Cheney and Vibbert ( 1987) noted that, "public relations has been a fact of organizational life throughout this [the 20th] century" (p. 165). This fact is key to understanding what I seek to accomplish in this book. Organizations are situated within larger environmental systems characterized in terms of economic, sociocultural, technological, and legal/political dimensions. Public relations management and communication arises from a need (or perceived need) related to the often complicated, confusing, and compelling interaction between the organization and other stakeholders in the organization's environment. The organizational public relations function is situated at the fault line where organizational and public interests intersect, sometimes in collusion, often in conflict.
As Bolman and Deal ( 1991) reminded us, organizations are complex, surprising, deceptive, and ambiguous. This book takes their reminder to heart. Organizational life is rife with paradoxes. It is extraordinarily exciting yet mind-numbingly boring, creative yet routine, casual yet formal, honest yet deceptive, friendly yet hostile, supportive yet demeaning, individualistic yet team-oriented, and so on through any number of descriptive adjectives we associate with life in organizations. Above all, organizational life is our way of life, it is intimately intertwined with much of what we experience on a day-to-day basis.
This book is about understanding organizations, especially the role played by organizational decision making in the development and implementation of public relations programs and activities. My goal is to increase the likelihood that the public relations practitioner will become a key player in his or her organization's dominant decision-making coalition, which is comprised of those organizational leaders with the power to establish organizational goals and influence how those goals are accomplished. A better understanding of why and how organizational decisions emerge from the black caldron of organizational "stew" will enable public relations practitioners to join the organization's dominant coalition as fully acknowledged partners.