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Reflective Communication Management, a Public View on Public Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  8 The information model of communication management focuses on the dissemination of information to target groups to inform (enlighten) them about the plans of the organization and the decisions made. Grunig and Hunt (1984:20-21) argued that in the beginning of the eighties about 50% of all organizations in USA practiced a (public) information model. Ledingham & Bruning (2000:xi) assume that at the turn of the century many organizations still held this as their model, while they “seem to perceive that the production and dissemination of communication messages is the answer to every public relations problem.” Successful communication management in this approach is "informing the right people at the right time about the plans and decisions of the organization." As most people are not easy to reach directly, the most widely used channels to inform the public are the mass media. Thus, informational communication management is primarily "broadcasting management." The management of the process of meaning creation - as a generic principle of communication management - in this model is restricted to the revelation of the (denotative) meaning of the sender (e.g., organization) to certain target groups. The Persuasion Model The directive/one-way axis, combined with the limited rationality/connotative axis, leads to a persuasive approach of communication management. Communication management in this model is seen as a means to promote the organization’s plans and decisions to important others. The aim of this promotion is to enable the organization to continue (cf. Bernays; for an overview of his ideas, see Cutlip, 1994). We expect that the increased involvement of social and economic psychology in public relations/corporate communication theory has led this to become a widely used model of communication management since the nineteen-eighties. Theoretically it refers to early theories of rhetoric that were postulated by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who made a very significant, lasting contribution to persuasion research. The key aspect in these theories is the seeking of control (Miller, 1989); key problems in this model are the characteristics of the sender (ethos), the audience (pathos), and the message (logos). The persuasion model of communication management focuses on the persuasion of target groups to accept the organization’s view on relevant issues. Grunig (see e.g., 1989) calls this an asymmetrical model of communication management in which only the public has to alter its view. As with the information model, in this persuasion model the organization is the sender and the public is the receiver. But receiving the message (key in the information model) is not enough in this model: the public must also be convinced there is a predefined meaning for the situation. Successful communication management is therefore "convinced publics," or ensuring "a positive image" is held by important target groups. Since it is difficult to convince people, research is thought to be important for discovering what the public will accept and tolerate (Grunig & Hunt, 1984:24), and to develop Common Starting Points (Riel, 1995) or a Sustainable Corporate Story (Riel, 2000). Persuasive communication management is, therefore, primarily impression management. The management of the process of meaning creation is in this model restricted

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke. and Vercic, Dejan.
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8
The information model of communication management focuses on the dissemination of information to
target groups to inform (enlighten) them about the plans of the organization and the decisions made.
Grunig and Hunt (1984:20-21) argued that in the beginning of the eighties about 50% of all organizations
in USA practiced a (public) information model. Ledingham & Bruning (2000:xi) assume that at the turn
of the century many organizations still held this as their model, while they “seem to perceive that the
production and dissemination of communication messages is the answer to every public relations
problem.” Successful communication management in this approach is "informing the right people at the
right time about the plans and decisions of the organization." As most people are not easy to reach
directly, the most widely used channels to inform the public are the mass media. Thus, informational
communication management is primarily "broadcasting management." The management of the process of
meaning creation - as a generic principle of communication management - in this model is restricted to
the revelation of the (denotative) meaning of the sender (e.g., organization) to certain target groups.
The Persuasion Model
The directive/one-way axis, combined with the limited rationality/connotative axis, leads to a persuasive
approach of communication management. Communication management in this model is seen as a means
to promote the organization’s plans and decisions to important others. The aim of this promotion is to
enable the organization to continue (cf. Bernays; for an overview of his ideas, see Cutlip, 1994). We
expect that the increased involvement of social and economic psychology in public relations/corporate
communication theory has led this to become a widely used model of communication management since
the nineteen-eighties. Theoretically it refers to early theories of rhetoric that were postulated by the Greek
philosopher Aristotle, who made a very significant, lasting contribution to persuasion research. The key
aspect in these theories is the seeking of control (Miller, 1989); key problems in this model are the
characteristics of the sender (ethos), the audience (pathos), and the message (logos). The persuasion
model of communication management focuses on the persuasion of target groups to accept the
organization’s view on relevant issues. Grunig (see e.g., 1989) calls this an asymmetrical model of
communication management in which only the public has to alter its view. As with the information
model, in this persuasion model the organization is the sender and the public is the receiver. But receiving
the message (key in the information model) is not enough in this model: the public must also be
convinced there is a predefined meaning for the situation. Successful communication management is
therefore "convinced publics," or ensuring "a positive image" is held by important target groups. Since it
is difficult to convince people, research is thought to be important for discovering what the public will
accept and tolerate (Grunig & Hunt, 1984:24), and to develop Common Starting Points (Riel, 1995) or a
Sustainable Corporate Story (Riel, 2000). Persuasive communication management is, therefore, primarily
impression management. The management of the process of meaning creation is in this model restricted


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