School of Communication and Creative Arts

Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal

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Vol. 5, No. 2 - 2004 ISSN 1440-4389

Editorial Note - Kristin Demetrious

Public relations and corporate social responsibility: Developing a moral narrative - Anne Surma

Taking it to the people: Individual shareholder participation in Australian companies and the election of directors at Coles Myer - Robina Xavier

Reality Bytes!: The Technological Realities of Public Relations Practitioners in Ghana - Kwamena Kwansah-Aido

‘Publics’ or ‘Stakeholders’? Performing Social Responsibility through Stakeholder Software - Kristin Demetrious & Dr Patrick Hughes

Public Relations: Seeking an Ethical Equilibrium - Associate Professor Aylin Pira & Associate Professor Fusun Kocabas

Managing community involvement on major infrastructure projects - Dr Marcia H Ruff Hewitt

Back to basics: Analysing the use of research in government public relations campaigns - Robina Xavier, Amisha Patel, Kim Johnston, Vathany Sambath

Case Study - Public Relations Practice and Citizenship: Getting the citizens of South Australia interested in Parliamentary and Constitutional Reform - Pamela Schulz

Case Study - Work & Community: Building a Community Investment Program at Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia - Michael Moore

Book Review - Advertising in everyday life by N Alperstein

Book Review - Sonic branding: an introduction by Daniel Jackson

Book Review - Events made simple by Stephanie Lewis

Book Review - Public Relations Theory and Practice (2nd edition) edited by Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi

 

 


Editorial Note

Kristin Demetrious

Co-editor, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal

 

Welcome to the special ‘citizenship and public relations’ themed edition of Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal. Citizenship’s powerful notions of membership, rights, entitlement and capacity to participate in society are on the move. Today the growth of information technologies together with changing social, political and economic practices are redefining ideas about who we are and the communities to which we belong.

‘Corporate citizenship’ is a manifestation of this evolving concept. Emerging in the late 20th century it was heralded as a new wave of progressive thinking for companies who sought innovative ways of operating.

 


Public relations and corporate social responsibility: Developing a moral narrative

Anne Surma

Lecturer in English and Professional Writing, School of Arts, Murdoch University

 

Narrative is used as a specific rhetorical device by organisations and corporations to define their social responsibility to their publics. This article aims to determine why and how such narrative rhetoric is regularly perceived by various stakeholders as hollow rather than meaningful. Using Nike’s Social Responsibility Report 2001 as a case study, the paper suggests that part of the problem lies in the futile effort of much public relations practice to capture the (impossibly) ‘perfect’ story: one of completeness, integrity and thus implied moral goodness. Drawing on postmodern narrative theory and a feminist model of ethics, the article argues that an ongoing ethical relationship between writers (corporations) and readers (stakeholders) renders any meaningful public relations story necessarily incomplete.

 


Taking it to the people: Individual shareholder participation in Australian companies and the election of directors at Coles Myer

Robina Xavier

Lecturer and Area Co-ordinator, Public Relations
School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology

 

The often portrayed image of company shareholders as passive and powerless (Deetz, 1992) was challenged recently in Australia through the contested elections for directorships in Coles Myer Limited. Long-standing Board member, Solomon Lew, ran a major public relations campaign to motivate shareholders to support his re-election by voting at the annual general meeting, thereby demonstrating the power of the individual shareholder in organisational decision-making. Following predictions of greater shareholder activism (Dunlop, 1998; Smith, 1998) and a strong emphasis on corporate governance by world regulators, the role that shareholders do and could play in the companies in which they invest needs to be considered.

This paper first reports on a study of how listed companies understand individual and institutional shareholder participation. Interview data and document analysis from seven Australian publicly listed companies demonstrate how a company’s understanding of the role of the shareholder influences its view on, and support of, shareholder participation, and how the company views shareholder activism. These views are then considered in light of the participation issues raised in the Coles Myer case. Recognising that the forces flowing from surface and deep power structures (Frost, 1987) govern company-shareholder relationships, this paper examines the ability of shareholders, and the reticence demonstrated by listed companies, to challenge the status quo.

