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Reflective Communication Management, a Public View on Public Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  14 While we use the social sciences to define the concept, legitimacy is neither a moral nor an ethical deontological principle, but is related rather to the empirical issue of what is good and justifiable for (the members of) society. ”The legitimacy of an organization is a measure of the extent to which the public and the public sphere at a given time and place find the organization sensible and morally justifiable”(Munck Nielsen, 2001:19). Jensen (1997:228) constructed an empirical model for the societal legitimation of corporations that depends on the construction of economic order. In a liberal economy, corporations are supposed to be economically successful but can act socially innocent. As Friedman (1970) stated: “The social responsibility of business is to increase profit.” Consequently, the societal legitimacy of corporations is defined by profitability in their markets. As markets are insufficient for distributing goods according to values and qualitative ends in society, government has to repair market insufficiencies thorough legal regulations. In such cases, societal legitimacy is restricted to companies that are legally responsible and do not break the law. Today, however, corporations are not only confronted with legal regulations, but also with demands by public discourse and non-governmental organizations that transcend the scope of their markets as well as their legal constraints. That is why Jensen foresees "the economically successful, legal and responsible company" as the twenty-first century empirical concept of a profitable organization. In this concept theories of legitimacy must be concerned with legitimacy of power exercised by corporations and non-profit organizations. According to Jensen (2000), communication management, from the liberal economic perspective, is restricted to sales promotion, product information, and publicity. From the legal perspective lobbying is a central focus of communication management. From the public perspective communication management is to be seen as the basic business condition, with public discourse about what is good or bad as the constraint. Holmström (2000) argued that legitimacy must be seen as a precondition for corporate social acceptance, and that legitimation is the process that establishes collective perceptions of proper behaviors as the natural way of doing things (i.e., the norms and values in societal culture). She foresees a new paradigm for legitimate business conduct, which is no longer secured by the conventional economic growth and profit paradigm, but (also) by a public legitimate paradigm, by societal legitimation. This can also be viewed as a decline in the social predominance of functional rationality and an increased emphasis on substantial rationality (i.e., the institutional dimension of organization). From this perspective the organizational dimension can now be seen as the economic capital of an organization, and the institutional dimension is its cultural capital. 3.3. Communication as a cultural process Kückelhaus (1998) describes three approaches to communication management: product oriented, marketing oriented, and societally oriented. She sees the predominance of societally oriented approaches in German public relations theory building, and she believes that this is the only possible approach in the

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke. and Vercic, Dejan.
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14
While we use the social sciences to define the concept, legitimacy is neither a moral nor an ethical
deontological principle, but is related rather to the empirical issue of what is good and justifiable for (the
members of) society. ”The legitimacy of an organization is a measure of the extent to which the public
and the public sphere at a given time and place find the organization sensible and morally
justifiable”(Munck Nielsen, 2001:19). Jensen (1997:228) constructed an empirical model for the societal
legitimation of corporations that depends on the construction of economic order. In a liberal economy,
corporations are supposed to be economically successful but can act socially innocent. As Friedman
(1970) stated: “The social responsibility of business is to increase profit.” Consequently, the societal
legitimacy of corporations is defined by profitability in their markets. As markets are insufficient for
distributing goods according to values and qualitative ends in society, government has to repair market
insufficiencies thorough legal regulations. In such cases, societal legitimacy is restricted to companies
that are legally responsible and do not break the law. Today, however, corporations are not only
confronted with legal regulations, but also with demands by public discourse and non-governmental
organizations that transcend the scope of their markets as well as their legal constraints. That is why
Jensen foresees "the economically successful, legal and responsible company" as the twenty-first century
empirical concept of a profitable organization. In this concept theories of legitimacy must be concerned
with legitimacy of power exercised by corporations and non-profit organizations. According to Jensen
(2000), communication management, from the liberal economic perspective, is restricted to sales
promotion, product information, and publicity. From the legal perspective lobbying is a central focus of
communication management. From the public perspective communication management is to be seen as
the basic business condition, with public discourse about what is good or bad as the constraint.
Holmström (2000) argued that legitimacy must be seen as a precondition for corporate social acceptance,
and that legitimation is the process that establishes collective perceptions of proper behaviors as the
natural way of doing things (i.e., the norms and values in societal culture). She foresees a new paradigm
for legitimate business conduct, which is no longer secured by the conventional economic growth and
profit paradigm, but (also) by a public legitimate paradigm, by societal legitimation. This can also be
viewed as a decline in the social predominance of functional rationality and an increased emphasis on
substantial rationality (i.e., the institutional dimension of organization).
From this perspective the organizational dimension can now be seen as the economic capital of an
organization, and the institutional dimension is its cultural capital.
3.3. Communication as a cultural process
Kückelhaus (1998) describes three approaches to communication management: product oriented,
marketing oriented, and societally oriented. She sees the predominance of societally oriented approaches
in German public relations theory building, and she believes that this is the only possible approach in the


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