Analysis and discussion the topic Essay Example

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Second entrypersuasion and power and resource differences

Pieczka (2010) describes public relations as a form of public communication that is linked to a range of special responsibilities for the society. Matthews (2010) pointed out that the responsibilities arise from the desire to practice ethical communication in addition to the concomitant focus on dialogue and two-way communication. As suggested by Curtin and Gaither (2007), its concern is to balance the needs of the society and those of the clients. Hence, it is argued that the public relations is specifically concerned with building relationships through communication rather than using persuasion or position of authority to exercise power.

Basing on this perspective, it becomes apparent that public relations practice is about creating opportunities for dialogue and that communication occupies a prime position in facilitating dialogue. This perspective is consistent with Grunig’s (n.d.) Excellence Theory, which is interpreted normatively as two-way symmetric that covers issues of morality and mutual understanding to facilitate dialogue with other individuals or the public. The theory hypothesises that dialogue is the most effective means of enhancing effective public relations (Gruning 2001).

Kent and Taylor (2002) investigated the theoretical evolution of symmetrical communication as a normative model for public relations activities. The scholars showed that Grunig’s concept of public relations is instrumental in developing relationships or dialogue with or between two dissenting parties. For instance, from the Golden Target Awards Collection, GRS Communications, a PR firm, has been engaged to establish the reputation of ICANZ as a leading and respectable company in the Australian construction industry and to drive policy change on home insulation (UTS n.d.a). However, GRS came up with an ambitious integrated media relations and government strategy targeted at delivering regulatory and policy reform that would culminated in the 2007 elections. The strategy attracted opposition from the then government and other companies with vested interests in the industry. As suggested by Kent and Taylor (2002), public relations can be used to manage communication between dissenting groups in highlighting communication as a tool for negotiating relationships (UTS n.d.,a).

GRS took another strategy, by engaging the public in dialogue and establishing relationship to show that ICANZ was a caring partner. It ran a campaign that showed that some 40 percent of Australians had poor insulation and that Australia lagged behind with its international counterparts in terms of policy development. The strategy was successful, as energy efficiency and insulation was adopted in federal and state government policies (UTS n.d.,a).

Therefore, persuasion and power and resource differences serve to prevent dialogue, since they do not facilitate understanding among individuals or the public. This argument is based on the approach taken by public relations theory to perceive persuasion as a scenario where one exercises power over the other, and hence are inherently related to domination or manipulation (Kent & Taylor 2002). As pointed out by Dickerson (2012), an influential element of public relations theory has been characterised by ‘fear of persuasion’.

Both manipulation and domination call attention to the means through which organisations exercise power over the public rather than to engage in dialogues or building relationships. In taking this perspective, it is argued that persuasion and power are inherently perceived as morally problematic (Berger 2005). As suggested by Grunig (2006), public relations should be based on ethical decision-making.

Basing on the Excellence Theory, bargaining is perceived to be more ethically dominant than persuasion and power and resource differences. This is since the three are likened to manipulation and domination of the public or individuals. This is specifically since Grunig’s theory supposes that preferences lack rational basis and hence he is of the view that persuasion must in one way or the other exercise some form of power by one party over the other party. Hence, a form of domination and manipulation must exist. Put differently, as can now be observed, it is this form of perception of preferences that is not rational, and which is the ultimate source of “fear persuasion”, as suggested in Grunig’s model of public relations. For instance, from the Golden Target Awards Collection, in Western Australia, the state government’s decision to start a network of prisoners’ work camps, near residential houses in 2000 was faced with opposition (UTS n.d.,b). Rather than use its power or persuasion to influence the public, it decided to be more rational, ethical and to establish a relationship and dialogue with the communities and prison support through public relations — as suggested by Dickerson’s (2012). Seemingly, the community was sensitive about law and order issues in the state following 84 escapes from prison and 7 deaths in custody. Comprehensive public relations changed the potential negatives by raising awareness and through community consultations. An overwhelming support for Work Camps resulted (UTS n.d.,b).

Indeed, historically, persuasion has been viewed as a method of exercising power over other individuals in the same way as using force or coercion. Persuasion is also a means of exercising power over other people, since unlike power, people submit to it willingly. Simply put, persuasion is a means of exercising power over other people and since it has a subtle potential to undermine an individual’s autonomy. To this end, Dickerson’s (2012) view that to exercise power over another individual is to subject him to one’s will or to get him do what one wants, which implies that persuasion and power undermine rather than facilitate dialogue.

However, According to Berger (2005), symmetric public relations theory can be criticised for insisting on dominant or manipulative entities that make decisions and influence public relations while at the same time revealing little about the forms or power of persuasion. For instance, there are different forms of power, such as “power over relations”, which uses that traditional dominance model and “power with relations”, and which depicts dialogue, negotiation and inclusion. Besides, it does not address sufficiently the different issues of irreconcilable differences between the organisation and the public or situations of powerless public (Berger 2005).

To conclude, persuasion and power and resource differences prevent rather than facilitate dialogue. These concepts are inconsistent with Grunig’s symmetrical communication since they depict manipulation and domination, which call attention to situations where organisations exercise power over the public rather than engage in dialogues or building relationships.

Reference List

Berger, B. 2005, «Power Over, Power With, and Power to Relations: Critical Reflections on Public Relations, the Dominant Coalition, and Activism,» Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 17 no. 1, pp5–28

Curtin, P. & Gaither, K. 2007, Global Public Relations and the Circuit of Culture,Sage publications, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Dickerson, A. «What’s wrong with asymmetry? Persuasion and power in public relations theory,» PRism vol. 9 no2, pp.1-9

Grunig, J n.d., Excellence Theory in Public Relations, viewed 24 April 2014,

Gruning, J. 2001, Two-Way Symmetrical Public Relations: Handbook of Public Relations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, Calif

Grunig, J. 2006, «Furnishing the Edifice: Ongoing Research on Public Relations as a Strategic Management Function,» Journal of Public Relations Research vol. 18 no. 2, pp. 151-156.

Kent, M. & Taylor, M. 2002, «Toward a dialogic theory of public relations,» Public Relations Review vol. 28, pp21–37

Matthews, L. 2010, «Social Media and the Evolution of Corporate Communications,» The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.17-21

Pieczka, M. 2010, «Public relations as dialogic expertise?” Journal of Communication Management vol. 15 no. 2, 2011 pp. 108-124

UTS n.d.,a, 5 Star and Beyond, Golden Target Awards, viewed 24 April 2014,

UTS n.d.,b, Adult Prisoner Work Camps-Community Communcations, Golden Target Awards, viewed 24 April 2014,