Yesterday, in a lecture presenting the problems the PR industry faces in resolving the 30 year old problem of how PR is and can be used to in its relationship management role, I was challenged about what I meant by culture.
Culture, the universal human capacity to classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically (see also Semiotics and Sociology), is the framework upon which all public relations depends for success. But such an answer is far too trite for enquiring minds. It was an issue raised by Elizabeth Albryght in her thoughts about value last week.
I had to go back to the research into the nature of relationships I had been exploring with the empirical research earlier in the year and I realised that in the analysis (which included in-depth analysis of media coverage about nine people with a common interest and a control group of three others), I had identified a group of people who had a common culture (politics) and that within this culturedivergent views and values but that their culture was different to all and each of the members of the control group. there were
In other words, here was a group of people who could classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically and that they belonged to a culture that outsiders could identify even if they did not relate to it or understand it.
Here then was a way we could identify cultures where there was a written record and here also was a way we can identify the divergent views and aspirations of people within a culture.
Further consideration also suggested that such cultures are open to change, can accept and respond to external influences and include such influences within the values of the culture.
The reason I am so sure this is true is that there were events in the period of my research when external influences changed the values of the culture and the members all responded to it.
Interestingly, the change was wrought not by accepting the external influence at face value but in modifying the context of the existing cultural values (the influence was the demise of the Rover Group and subsequent impact on employment – an issue for the cultural group and one member of the control group).
This is classic public relations. We seek to change cultures and inject new ideas and into cultures and we do this in the context of the mutual opportunity open to the organisation and its publics interactivity.
The values that matter are the ones where there is a common context.
Here is another step towards being able to identify value because we do not have to consider all cultural values, only the ones where there is a mutual cultural context.
In addition, this offers a methodology to aid public relations planning because in everything we do, we attempt to influence cultures more than anything else.
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