In my earlier post, “Networks and the Complex Role of PR – Part I,” I wrote about network analysis and how public relations has often been left out of the stakeholder management mainstream literature. Focusing on communicative networks and the governance of relationships within the network organization, I offered the concept of “communicative equations” as a way PR managers can better understand network challenges and make more sound decisions through use of visualization.
Communicative equation is a concept we can put forward to explain the new challenges that the network society and network organizations are bringing to public relations practice and to the governance of relationships with stakeholders/publics. Moreover, it can provide the basis for new methodological approaches to govern networks of relationships with stakeholders and the many communication issues related with such networks.
The communicative equation implies three major blocks of activities for the PR professional. Each of these entails the application of specific tools and concepts related with PR and Communication theory. Below we can see a schematic description which focuses only on the stakeholder dimension and excludes necessary additional blocks of activities related with research about the stakeholders, relationships and issues.
|Block of activities||Examples of tools and concepts required to perform the activity|
|Identifying and typifying categories of stakeholders involved, characterizing their communicatively active segments (publics)||By using available stakeholder analysis and prioritization techniques, such as the ones mentioned by Rawlins (Rawlins, 2006)By applying proper techniques to classify stakeholder according to useful criteria (Polonsky, Schuppisser, & Beldona, 2002)By using Situational Theory of Publics to identify and prioritize groups and individuals by their communicative behaviour (Kim & Gunig, 2011) (Grunig & Repper, 1992)|
|Examining stakeholder/ publics composition and communicative dynamics (identification of internal network structure, opinion building mechanisms)||By using available social network analysis concepts and tools to identify actors performing specific roles (e.g. connectors); the measurement of specific actor’s closeness centrality (degree to which a specific actor is close to others) or betweeness centrality (degree to which an actor acts as intermediary in a relationship of any other two actors).By applying communication audit techniques and other research tools to understand how publics form their opinions, their agendas and how they try to influence public and political agendas. (agenda building)(Wasielesky, 2001)|
|Assessing relationships of each stakeholder category with the organization and identify issues affecting those relationships, studying also the interconnection between issues (issue network).||By using relationship analysis techniques such as the ones described in Hon and Grunig’s work (Hon & Grunig, 1999)By using issues management techniques and network analysis to visualize connection between issues. (Lima, 2011)|
The process of developing relationships with stakeholders has become increasingly complex and network analysis provides us useful tools to address this changing aspect of the PR profession. In order to seriously explore the full impact of network idea in PR, we need to study the stakeholder concept from a communicative point of view, and introduce the concept of publics. Likewise, the dynamic of public issues is more and more complex and issues nest in network-like patterns, which must also be fully understood by the PR professional.
Finally, the development of what we called the “communicative equation” methodology should provide the PR manager an efficient way to visualize each situation involving stakeholders, active publics, issues and relationships in order to provide sound information to decision making process. Thus, each of these situations, or communicative equations, becomes the basic unit of analysis to plan, report and evaluate the performance of the PR function. Hence PR professionals can focus on relationships, on improving the capability to identify and influence variables which can improve relationships under the trilateral governance approach – that is, searching for dynamic balance rather than ensuring static win-win situations.
- Grunig, J., & Repper, F. (1992). Strategic Management, Publics and Issues. In J. E. Grunig, D. M. Dozier, W. P. Ehling, L. A. Grunig, & F. C. Repper, Excellence in Public Relations and Communications Management. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Hon, L. C., & Grunig, J. (1999, November). Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations. Retrieved March 2014, from Institute for Public Relations: http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/measuring-relationships/
- Kim, J.-N., & Gunig, J. (2011). Problem Solving and Communicative Action: A situational theory of Problem Solving. Journal of Communication, Vol.61 Num.1 , 120-149.
- Lima, M. (2011). Visual Complexity: Mapping patterns of Information. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
- Polonsky, M. J., Schuppisser, S., & Beldona, S. (2002). A Stakeholder Perspective for Analyzing Marketing Relationship. Journal of Market-Focused Management, Vol.5 , 109-126.
- Rawlins, B. (2006, March). Prioritizing Stakeholders for Public Relations. Retrieved March 2014, from www.instituteforpr.org: http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/prioritizing-stakeholders/
- Wasielesky, D. (2001). Agenda Building Theory: A Stakeholder Salience Approach for Determining Agenda Placement. The Journal of Behavioural and Applied Management, Vol.2 Nº2 , 113.
Joao Duarte is Head of Iberia Communication Agency at Endesa (Enel Group), a multinational energy Group based in Rome with operations spread across the world in more than 40 countries. He is a co-author or Global Stakeholder Relationship Governance.