New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Stephen P. Banks
Chapter 6: Leading, Dissenting and Public Relations
Stephen P. Banks INTRODUCTION It might seem odd to ﬁnd a chapter on public relations in a book about dissent and leadership. Why public relations? And what is its relevance to failed leadership and dissent? The answer to the ﬁrst question is that public relations often acts as the voice and conscience of leaders. In its ‘oﬃcial statement on public relations’ the Public Relations Society of America asserts that the ‘public relations practitioner acts as a counselor to management . . . with regard to policy decisions, courses of action, and communication, taking into account their public ramiﬁcations and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities’ (http://www.prsa.org/aboutUs/oﬃcialStatement.html). To the extent that managements lead institutions, public relations (hereafter PR) is a key communicative go-between for leaders and relevant others. The answer to the second question is more complicated and is what most of the rest of this chapter will address. As to the voice of leadership, in mass-mediated societies PR is a necessary, if not always appreciated, tool of civic discourse. As Amy Goodman assesses those who use the mass media for communicating, ‘in a society where freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution, our media largely acts as a megaphone for those in power’ (Goodman, 2004: 7). Nonetheless, institutional communication in every sector – commercial and industrial, religious and educational, governmental and military, for-proﬁt and voluntary – and from all positions of advocacy use public relations. To illustrate this point, consider that both Wal-Mart and its critics use PR....
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