Light at the end of the tunnel

27 10 2008

So, admittedly, it’s been I’ve been a little absent from blogging…but rest assured, it hasn’t been for naught. I have just completed my written and oral comprehensive examinations for my doctoral program, and will be defending my dissertation prospectus on December 19th. This is where the rubber hits the proverbial road for me…and I’ve been planning for my research topic for the last two years, having done several related and even pilot studies.

The topic: Integrated Public Relations

One question that keeps nagging me is how does public relations fit into an integrated environment? And by public relations, I mean much more than just the publicity-type.

Research has focused primarily on the nature of integration and marketing’s role in integration. In fact, case studies I’ve been reviewing show how public relations is used primarily as publicity, aiding marketing’s efforts to sell a product or service or build a firm’s brand or reputation. However, I think that it goes much deeper than that. PR is more than just publicity, and my aim is to build a model for public relations in an integrated communication environment.

I get the impression that there is an underlying need to explore this. As I posted earlier, I was at a conference in Slovenia three months ago that was dedicated to integrated communications. I expected a defining symposium, where, as scholars, we proposed the unified future of the integration of communications. Instead, the conference, though beneficial in its varied topics and research, had no realy unifying theme or definition of integrated communication, which is probably representative of actual practice. Integration may be a topically thrown together initiative, with each communication function vying for a role.

What we need is an understanding of public relations and integration. We need to define public relations’ role beyond publicity or promotion, and clarify what integration can and should look like in the process.

I have my own assumptions going into the project, one of which revolves around PR as relationship-building. It’s one of the few things that truly differentiates PR from Marketing. Public Relations builds relationships with distinct stakeholders or organizational publics. I think there is a real opportunity here to redefine public relations as relationship cultivation and distinguish it from marketing activities like promotion and publicity.