The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) study on Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (Excellence Study) found three primary variables for predicting excellence: communicator knowledge, shared expectations about communication, and the character of organizations.Grunig, J. E. (1992). As mentioned in Chapter 4, public relations professionals who demonstrate greater management skills are more likely to participate in the C-suite. However, there are also organizational factors that influence the role that public relations plays in an organization. First, management must value the contributions that public relations can make to an organization; second, there must be a participative culture; and third, the organization must support diversity of people and ideas.
The Excellence Study found that communicator expertise was not enough to predict the best practices of public relations.Grunig, Grunig, and Dozier (2002). There had to be shared expectations between the communications function and senior management or dominant coalition. If the chief executive officer (CEO) and other top managers expect the public relations function to be strategic and contribute to the organization’s bottom-line goals, they often require and support practices that included research and strategic planning and management rather than simply press releases and media placement. Such demand for advanced, two-way communication influences the actual practice in these organizations. It requires hiring and retaining professionals who can conduct research and analyze data that allows for more strategic practices.
In order to gain a strategic management role in the organization, the public relations function must show its value to management. Hambrick said that coping with uncertainty is the basis for demonstrating value.Hambrick (1981), pp. 253–276. Technology, workflow, and external environments all contribute to creating uncertainties and, therefore, strategic contingencies. Excellent public relations should help an organization cope with the uncertainties. This can be achieved only with data and useful information. Information theory posits that data are only useful inasmuch as they reduce uncertainty.
When the public relations function provides information and feedback about stakeholder needs and expectations, it performs a critical task for the organization that is unique to its function. Saunders suggested that reducing uncertainty, performing a critical task, and being nonsubstitutable and pervasive all contribute to the influence of any function in an organization.Saunders (1981), pp. 431–442. Influence is increased when public relations can show that it is unique and cannot be substituted by another function within the organization (it is nonsubstitutable) and when it is connected throughout the organization in such a way that it can help manage relationships with all the key stakeholders (it is pervasive). This unique task is much more critical to the organization when it is focused on establishing, maintaining, and repairing relationships with key stakeholders who are needed to help the organization be successful. When the function is simply publicity and media relations, these outcomes may be considered less critical and somewhat disposable when budgets become limited.