Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is PR a management or subversive practice?

For some time I have been looking at how convergent values in organisations wrest control from time to time and become either the dominant coalition or threaten the dominant coalition.

Groups, with a common value system form and have the purpose of creating change. For the most part, this is healthy. Mostly this is the management structure. It is the departmentalisation of organisations that allow special skills (specialists value systems)to be deployed in a recognised structure in support of the whole. It's how things get done.

Sometimes groups for with other departments and with different levels of workers and managers.

In a time of ubiquitous communication this is becoming easier and there are 'cross discipline' coalitions based on common value systems such as common interests or objectives (values).

In many cases, these groups are formed with external participants such as vendors, suppliers, consultants, distribution chains, customers etc. each of which have convergent value systems with the organisation's values.

They have in common values systems that form 'coalitions'.

The benefits of ubiquitous communication (internal and external phone, email, wiki, blog, IM etc) is that it breaks down barriers and offers enhanced transparency to optimise return on tangible and intangible organisational assets.

Sometimes such value system coalitions form in a disruptive way.

They can gain considerable power. Sometimes they take over as a temporary or permanent 'dominant coalition'.

The dominant coalition has to work hard at maintaining its supremacy to survive.

In extremis (e.g. acquisition or bankruptcy) the dominant coalition is removed from inside the organisation to being outside the organisation.

Dominant coalitions survive by maintaining effective relationships with value system coalitions (VSC's). They are permanently involved in a public relations struggle (that is, a struggle to maintain effective relationships) throughout the organisations and between the organisation and external value system coalitions such as suppliers and customers.

As ubiquitous communication is optimised, the strength of external value systems coalitions can very quickly wrest control.

Is it the role of the PR team to optimise the effectiveness of the dominant coalition or to sustain or facilitate the formation of value systems coalitions.

If the former, the role of public relations is a management function (it is part of the dominant coalition. If the role of PR is synonymous with communication, the role of public relations is to optimise ubiquitous communication, and is subversive to the dominant coalition because it facilitates the formation of value system coalitions.