 

 


Reality Bytes!: The Technological Realities of Public Relations Practitioners in Ghana

Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo

School of Humanities, Communications & Social Sciences, Monash University, Gippsland Campus

 

In developed countries, the rate of technological development and dissemination over the past two decades has been breathtaking, to say the least. These developments have affected all facets of life and work. As a result, it is a generally accepted notion that new communication technologies have had, and will continue to have a significant impact on how organisations communicate, including the way public relations is practised. A growing body of literature on new technologies and public relations practice supports this widely held notion. However, despite this emergent body of literature, there is hardly any knowledge about what the situation is in developing countries in terms of the rate of technological adoption by public relations practitioners and the impact of these technologies on their work.

This paper is an initial attempt to deal with some of what is missing from the literature in this burgeoning area – a developing world perspective. The paper is based on research carried out in Ghana during January and February 2004. The findings indicate that while Ghanaian public relations practitioners are optimistic about the impact new technologies will have on their practice, the reality of their technological situation shows that there is a wide gap between the experience of practitioners in Ghana and those in the developed world.

 

 


‘Publics’ or ‘Stakeholders’? Performing Social Responsibility through Stakeholder Software

Kristin Demetrious

Lecturer, Public Relations, Deakin University
Research Fellow, Corporate Citizenship Research Unit, Deakin University


and

Dr Patrick Hughes

Senior Lecturer, Media and Communication, Deakin University
Research Fellow, Centre for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood, University of Melbourne

 

Government and corporate organizations increasingly seek the support of the communities where they operate and represent themselves as good corporate citizens with a sense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These organizations seek to create and sustain dialogue with their many and varied ‘stakeholders’ and reject traditional ‘PR’ approaches that regard communication as a way to manipulate ‘target publics’. Some of these organizations use a form of ‘stakeholder software’ to guide and support their efforts to embrace CSR in their operations and this article examines two such software packages. It sets their use and the broader drive for CSR in the context of a diminishing trust in traditional institutions and a rise in new, extra-parliamentary forms of activism (new activism); and it examines stakeholder software’s potential contribution to a values-based approach to PR training in universities and colleges.

 

 


Public Relations: Seeking an Ethical Equilibrium

Associate Professor Aylin Pira

Communications Faculty, Ege University (Izmir, Turkey)

and

Associate Professor Fusun Kocabas

Communications Faculty, Ege University (Izmir, Turkey)

 

For public relations to secure recognition as a respected professional discipline, ethical behaviour is critical. This requires a commitment by PR practitioners to serve the principles of honesty and the truth, even when the truth is at odds with the interests of their paymasters. Without that commitment to ethical practice, PR will be a tainted profession in public estimation; one suspected of plying dishonest ‘spin’ rather than engaging in two-way communication that is worthy of trust.

In this paper we consider the meaning of ethics as a philosophical endeavour and as it applies specifically to public relations practice. We then explore the ethical tensions that arise when the paymaster and the PR practitioner work together to create and spread misleading propaganda as a means to an end, rather than apply an ethical calculus to the messages and symbols selected and advanced.

Our case study is drawn from the 2000 Turkish General Election in which, on our reading of events, the newly created Genc Party achieved real political influence (and nearly secured direct political power) through the purchase of an expensive but ethically compromised public relations campaign.

 

 


Managing community involvement on major infrastructure projects

Dr Marcia H Ruff Hewitt

 

Major government infrastructure projects are inherently controversial. Therefore, it is important to develop an understanding of the processes used by public sector managers to involve the community when construction projects such as highways, airports and urban developments are planned or are underway.

The community has increasing expectations for meaningful involvement in government projects which may impact on their quality of life. Poorly managed community involvement can create a difficult climate for government infrastructure projects, both current and planned. The damage to the professional reputations of managers is self-evident.

