The contribution of South African corporate communication practitioners to organisational performance
Le Roux, Tanya
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Although public relations is seen as a function that contributes to the greater good of society and the performance of an organisation (ref. Grunig, 2006b:3; Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002:xii), the function does not, for various reasons, always deliver on this promise (ref. Gray, 2004:26–27; Grunig et al., 2002:166, 169, 192; Steyn, 2000c:40; Tobin, 2004:56; Van Ruler, 1997:248, 263; 2004a:123). Practitioners and professional bodies from various countries have researched, and tried to overcome the variables negatively influencing practitioners, through various methods. However, no study has provided a comprehensive prioritised list of all the variables influencing practitioners' contribution to organisational performance. In addition none of these actions has led to a sustainable solution for the profession where a critical mass of practitioners can keep the promise of contributing to the greater good of society and the performance of the organisation. In light of this problem, this study tries to understand how public relations practitioners can enhance their contribution to organisational performance, by examining the variables influencing practitioners in contributing to organisational performance. The study is framed within the relational, reflective, two–way symmetrical and feminist paradigms, supported by the general excellence theory as meta–theory, and the relationship management and corporate communication role theories. The multidimensional paradigm was specifically selected to accommodate the complex research context (Grunig, 1989:18; 2006a; Valin, 2004). From theory it was established that public relations contributes to organisational performance by assisting organisations to adapt to their changing environment by providing strategic information from the environment to the organisation that could reduce uncertainty in the organisation's strategic decision–making (Grunig et al., 2002:xi; Raupp & Van Ruler, 2006:18; Steyn, 2000c:27; Valin, 2004). Through this process the organisation's triple bottom line goals are aligned with the realities of the environment in which it operates (Moss et al., 2000:283; van Tonder & van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, 2006:149). This then creates long–term relationships with stakeholders that creates many benefits for the organisation (Grunig, 2006b:3, 6; Grunig et al., 2002:xi, 10, 11; Grunig & Haung, 2000:32; Hon & Grunig, 1999:7–9, 11; Phillips, 2006a:34, 35; 2006b:212). Within South Africa specifically, corporate communication practitioners perform the roles of strategist, manager and technician in order to complete the above tasks (Steyn, 2000b:1–42; 2000c:20–43). The research methodology followed to gather data to answer the General research question, is both exploratory and interpretive. The research started with a literature study, followed by semi–structured interviews with four purposefully selected practitioners and the chairpersons of the two professional bodies (PRISA and IABC) in order to verify the variables identified in literature, and possibly identify new variables pertaining to the South African environment. These variables, together with those identified in literature, were then used to construct a questionnaire completed by public relations practitioners active in the 1 319 top performing South African organisations as per South Africa's Top 300 National Companies List (Fletcher, 2007:1–330) and the Financial Mail Top 200 Companies List (Williams, 2005:1–168). A response rate of 19.9% was achieved. The qualitative data was content analysed and the quantitative data analysed by means of Statistica (StatSoft Inc., 2007) and SPSS (SPSS Inc., 2007) data analysis software. In order to determine the relationships between the variables influencing practitioners, structural equation modelling, by means of AMOS (SPSS Inc., 2009) software, was used. In essence it was found that practitioners should take ownership and manage the variables influencing their performance. Furthermore, 13 variables pertaining to the individual–, industry– and professional–levels were statistically verified as the most important variables influencing practitioners. Due to the specific relationship between these variables, it would seem that enhancing any of these 13 variables would enhance the practitioner's contribution to organisational performance. The main contribution of the study is to add to the discussion on the how the profession can manage its contribution to organisational performance by categorising and empirically verifying a list of all variables influencing practitioners' performance and by suggesting a model indicating the relationship between the most important variables influencing practitioners.
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