework but served as the only comprehensive analysis of public relations in Kyrgyzstan. Clearly, there is a need for many more empirical studies from Kyrgyzstan based on strong theoretical underpinnings. It is hoped that such studies from a range of post Soviet nations will set a strong foundation for developing conceptual and theoretical frameworks indigenous to post Soviet countries, which should also be helpful in building global theories of public relation The genesis of public relations activities in Kyrgyzstan can be traced to the days immediately following the independence. Public campaigns such as “Privatization” and “Manas 1000” were launched to educate citizens on free market economy relations and on national history critical to young independent nation.

The history of public relations practice in public and private sector in the country according to the results of research about the structure of public relations in the country in 2005, goes far beyond its history in the private sector. (Ataol et.al, 2005: 133 – 134).

According to the results of recent research which was done on public relations agencies, departments and workers without making a differentiation between public and private in Kyrgyzstan (Turdubaeva, 2009); the main functions of public relations are media relations, building relations with publics, government relations. The offices of global corporations and international organizations are much larger buyers of communications expertise than local companies, who tend to rely on their own personal relationships with journalists, forged through money and entertaining.

The concept and definition of public relations in Kyrgyzstan is not understood by the executives of organizations, and even by practitioners. Public relations is perceived as adevrtisement, journalism, marketing, consulting and even logistics.

There is not understanding of what PR manager does, that is why many people think that public relations activities are related with lying and impurity. And this is the 800 opinion first of all of journalists with whom PR practitioners work directly (Balakina, 2009).

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