New Directions for Research
Suggested by the Excellence Study
We began this book by posing the central research question of the Excellence study: What specific expertise can a public relations function offer, which other management functions cannot offer, that makes an organization more effective both in achieving its own goals and those of society? We provided a tentative answer to that question in the first chapter and then supported our answer with evidence, presented in considerable detail, as we moved through each chapter.
We begin this last chapter with a summary of the research that answered the question with which we opened the book. We believe the research-based portrait of an excellent public relations department that we have painted represents a critical milestone in the history of public relations research. However, it does not mean that research has answered every important research question in public relations. Therefore, we end this book with a look to the future. We identify four important gaps in our knowledge of public relations and recommend research needed to close those gaps.
The Excellence study has shown that public relations is an unique management function that helps an organization interact with the social and political components of its environment. These components make up the institutional environment of an organization, which consists of publics that affect the ability of the organization to accomplish its goals and that expect organizations to help them accomplish their own goals. Organizations solve problems for society, but they also create problems for society. As a result, organizations are not autonomous units free to make money or to accomplish other goals they set for themselves.