An emergency approach to public relations strategy (2023)

7.3An emergency approach to public relations strategy

To understand how public relations should best be managed, we propose a model of contingency, situational mixed motivation strategies based on the dimensions of (1) reactive versus proactive and (2) self-interest versus public interest. Each dimension should be seen as a continuum of more reactive/proactive and more self-interest/more public interest than one or the other. The interaction of these two dimensions leads to four different approaches: defensive, responsive, assertive and collaborative (cf.Figure 7.4 “The emergency approach to PR strategy”). In the pages that follow, we'll discuss each strategic approach in detail.

Figure 7.4The emergency approach to public relations strategy

An emergency approach to public relations strategy (1)

Reactive versus proactive dimension

Probably the two terms most used to describe current PR efforts are reactive and proactive. organizations arereactivePublic relations efforts that address existing issues that need to be addressed.if they have to deal with itexistProblems that need to be fixed and areproactivePR efforts made to prevent or prevent problems before they arise.when action is taken to prevent or avoid problemsBeforeyou develop. As Liechty noted, some PR engagements are inevitably reactive because practitioners "often don't have enough time or freedom to respond with collaborative tactics."Liechty (1997), p. 48We caution that the CEO's resources and level of support may place additional limitations on the ability of public relations to collaborate.

However, organizations can take different approaches to reactive disclosure and often still cultivate and improve relationships if the strategic response is carefully articulated. For example, a comparison of Johnson & Johnson's actions in the Tylenol case and Exxon's response to the Valdez oil spill shows how different companies can be in their response to products that pose a risk to their consumers. Johnson & Johnson, although a victim of malicious tampering, has voluntarily removed its product from store shelves to ensure customer safety. Exxon, on the other hand, was slow to take responsibility and voice its concerns to the media and the public. Despite Exxon spending billions of dollars more than Johnson & Johnson, one ended up looking like a hero while the other had its reputation as an environmental villain tarnished. While both organizations had to engage in reactive disclosure, their approaches couldn't have been more different.

Forward-thinking organizations often practiceproactivePublic relation. This term means that organizations seek to influence change by engaging in the public policy process, rather than fighting change, which often turns out to be a losing battle, or simply adapting to change. Therefore, an organization may try to influence public opinion in relation to specific social issues or related to social issues that affect society and seek to influence the legislative and regulatory process related to specific laws and regulations.

Some organizations proactively conduct investigations to identify potential issues that may affect the organization and launch persuasive public information campaigns to influence public opinion and, ultimately, the outcome of the issues. Other organizations try to work with their affected stakeholders to find solutions that take into account the interests of all parties involved and may require organizations to change. Both approaches help to avoid problems, but they use different means as preventive measures. What seems to differentiate the way these organizations act is whether they are primarily concerned with their own interests or if they are also concerned with the interests of their public.

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Self-interest versus public interest dimension

In keeping with the capitalist ideal, the free market economy depends on self-interest as a powerful motivator that releases more energy and creativity than pursuing the interests of others. From a financial perspective, self-interest is defined as maximizing return on investment (ROI). As Buchholz explains,

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Entrepreneurs are expected to maximize profits, investors are expected to maximize their returns in the stock market, and labor sellers are expected to obtain the most favorable terms for themselves. On the consumer side of the process, consumers are expected to maximize their satisfaction through their purchases of goods and services in the marketplace.Buchholz (1989), p. 79

While not all social organizations are driven by the goal of making money, non-profit organizations are also motivated by the self-interest of survival. For this reason,All PR approaches will be motivated by some form of self-interest.

The public interest is more difficult to define and defend. Fitzpatrick and Gauthier suggest so.

Serving the public interest only requires that public relations professionals consider the interests of all parties involved and make a dedicated effort to balance them as much as possible, avoid or minimize harm, and respect all individuals involved.Fitzpatrick e Gauthier (2001), p. 205

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Decisions are almost never made out of pure self-interest or pure public interest as a motivation. Decisions are often made with common interests in mind, allowing them to be “represented in the public interest, even when their ultimate motivation is the financial benefit of the company”.Fitzpatrick e Gauthier (2001), p. 197At the same time, Buchholz recognizes that whoever can define the public interest can never separate himself from his own interests.

