Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2021

5 Public relations as a reflective practice

From the book Public Relations
Betteke van Ruler

Abstract

In our digital and mediated age, organizations live in a public arena of very dynamic, ongoing constructions of meanings, expressed by often self-employed stakeholders. In order to cope with this arena, organizations need to be able to continuously adapt to change. Public relations can be seen as the field that organizes the coping mechanisms for adaptation to change by means of its reflective practice. The reflective approach offers a public view instead of a public’s view. To understand the impact of a reflective perspective, we need to see communication from a diachronic or evolutionary perspective instead of the classic persuasion or mutual understanding models. Through this lens on communication, interaction is focused on the social actions of all actors in their relationship with the communication process itself and not so much in their relationship with the other actor(s). In a reflective model of public relations, the basic concepts are reflection, enactment, and sensemaking. These concepts help to reveal how public relations produces society and how societal legitimation is an organizational constraint in which listening is a vital aspect. A reflective approach to public relations will alter public relations research, practice and education to a large extent.

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