Activism and the Environment
Activism pushes organizations toward excellence. Counterintuitive though this may sound, both the survey results and insights from the case studies firmly establish this relationship. The explanation is multifaceted, but it begins with an understanding of the importance of support from the dominant coalition for the public relations function. In the case studies, activism emerged as the second greatest determinant of the value top management holds for public relations. Only providing a broad perspective both inside and outside of the organization was mentioned more frequently and with more conviction by the CEOs we talked with. They and their top communicators both described what some called the “infinite value” of public relations during times of crisis or activist pressure.
Coping with a turbulent, complex environment requires sophisticated, strategic, two-way communication. Activist groups put pressure on organizations. Excellent public relations programs are most successful in contending with that pressure.
More specifically, the theoretical framework for the Excellence study suggested a series of propositions about activism and managed communication. The findings reported in this chapter are organized around each of the seven propositions. The chapter begins by reviewing briefly the literature that led to those expectations.
More than three decades ago, the relationship between organizations and their environments became critically important to organizational sociologists (Aldrich, 1979; Aldrich & Pfeffer, 1976). They reasoned that organizational survival