193 mation-centered economy and work experience that are natural for pub lic relations and strategic communication practitioners In fact Bovet(1995

193 mation-centered economy and work experience that

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193mation-centered economy and work experience that are natural for pub-lic relations and strategic communication practitioners. In fact, Bovet(1995) has suggested that:Perhaps no field of endeavor is better suited to the new millennium than pub-lic relations. There’s a ’third wave’ revolution occurring in the civilized world,according to Alvin and Heidi Toffler ... power and productivity in the neworder are based on developing and distributing information--two of the pri-mary activities of public relations practitioners. (p. 1)The development of an information society, and a concomitant infor-mation economy, brings with it a certain raising of the stakes in the com-municative relationships between organizations and their publics.Reasons for this are (a) organizational actions can be communicated,or exposed, to audiences worldwide in a matter of hours or minutes; (b)publics come to expect large amounts of information; (c) better educatedpublics process information more thoroughly, or at least in greater quan-tities than in past eras; and (d) an increase in activist and consumergroups has decreased the probability that a problematic organiza-tional action will go unnoticed.Although assertions of a causal relationship are beyond the scope ofthis article, a significant drop in confidence in major social institutionshas occurred coincidentally with the emergence of an information soci-ety. For example, in the slightly more than a quarter century between1966 and 1994, those expressing a great deal of confidence in major com-panies fell from 55% to 19% (Samuelson, 1996). These and other fac-tors suggest that the need for strategic business communication willincrease and that it will play an increasingly important role in estab-lishing the ethical reputation of organizations in the next decade.Leading business executives seem to agree that public relations, at least,will be important in determining how ethical businesses and businesscommunication will be perceived to be in the next decade. In a 1995 study,for example, a retired Johnson & Johnson Products Vice-President forPublic Relations surveyed the CEO’s of ten of the largest and most influ-ential corporations including Exxon, Ford, General Motors, Johnson &Johnson, Merrill Lynch, PepsiCo, Phillips Petroleum, Pacific Gas andElectric, Prudential, and Rockwell International. Among the findingswere that &dquo;more than ever before, CEO’s expect their senior manage-ment people to specifically deal with the public relations ramificationsof their decisions so that potential problems are not allowed to esca-late into major issues&dquo; (Foster, 1995). A perceived lack of ethics is, inthe final analysis, the surest way to leap from a potential problem toan actual one and this is why public relations scholars have dedicatedincreasing attention to ethics.
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