Corporate public relations dynamics: Internal vs. external stakeholders and the role of the practitioner

Lea Anna Cardwell, Clemson University
Sean Williams, Clemson University
Andrew Pyle, Clemson University

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Most public relations research advocates for stronger organization-public relationships and the implementation of dialogic theory to advance the practice and elevate the status of the public relations practitioner. However, this study reveals that internal relationship dynamics can prevent corporate public relations practitioners from carrying out this function of the public relations role. Twelve weeks of observation and eleven interviews were conducted at a Fortune 1000 technology company to gain insights on how corporate PR practitioners build relationships with external publics, to gauge practitioners’ orientation to dialogue, and to identify challenges to external relationship building. Results show that internal relationship management is a prerequisite to corporate public relations practitioners’ success in developing mutually beneficial relationships with key publics. These findings have implications for both the theory and practice of public relations especially when considering the discussion of the technician versus strategic manager role of public relations and the advancement of the field to a professional status.