Managers, business owners, public relations practitioners, and others grapple daily with issues that have the potential to radically redefine the reputation of a person, company, or industry. They confront a fundamental question about... more
Managers, business owners, public relations practitioners, and others grapple daily with issues that have the potential to radically redefine the reputation of a person, company, or industry. They confront a fundamental question about contemporary crisis management: to what extent is it possible to control events and stakeholder responses to them, in order to contain escalating crises or safeguard an organization's reputation? In Crisis Management in a Complex World, authors Dawn Gilpin and Priscilla Murphy address this question head-on. Operating from a strong theoretical orientation, this book marks a sharp departure from other crisis management texts, which focus on nuts-and-bolts procedures and information distribution in an effort to simplify the turbulent reality of a crisis situation. Instead, this book pairs real-world examples from across the globe with theory-based analysis to show why simplification often fails to alleviate crises, and can even intensify them. Gilpin and Murphy propose a new, complexity-based approach to organizational learning that can allow organizations to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
This volume addresses both scholars and high-level practitioners of public relations, organizational communication, and strategic management. Strongly cross-disciplinary, the book draws on theories from communication, the physical sciences, and business. It invites controversy and ultimately aims to change the way people conceptualize and prepare for crises.
Scholars have increasingly approached organizations as complex systems with indeterminate, shifting boundaries. Boundaries in many nonprofit organizations may be especially fluid, given the heterogeneity of stakeholders and highly... more
Scholars have increasingly approached organizations as complex systems with indeterminate, shifting boundaries. Boundaries in many nonprofit organizations may be especially fluid, given the heterogeneity of stakeholders and highly multiplexed relational and value characteristics involved in constructing identity. The present study frames nonprofit organizations as complex organizations seeking to build communities of legitimacy. Within these communities they construct their identity through a combination of boundary setting, or perceptions of the organization and in what ways it is distinct from other organizations and communities, and relationship building, through both interpersonal contacts and socially mediated interaction. These dimensions combine to allow organizations to identify and bridge structural holes in the larger network in which they are embedded, through processes of identity brokerage. These mechanisms have significant implications for driving growth and engagement in nonprofit organizations. In support of this theoretical model, the article describes a mixed-methods research study involving a nascent arts organization in a large U.S. city.
Scholars in the fields of organization science and communication have shown increasing interest in exploring theories of complexity as a framework for theorizing about organizational processes. We conceive of organizations as... more
Scholars in the fields of organization science and communication have shown increasing interest in exploring theories of complexity as a framework for theorizing about organizational processes. We conceive of organizations as heterogeneous complex systems characterized by interdependency and member identification, which self-organize into a relatively stable core and fluid, ill-defined boundaries. This conceptualization also necessitates rethinking our understanding of organizational identity construction, since many predominant theories of organizational identity suffer from managerial bias (Scott, 2007). We thus propose that identity is an emergent property of self-organization in complex organizational communities. From a complexity theory perspective, organizational identity can be viewed as a dynamic, emergent, multilevel process of negotiation that encompasses reflexivity, boundary setting, and relationship building.
This study examined Philadelphia Puerto Ricans' interpretations of the Surgeon General's warnings that appear on cigarette packaging and in advertisements. In-home family focus groups in which participants were asked to comment on... more
This study examined Philadelphia Puerto Ricans' interpretations of the Surgeon General's warnings that appear on cigarette packaging and in advertisements. In-home family focus groups in which participants were asked to comment on magazine cigarette advertisements showed a great variety of interpretations of the legally mandated warning labels. These findings (a) corroborate and add to research in public health and communications regarding the possibility of wide variations in message interpretations and (b) support the call for public health messages to be carefully tested for effectiveness among different social groups. The article's focus on Puerto Ricans addresses the problem of misleading conclusions that can arise from aggregating all Latino subpopulations into one group. The use of a naturalistic setting to examine interpretations of messages about smoking departs from the experimental methods typically used for such research and provides new evidence that even a seemingly straightforward message can be interpreted in multiple ways. Understanding and addressing differences in message interpretation can guide public health campaigns aimed at reducing health disparities.
