Organization of the Communication
Function, Relationship to Other
Management Functions, and Use
of Consulting Firms
At this point in our analysis of the Excellence data, we believe we have shown convincingly that public relations is a vital management function for all organizations. Public relations provides more than a technical support role to other management functions such as marketing, human resources, or finance. Senior public relations officers are managers rather than—or as well as—technicians who, when empowered by the dominant coalition, provide an essential role in the strategic management of the organization.
In this chapter we move from the roles played by public relations practitioners to the organizational structures in which the public relations function is housed. Organizations call their public relations function many different names, such as public relations, corporate communication, communication, public affairs, external affairs, or community relations. Sometimes those names suggest different emphases for the public relations function; sometimes they are merely euphemisms for the name “public relations. ”
Some organizations develop separate departments for specialized communication programs such as marketing communication, employee communication, investor relations, or government relations. Other organizations place the communication function in one or more departments that house other management functions, such as marketing, human resources, or finance. Still other or ganizations contract with outside public relations firms for their entire public relations function or for specialized services such as research, media relations, publications, or special events. In this chapter, we address the question of whether these structural differences enhance or detract from communication excellence.