Saturday, January 16, 2010

A New Look at PR Decision Making

White and Dozier (Excellence in public relations and communications management 1992 Lawrence Erlbaum - Ed James E Grunig) provide a view of management decision making in the context of a pre internet time.

They quote L D Phillips (1982) Requisite decision modelling: A case study. Journal of Operational Reserach Society,

'When abstract decision problems are detected, decision makers must resort to their imaginations to construct scenarios so that decision making can proceed. Such scenarios are not precisely defined. At best, they are simplified models of possible futures that help focus attention on crucial variables and decision points. Such scenarios are requisite when they provide a sufficient basis for solving particular problems through an appropriate decision. Requisite scenarios are social constructions; they are fashioned through communication among decison makers and are developed in an iterative manner.'

This process (often used inside a structured form of risk management) like most Applied Information Economics is akin to the academic practice of testing hypothetical questions and which, explored in Phillips & Young (2009) as PR risk management, is part of public relations in both the Excellence and the Relationship Values models.

There is now a need for a new and closer look as the internet forces understanding of transparency, porosity and agency (as well as richness and reach) on all practitioners.

The post web era emphasises the nature of the organisation as the nexus of relationships (and as this sequence of posts shows, changes the nature of the firm) and asks us to re-think many past practices. PR becomes much more of a (post modern?) management practice. In such an environment the practice will be at the point when there is a formation of tokens and values that will attract actors into a nexus of relationships to be, or to challenge, the 'dominant coalition'.

In the excelence model there is a requirement for dissonance in the form of an issue for an organisation to be a public and thereby exist. Issues might come in the shape of the extent of the need for profitability, growth and size, sales etc. These are second order activities but necessary in a a case where tangible assets are the drivers of corporate management.

Based on the nature of the firm (Coarse) being moderated by contracts (a form of issues mitigation) this is fine. It is no longer adequate.

In the Relationship Values model there may, indeed, be dissonance and or issues tokens but there is the potential for other constructs for relationships to be formed through a common and mutual understanding of values expressed as tokens. The process is to seek relationships through better understanding and adaptation of values in order to create relationships and which is both a mutual activity and far from an issue, a form of self actualisation.

The firm, now evidently being the nexus of relationships, can now be much more flexible in response to problem resolution. Furthermore, the formation of groups based on common understanding of tokens extends beyond both the old construct of a nexus of contracts to a nexus of relationships.

All of this comes from work that is now five years old and in less than a year developed quite well.

It is very hard to imagine most advanced online public relations without the relationship model at its core. But this is a much more cerebral form of public relations management than most 20th century practice.