Document Type Master's Dissertation Author De Beer, Estelle URN etd-07212006-155407 Document Title The perception of top communicators of senior management's expectations of excellent communication in South African companies Degree MA (Communication Management) Department Economic and Management Sciences Supervisor
Advisor Name Title Ms U Ströh Committee Chair Keywords
- executives attitudes
- communication in management
Date 2001-04-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractCommunication departments may have the core knowledge to practise excellent communication, but senior management must also share a common understanding of the role and function of communication and communication managers in an organisation for communication to be excellent.
The need for this study originated from the perception that the top communicator is often not at the table when strategic decisions are made. Yet, public relations specialists often have expertise that can contribute to organisational decision-making. They can, amongst others, facilitate dialogue between key publics and members of senior management in order to enhance understanding of the vision and goals of the organisation and the needs of the organisation's clients and stakeholders. This form of two-way symmetrical communication is the basis of excellent communication. Most practitioners agree that the best place for the top communicator is within an organisation's senior management - taking part in strategic decision-making through two-way communication (Dozier, Grunig, L & Grunig, J, 1995).
The three spheres of communication excellence - as identified in the Excellence Study, the largest and most intensive investigation ever conducted of public relations and communication management - include the knowledge base of communication departments; shared expectations between the top communicator and senior management; and the culture of the organisation.
The middle sphere of shared expectations between the top communicator and semor management, has three components which will be investigated in this study. The first component is departmental power - the ability to influence members of senior management. Sometimes top communicators are members of senior management, participating directly in strategic management and planning. In other cases, they exert informal influence as providers of information and as process facilitators to senior management. The power of the public relations department is associated with the value members of senior management attach to public relations as a function, as well as the strategic contribution the top communicator and the communication department make to organisational decision-making.
The second component of excellence in this sphere is the demand-delivery loop. Senior managers in excellent organisations demand two-way public relations practices from their communicators to persuade and negotiate, and top communicators are aware of this. This sets up a loop of repeated behaviour, with senior management demanding and communicators delivering excellent communication programmes. In this study, top communicators in South African organisations are asked about their perceptions of these expectations.
The third component of excellence in this sphere is the organisational role played by the top communicator. Top communicators may have formal decision-making authority for communication policy and may be responsible for programme success or failure, which means that they play the manager role. On the other hand, top communicators may play an informal role as senior advisors who outline options and provide research information needed for decision-making by other senior managers. Both manager and senior advisor role¬playing, contribute to communication excellence.
However, senior management can also expect the top communicator to play the technician role. Top communication departments from the Excellence Study combine knowledge of both manager and technician roles to provide the requisite foundation for excellence. To actually achieve excellence, however, top communicators must play advanced organisational roles of communication manager and senior advisor.
One of the objectives of this study was to establish whether the top communicator in the South African organisation does indeed contribute to excellence in the organisation by being involved in the organisation's strategic management process. For top communicators to be part of the strategic management process, a positive relationship must exist between themselves and senior management. This relationship is investigated by questioning the top communicator on the three components of the sphere of shared expectations, namely departmental power, the demand-delivery loop (and the practising of the four models of communication) and the organisational role played by the top communicator.
The empirical study was undertaken amongst top communicators in South African organisations. A clear exposition is given of the methods and procedures used in the study. Hypotheses have been developed and the testing of these hypotheses attempts to provide a contribution to the scientific knowledge of communication excellence in the South African organisation.
The following assumptions can be made about the findings of the study regarding the perceptions of top communicators in South African organisations in respect of the beliefs and expectations of senior management of the top communicator and the communication department:
- It is the perception of top communicators that senior management expects them to make a strategic contribution to organisational decision-making by playing the public relations manager role.
- Senior management expects those top communicators predominantly playing the public relations manager role to make use of two-way public relations models in organisational decision-making and communication activities; and those predominantly playing the public relations technician role to make use of one-way public relations models.
- The top communicator predominantly playing the public relations manager role and using two-way public relations models, can make a strategic contribution to organisational decision-making. This can lead to excellent communication and can contribute to the communication function being valued and supported by top management.
- Top communicators do not perceive reporting lines to the chief executive officer (CEO) (or any other manager) or senior management (or middle management) to be very good indicators of their strategic contribution to decision-making. These findings support the communication theory that reporting relationships are necessary, but hardly sufficient for making a strategic contribution to organisational decision-making as indicated by Dozier et al (1995:84). The critical factor is not whom one reports to, but rather whether one has access to any of the senior (corporate) officers at will.
- Top communicators in small and in large organisations can make a strategic contribution to organisational decision-making.
- The top communicator can make a bigger strategic contribution in large communication departments, where technical tasks can be delegated.
- Small and large public relations departments predominantly use one-way public relations models in their communication activities, but large departments also use two-way public relations models. It can, therefore, be assumed that two-way public relations models will be practised more frequently in large departments where the top communicator will also be expected to make a strategic contribution to organisational decision-making (by playing the public relations manager role).
- The highest qualification of the top communicator is a weak indicator of the strategic contribution the top communicator makes to organisational decision-making. This could indicate that senior management values skills and knowledge, rather than qualifications, when the top communicator makes a strategic contribution to organisational decision¬making.
- Senior management, furthermore, expects the top communicator with many years' experience in the communications field to make a bigger strategic contribution than the top communicator with a few years' experience in this field.
© 2001 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.
Please cite as follows:
De Beer, E 2001, The perception of top communicators of senior management’s expectations of excellent communication in South African organisations, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07212006-155407/ >
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