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Reflective Communication Management, a Public View on Public Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  11 have better results than any other, and we doubt that there will ever be any findings that show this. To paraphrase Weick (1987:106), the question is not: is the model true? All models are true in themselves. The question is: when and where is the model true? What makes communication management special for managerial tasks is that its focus is on meaning creation by the actors involved to solve managerial problems per se, and it is realized through various strategies. No manager is really concerned about which strategy is used, so long as it supports perceived ways of managerial problem-solving. Although some (European) countries are famous for neo- corporatism and their consensus building approach to societal problems (see Kickert, 1996; Ruler, 2003), it is unrealistic to say that even in these countries management acts only interactively and open-mindedly, and that every-day organizational communication is restricted to dialogue or negotiation. In practice it is difficult to choose between directive or purely interactive management, as Hersey & Blanchard (1993) showed. And it is also unrealistic to choose between certain communication strategies; all managers try to inform and persuade others, and they all engage in dialogues and negotiations (Ruler, 1998). In environments characterized by uncertainty, uniqueness, and value conflict, “an art of problem framing, an art of implementation, and an art of improvisation” are needed (Schön, 1987:13). In such circumstances a normative theory of communication management becomes improbable. We, therefore, believe that these four models can better be seen as strategies that suit solutions to certain problems, with the aim of long- term survival in society. If we want to perceive these four models as strategies, however, as suitable in certain circumstances, what then is the perspective that determines when these strategies are suitable? For this we need a macro- oriented sociological approach to communication management, which we will develop in the next section of this paper. We call our approach “Reflective Communication Management,” and relate it to the view of people as reflective humans beings engaged in a continuous social process of constructing society. 3. A reflective view of communication management Contemporary theories of communication management mainly focus on management/organization as one actor in the communication management process and the public/target groups/stakeholders/contributors as the other actors. Most of these theories have been developed from a (social-)psychological or rhetorical perspective of communication management, and most perceive a relationship between organization (management) and certain individuals or groups of individuals. Approached from the short-term perspective of managers, the organization needs to survive/expand and needs markets (e.g., members, consumers, etc.) for their ideas/services/products, etc., and it need supportive groups in its environment.

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke. and Vercic, Dejan.
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11
have better results than any other, and we doubt that there will ever be any findings that show this. To
paraphrase Weick (1987:106), the question is not: is the model true? All models are true in themselves.
The question is: when and where is the model true?
What makes communication management special for managerial tasks is that its focus is on meaning
creation by the actors involved to solve managerial problems per se, and it is realized through various
strategies. No manager is really concerned about which strategy is used, so long as it supports perceived
ways of managerial problem-solving. Although some (European) countries are famous for neo-
corporatism and their consensus building approach to societal problems (see Kickert, 1996; Ruler, 2003),
it is unrealistic to say that even in these countries management acts only interactively and open-mindedly,
and that every-day organizational communication is restricted to dialogue or negotiation. In practice it is
difficult to choose between directive or purely interactive management, as Hersey & Blanchard (1993)
showed. And it is also unrealistic to choose between certain communication strategies; all managers try to
inform and persuade others, and they all engage in dialogues and negotiations (Ruler, 1998). In
environments characterized by uncertainty, uniqueness, and value conflict, “an art of problem framing, an
art of implementation, and an art of improvisation” are needed (Schön, 1987:13). In such circumstances a
normative theory of communication management becomes improbable. We, therefore, believe that these
four models can better be seen as strategies that suit solutions to certain problems, with the aim of long-
term survival in society.
If we want to perceive these four models as strategies, however, as suitable in certain circumstances, what
then is the perspective that determines when these strategies are suitable? For this we need a macro-
oriented sociological approach to communication management, which we will develop in the next section
of this paper. We call our approach “Reflective Communication Management,” and relate it to the view of
people as reflective humans beings engaged in a continuous social process of constructing society.
3. A reflective view of communication management
Contemporary theories of communication management mainly focus on management/organization as one
actor in the communication management process and the public/target groups/stakeholders/contributors as
the other actors. Most of these theories have been developed from a (social-)psychological or rhetorical
perspective of communication management, and most perceive a relationship between organization
(management) and certain individuals or groups of individuals. Approached from the short-term
perspective of managers, the organization needs to survive/expand and needs markets (e.g., members,
consumers, etc.) for their ideas/services/products, etc., and it need supportive groups in its environment.


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