The four strategic approaches defined

Odefensive approachA reactive behavior that acts primarily in the self-interest of an organization. It usually consists of planned, one-way is a reactive behavior that acts primarily in the self-interest of the organization. Oresponsive approachA reactive behavior that considers its impact on an organization's is a reactive behavior that considers its impact on stakeholders. Oconfident approachA proactive behavior that furthers an organization's self-interest to try to control that organization's environment. Bernays referred to this asymmetric approach to public relations as theconsent is proactive behavior that promotes self-interest in trying to control an organization's environment. And theCollaborative approachA proactive behavior that uses dialogue to create mutually beneficial solutions that consider the interests of the organization and its stakeholders. Used by organizations to gain public approval and is a proactive behavior that uses dialogue to create mutually beneficial solutions that consider the interests of the organization and its stakeholders.

defensive approach

The main form of communication for the defensive approach is planned one-way communication. The defensive approach uses public relations and public information tools to disseminate "facts" and "educate" the public about an organization's actions or policies in response to criticism or crisis. Sometimes a defensive approach is the only one that can be used because the organization is falsely accused of certain behaviors or standards; Defending against such misinformation is a legitimate and logical recourse. The defensive approach becomes a necessary response to certain situations and problems, but it is not an ideal approach when used exclusively for all situations. If public relations is reduced to practicing primarily the defensive approach in an organization, then its role is reduced to damage limitation, which leads to a loss of credibility and trust with valuable audiences. Predictably, public relations professionals who confine themselves to this approach are often representatives of communications engineers and have very little power or involvement in an organization's decision-making process.

responsive approach

The responsive approach is also used to respond to situations, but with this approach an organization acts in a way that demonstrates its concerns to society. This approach has gained importance as organizations have lost the trust of their stakeholders. Social responsibility has become an umbrella term for consumer and environmental advocates. Some organizations learned that certain crises were best resolved when communication and action showed remorse and concern for the public and society. These organizations would also look to shift to a more proactive mode, identifying the actions they are taking to avoid such crises in the future.

Tylenol's well-documented case set the standard for this approach. The introduction of tamper evident lids revolutionized product packaging. Kathie Lee Gifford's response to reports that her clothing line uses "sweatshops" also represents this approach. Gifford and her husband went to one of the stores with handfuls of dollars to offer workers and pledge to fight sweatshops and allow independent observers to visit the factories that made their clothes. While skeptics could easily argue that she did this to save her business rather than in response to her conscience, it's not easy to parse out why. The responsive approach was apparently more effective in these cases than a defensive approach.

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assertive approach

Bernays' Torches of Liberty publicity stunt in the 1920s is a good example of the confident approach. Bernays helped George Washington Hill and the American Tobacco Company break the social taboo that discouraged women from smoking in public by allowing young debutantes or paid representations of such personalities to carry Lucky Strike cigarettes in the Easter parade. Through advertising and the Freudian psychology of attitude change, Bernays was able to condition the market to accept female smokers, thus expanding the market for Lucky Strike. Bernays played an important role in developing this asymmetric approach by touting public relations as "engineering of consent". Organizations using this approach view public relations as an asymmetrical strategic function that helps control the external environment.

Many companies have used the assertive approach to design marketing, social and regulatory conditions that favor them. Sometimes the assertive approach is used to the detriment of society's interests. An example of an enforceable measure with negative social impacts is the criminal conspiracy by General Motors (GM) with Firestone Tires and Standard Oil of California to eliminate the electric streetcar system in Los Angeles. Los Angeles had one of the best electric streetcar systems in the country before GM bought it and converted it into GM buses that ran on Firestone tires and Standard Oil gasoline. In 1947, the federal government found GM and his co-conspirators guilty of criminal acts and fined them $5,000.United States v. National City Lines, Inc., and others.Since then, the City of Los Angeles has spent billions of dollars building an electric subway system backed by federal grants to reduce pollution and public transportation problems. At the same time, pro-social examples of the assertive approach abound, such as the civil rights movement and public health campaigns to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease.

cooperative approach

The collaborative approach is or should be used by organizations when it comes to consent and support. Collaboration depends on an organization's ability to show how its actions benefit or do not harm its stakeholders. A collaborative approach requires an interaction with the audience that invites participation and participation in terms of an honest and genuine dialogue that respects the rights of each party and is not manipulative in intent or action. Collaboration emphasizes that the public affected by an organizational decision or who can influence the effect of an organizational decision must be involved in the decision-making process. It involves working together to develop a balance between the interests of the two parties. As Murphy noted, there is always conflict, but the way conflict is managed often moves along a continuum between pure competition (the zero-sum approach) and a pure coordination approach that seeks to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome (win-win approach). ). ) .Murphy (1991), p. 115–131.The collaborative approach uses the coordination motive to negotiate outcomes that help strengthen relationships with key stakeholders and aid both an organization's self-interest and relationship building.

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1. Department of State Daily Press Briefing - February 15, 2023
(U.S. Department of State)
2. FEB 14, 2023 | City Council Study Session - Priority Setting Session #1
(City of San Jose, CA)
3. Integrated Emergency Planning for Crowded Places with Emma Parkinson. Hosted by Andy Hollinson
(Crowd Safety Training)
4. Critical Minute - Mining for a Public Relations Strategy
(Critical Mention)
5. City of Santa Rosa Council Meeting February 14, 2023
(City of Santa Rosa, California)
6. Moving people to action: communications and engagement solutions | Climate Emergency


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