Sunday, December 8, 2013

Public Relations Paradigms

To understand the domain of public relations domain one needs to understand the paradigms surrounding it. Paradigms are patterns or models which kind of set the path for understanding a subject more meaningfully. Public Relations has long been described under various paradigms that explain its role and functions and the complexity of the subject.

Public Relations can be defined in various ways but here I am concentrating on the following definitions before I move on to paradigms.

"Public Relations (PR) involves a variety of  programs designed to promote or protect a company’s image or a person’s or individual products." if you read the words here persuasion and communication is the key . More a one-way form of communication. We load the audience with messages.

If we recall, PRSA had started a 4-month campaign to seek a modern definition of public relations in 2012. The end result was this definition:-   “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
When we read these words we realize it is the building of relationship between the organization and its publics, which is crucial to doing public relations. A two-way communication where an effort is taken by the organization to build a mutual bonding, to understand the need, adapt and resolve as per audiences.

On this note let us move on to the PR paradigms. They were discussed in the 1990s but hold true even in current times.

These are following 7 paradigms:-
Process:  This paradigm studies the routine procedures that are used while doing any PR activity, for e.g. conducting media relations, or doing publicity.

Plan or Program : This focuses on the campaign plan and how this particular process is created.

Communication/Practice Style:
The style or pattern of communication used in doing a PR activity. So here I study which method would be best to communicate a message to the audience? a one-way? two-way? etc.

Organizational/Managerial :  This is examining public relations in terms of doing the function of public relations keeping in mind the management satisfaction, ensuring a certain working relationship within the organisation or with the client.

Behavioral : The public relations activities which we conduct, what is its impact on the knowledge, attitude or behaviour on individuals or groups, are there any changes?

Social Problems:  This paradigm examines the lobbying and public affairs discipline of public relations, or the role as an advocate on issues pertaining to society.

Systems: Walking the tight rope. This paradigm probes the role that public relations efforts play in balancing between the organisation and the environment (more on )

Moving into the digital era, one cannot forget to mention this important addition to the paradigms.

The digital world will compel organisations to conduct themselves strategically. They will have to build relationships across different societies and aid in reducing conflicts which will be the challenge. Different channels of the digital media will help in bringing about this change. This is as suggested by James Grunig, Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication University of Marylan College Park, Maryland, USA

Many misconceptions surrounding this subject of public relations gets cleared because of the paradigms, it gives it a structure that is required when we look at a domain both academically as wells as professionally. It rests on the notion of building strategic relationships and it being a strategic management function which gives it a very serious shape and role.