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Organizations seek to influence their reputation through a variety of self-presentation activities, which collectively express the organization’s identity. Online and social media such as blogging and micro-blogging also contribute to... more
Organizations seek to influence their reputation through a variety of self-presentation activities, which collectively express the organization’s identity. Online and social media such as blogging and micro-blogging also contribute to image building in today’s media environment. This paper focuses on organizational image as the social dimension of organizational identity, within a larger model of reputation construction. Within this model, image construction is defined as those self-presentation practices that seek to build and maintain perceptions among stakeholders regarding the organization’s identity. Bimodal network analysis was used to examine six months of image construction efforts by the natural supermarket chain Whole Foods through multiple online channels. Although the channels shared a core set of terms and overlapped in others, each channel also addressed unique aspects of the organization’s projected image. Structural constraints and directional traits are posited as the primary reasons for this image differentiation. This study suggests that the public relations function is facing new challenges in coordinating image management among various new media, subject to greater stakeholder influence than previous communication tools.
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As the public relations field has matured, scholars have called for more careful reflection on the linkages between public relations research and larger bodies of theory, to expand the scope of the discipline and situate it more... more
As the public relations field has matured, scholars have called for more careful reflection on the linkages between public relations research and larger bodies of theory, to expand the scope of the discipline and situate it more effectively within an interdisciplinary, pluralistic framework (Bentele, 2007; Ihlen & van Ruler, 2007). We address that call here by extending prior applications of complexity theory in public relations beyond a nearly exclusive focus on crisis communication (Goulielmos, 2005; Gilpin & Murphy, 2005, 2008, in press; Holtzhausen, 2004; Murphy, 2000, in press; Paraskevas, 2006; Ulmer, Sellnow, & Seeger, 2007). Instead, in this chapter we consider the possible contribution of complexity-based thinking to public relations theory, as well as its implications for professional practice in such areas as media relations, stakeholder identification, issues management, and organizational reputation.
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The popular micro-blogging site Twitter offers a window into the complex dynamics of today’s public relations practice. This chapter describes a network analysis that studied patterns of interaction among public relations practitioners... more
The popular micro-blogging site Twitter offers a window into the complex dynamics of today’s public relations practice. This chapter describes a network analysis that studied patterns of interaction among public relations practitioners who are active Twitter users. Findings suggest that Twitter networks serve numerous functional purposes for practitioners seeking to negotiate the dynamics of a changing media environment. Users also establish their professional identity through their interactions within Twitter networks, thereby also influencing the identity of the profession as a whole. Twitter itself emerges as a boundary-spanning tool that links multiple online spheres and spans the divide between offline and virtual professional domains, in keeping with larger trends toward mediated reality.
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In the past thirty-odd years, the field of organizational crisis management has become a central area of practice and scholarship in public relations. Strategic and pragmatic perspectives have traditionally dominated the field,... more
In the past thirty-odd years, the field of organizational crisis management has become a central area of practice and scholarship in public relations. Strategic and pragmatic perspectives have traditionally dominated the field, emphasizing the need for managers to identify, classify, and prioritize crises; maintain lists of key contacts and stakeholder groups with messages tailored to each; and weigh criteria ranging from degree of responsibility to financial impact in order to plan appropriate crisis responses (e.g., Barton, 2001; Coombs, 2007; Fearn-Banks, 2007; Fink, 1986). Recently these pragmatic perspectives have expanded to acknowledge the cultural basis of crises, the socially constructed nature of crises, and the effect of interactions between internal and external stakeholders upon the emergence and handling of crisis situations. Asymmetric approaches to crisis planning strategies, in which the organization’s needs come first, are giving way to a more relational view that emphasizes ongoing stakeholder interactions to negotiate how a crisis is interpreted, who is responsible, and what should be done.
Public relations practitioners have long relied on the press release, or news release, as a means of communicating with publics via the media. The news release may also be seen as an autobiographical narrative through which the... more
Public relations practitioners have long relied on the press release, or news release, as a means of communicating with publics via the media. The news release may also be seen as an autobiographical narrative through which the organization seeks to express and negotiate aspects of its identity. Reconceptualizing news releases as a narrative genre offers a means of studying processes of identity construction as events unfold, rather than relying on post hoc reconstructions that can explain away inconsistencies. Organizational crises offer an excellent opportunity for research, as organizations strive to make sense of complex situations of uncertainty. This study examines the bankruptcy scandal of Italian multinational Parmalat to illustrate how the news release may be configured as a narrative genre that helps to construct organizational identity.
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