The Excellence Theory in PR and its relevance to KM
Stephen Bounds — Thu, 15/08/2013 - 00:13
In 2006 James Grunig wrote a lengthy, somewhat self-congratulatory, but compelling summary of his and others' work in researching strategic public relations over four decades, resulting in what is known as the Excellence study.
The resulting article, Furnishing the edifice: Ongoing research on public relations as a strategic management function, is well worth a read. From a Knowledge Management perspective there were some very interesting echoes in some of his conclusions:
The relationship perspective on public relations suggests that the purpose of these programs is to manage relationships with publics. Yet, logic suggests that it is not really possible to "manage" relationships—or reputation, images, or brands. All of these concepts are the outcomes of processes. It is possible to manage processes but not outcomes. The best we can do is influence outcomes by managing processes.
(I love this quote because the same argument can be used to rebut people who claim knowledge management is an oxymoron. "Knowledge is the outcome of processes. But KM can influence outcomes by managing processes" – Yes! Exactly! But I digress.)
Grunig then goes on to call the range of options in managing relationships cultivation strategies and identifies some specific techniques:
... the strategy of "sharing of tasks" is a symmetrical strategy in which the organization works to solve problems of concern to stakeholders as well as problems it is concerned with ... "executive involvement in community relations" [demonstrates] the importance of contact with a CEO for cultivating relationships ...
Aside from the external focus this is all marvellous stuff, highly relevant and in many ways is parallel research to KM. But unfortunately it is yet another example of where KM (ironically) has failed to climb out of its silo and seek out relevant knowledge, research, and practices from other disciplines.
This does work both ways of course; except for the common philosophical grounding in Kant and Popper, Grunig appears to have operated in complete ignorance of the field of KM.
Even so, reading this article has inspired me to learn more about modern, strategic public relations and to incorporate it into my thinking about KM. I hope you will do the same.
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