Direct involvement by the community in government decisions which affect them tends to enhance the acceptance and legitimacy of those decisions (Allen, Suggett & Goodsir 1999; Creighton, 1981; Davis, 1996; Howell, Olsen & Olsen, 1987; Viteritti 1997). Benefits to the government at the administrative level include savings in time and cost through implementing technical improvements as a result of consultation, avoiding a negative organisational image, and improving morale amongst organisational staff (Connor 1994a; Howell, Olsen & Olsen, 1987). However, there are also costs to community involvement, such as commitment of resources, especially time, raising expectations which cannot be fulfilled, and the risk of allowing opposition to develop (Davis, 1996).

 

 


Back to basics: Analysing the use of research in government public relations campaigns

Robina Xavier, Amisha Patel, Kim Johnston, Vathany Sambath

School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

 

Public relations plays a critical role in the public and private sectors. To be accountable to government and business, effective public relations campaigns must begin with strong research to guide campaign development. In government and business settings, public relations practitioners use research to define the organisational problem, set appropriate and measurable objectives for campaigns, and identify appropriate strategies.

Despite its recognised importance in the academic literature, a major study of Australian public relations campaigns and public relations practitioners’ attitudes towards research in the early 1990s established that research was still talked about much more than it was practised.

This study uses the Public Relations Institute of Australia Golden Target Awards collection to examine how Australian government public relations practice uses research in campaign development compared to other categories of practice. The study develops baseline measures of the nature and scope of research methods used in 120 awards submissions from 1997 to 2001. This paper provides an empirical foundation to consider the contribution of different types of research to campaign planning, and examines the consequences of such contribution for government public relations in demonstrating its value.

 

 


Public Relations Practice and Citizenship: Getting the citizens of South Australia interested in Parliamentary and Constitutional Reform

Case Study

Pamela Schulz

Member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia
Private consultant; Lecturer (part-time), School of Communications, University of South Australia

 

‘In a democracy, public information is crucial if citizens are to make intelligent judgments about the policies and activities of their elected representatives’

(Wilcox et al, 2001, p 272)

Nowhere is this more apparent than in engaging people about constitutional affairs. Often these issues are seen as the province of lawyers or political boffins keen on having a say in how politicians should behave or legislate.

In February 2002 the Australian Labor Party assumed power in South Australia with the support of an Independent Member, the Hon Peter Lewis, later elected Speaker of the House of Assembly. In signing the ‘Peter Lewis Compact for Good Government’, the ALP agreed to conduct a wide-ranging Constitutional Convention in 2003 to consider major aspects of government and Parliamentary Reform.

It was clear that public relations management would form the basis for engaging the community in the lead-up to the proposed Convention. To foster and encourage community debate and media interest a wide selection of activities was undertaken, some of which were unusual. A focussed strategy of positioning the SA Constitutional Convention as ‘the voice of the people’ was undertaken to elicit positive community

 

 


Work & Community: Building a Community Investment Program at Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia

Case Study

Michael Moore

Corporate Affairs Manager, Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia Pty Ltd

 

 

 


Book Review - Advertising in everyday life

by N Alperstein

Published 2003, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press Inc.

 

Reviewer: Dr. Patrick Hughes

Senior Lecturer, Communications, Deakin University

 

 


Book Review - Sonic branding: an introduction

by Daniel Jackson (edited by P Fulberg)

Published 2003, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

 

Reviewer: Dr. Patrick Hughes

Senior Lecturer, Communications, Deakin University

 

 


Book Review - Events made simple

by Stephanie Lewis

Published 2004, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin

Reviewer: Bronwyn Kirby

Lecturer, Public Relations, Deakin University

 

 


Book Review - Public Relations Theory and Practice (2nd edition)

edited by Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi

Published 2004, Sydney: Allen and Unwin

Reviewer: Geoff Barbaro

Lecturer, Public Relations, RMIT University

 

 

 

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