Organizational Public Relations: A Political Perspective

By Christopher Spicer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Managing Ambiguity: Implications for External Communication Choices

In chapters 7, 8, and 9, we explored some of the ways in which organiztions interact with their environments. In chapter 7, we assessed the concept of environmental uncertainty as it related to the organization's stakeholders. Given previous research ( Greening & Gray, 1994; Kreiner & Bhambri, 1991) I suggested that stakeholders with the power to confirm or deny legitimacy to the organization, those primarily located in the institutional environment, represent a different set of public relations dilemmas than do those in the organization's technical or resource environment.

In chapters 8 and 9, we examined two frames that characterize (at least in a polarized manner) the ways in which organizations respond to their external stakeholders. The adversarial frame is grounded in the perceived necessity for communicative advocacy on the part of the organization to achieve a measure of control vis-à-vis alternative control attempts initiated by external stakeholders. As we noted, advocacy communication is historically grounded in our pluralistic ideal of adversarial democracy ( Mansbridge, 1980). Public relations practiced from an adversarial frame is most closely related to Grunig and Hunt's ( 1984) two-way asymmetrical model of persuasive, goaloriented communication. In their discussion of corporate rhetoric, Cheney and Vibbert ( 1987) captured the essence of this approach:

Recent reformulations of public relations suggest that organizations can no longer let others control their communicative agenda; hence corporate public persuasion attempts to control the terms under which such

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