Organisational communication, changes and the future

Coming to the end of my readings on organisational communication, I reflect on how the approaches and processes will affect my professional life. In the final chapters of the text, Miller explores technological innovation and the changing nature of organisations and communication. As a young PR professional, these things will change my job prospects and roles, the way organisations function and the global marketplace.

I’ve encountered globalisation and convergence a few times throughout my studies. Jones and Holmes speak of economic and cultural globalisation, suggesting that it changes the way we operate and communicate (2011). Miller expands on this, considering how perceptions of organisations and brands have changed in a business environment that spans the globe and never sleeps (2012). Both texts also discuss convergence, whether in regards to technology or organisational approaches to adapting to a globalised world. Both of these factors are changing organisations drastically – expanding the operations, scope and image. PR as a profession must expand accordingly, becoming more culturally aware and flexible.

Technology, globalisation and convergence have created a 24 hour economy, through allowing work from another time zone to arrive in our pocket at any time of day. This environment has facilitated what Miller terms ‘the disposable worker’ (2012). We have moved away from lifetime careers with one organisation, and towards a norm where employees switch between employers and work on flexible schedules. My studies in HR have supported this, with authors such as Stone discussing the dramatic increase of flexible times, places and means of working (2013).

Through this I can see that my career options will most likely be broader and more diverse than in previous years. However, the pace of this change is exponential, so we will be required to adapt and grow at an unprecedented rate.

Chia and Synnott provide six categories for the work of the PR professional:
Internal communications
External communication, networking and relationship building
Issues/crisis management and reputation management
Public affairs
Investor relations and financial PR

This blog gives some insight into how the need for each of these roles ebbs and flows in change. I found the infographic particularly interesting, especially the steep increase shown of PR practitioners as ‘information providers’.
It seems that Bussey is not the only blogger who thinks so.

Through my reading a trend has emerged – the leaders in this field do not restrict themselves to a text book definition of PR. They have gone from spanning boundaries to deconstructing them. PR as a field of work and research is being redefined.

I think that over the next five years, PR will increasingly be a force of transformational leadership in organisations. PR teams that can adapt to change will provide invaluable guidance and growth for individuals, organisations, brands and corporations that are fighting for attention in a saturated and cynical market. Consequently, I am excited about future career options and the challenges that myself and my colleagues will solve.

Chia, J & Synnott, G 2012, An Introduction to Public Relations and Communication Management, 2nd Ed, Oxford, Melbourne, Victoria

Jones, P & Holmes, D 2011 Key Concepts in Media and Communications, Sage Publications, London

Miller, K 2012, Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Boston

Stone, RJ 2013, Managing human resources, 4th Ed, Wiley, Milton, Queensland


Organisational Processes

In continuing my learning on organisational communications, I’ve discovered that there are processes that effect how people communicate. Miller (2012) identifies four areas; socialisation, decision making, conflict management and organisational change and leadership.

In these areas, I’ve come to understand that outcomes of each process determine the organisational culture, and consequently the communication that takes place. Chia and Synott, in discussing the key roles of PR professionals, identify conflict management as a necessary skill (2012). Miller presents an example of this by explaining how the threat of conflict – particularly litigation – can affect operations and communications in many fields (2012, p. 171). The author describes businesses, medical practitioners and teachers who can be marginalised through the litigation threats of a ‘litigious nation’. It seems to me that facilitating better discussion between parties in situations like this would return the organisation to functioning effectively and avoid escalation into issues and crisis territory. It could be the role of PR to frame and communicate challenging topics well, to avoid negativity and anger.

On the topic of decision making, Miller explains that many decisions are made outside pure rationality, relying on emotive factors. As a case study, the author discusses how technological development and rich information databases could remove the human element of decision making and rely solely on objective data to make complex decisions on our behalf (2012, p. 146). While this could remove errors in decisions due to emotive factors and reliance on intuition, it could also oversimplify tasks that require independent judgement. It could also cause challenges in an organisational setting. One one hand it could decrease stress caused by decision making (Stone 2013) but on the other, employees may struggle to identify with the outcome due to lack of involvement in the process (Cornelissen 2011). To me the idea of removing all emotion and intuition from decision making is an intimidating concept. I would find it hard to trust a decision that went against my choice. I think PR would play a critical role in decision acceptance though facilitating internal communication. An independent PR consultant could also be engaged to generate a more objective perspective on any relevant decisions.

In another case study presented by Miller, leadership is shown in the context of an orchestra. This example shows the propensity of natural leaders to emerge in group settings, and the benefit of sharing leadership between members of the collective (2012, p. 191). The leadership process is directly related to decision making and change in an organisation. Miller’s case study exemplifies how positive outcomes can be when the process of development is co-operative. A fundamental part of this co-operation is communication. Leadership allows the collective to bypass the cumbersome process of unanimous agreement, but still allows for consultation. From a PR perspective, leaders give the organisation direction, and set examples for others.

These examples helped me understand how organisational communication involves much more than just outward communication to publics. The processes inherent to organisational life form the context of the communication and vice versa. This relationship between processes and communication has also shown how integrated operations and communications are.

Chia, J & Synnott, G 2012, An Introduction to Public Relations and Communication Management, 2nd Ed, Oxford, Melbourne, Victoria

Cornelissen, J 2011, Corporate Communication, A Guide to Theory and Practice, 3rd Ed, SAGE Publications, London

Miller, K 2012, Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Boston

Stone, RJ 2013, Managing human resources, 4th Ed, Wiley, Milton, Queensland

Organisational Approaches

Over recent weeks, I have been exploring organisational communication. Having studied business management and human resources before, many of the concepts and theories introduced in Miller (2012) were already vary familiar. I had not however, considered what these organisational theories meant in terms of communication or public relations.


The classical approaches of the industrial revolution considered organisations in a mechanistic way, and are primarily focused on task efficiency. Frederick Taylor’s scientific management exemplifies this approach. The basis of Taylor’s theory is the idea that each task has one optimal or correct way, and that employees should be chosen and trained accordingly. Taylor also suggests that operations level staff don’t contribute to thinking or planning (Miller 2012). In contrast, human relations focused theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs consider the motivation of the employee and recognise that workers have an inherent desire to seek development and recognition (Miller 2012). Human relations and human resource theories acknowledge the value of individual and innovative contributions by employees. The cultural approach goes one step further in suggesting that the collective values of the employees form the direction and environment of the organisation as a whole.

Farace, Monge and Russell’s types of communication flow shows what this means for internal communications, explaining that classical organisations are limited to task-oriented asymmetrical communication, while human resource approaches open up (and require) communication of much broader content, in a more symmetrical way (Miller 2012).


Given, among other PR scholars, Cornelissen’s understanding that internal communications is integral to the PR role, this understanding of organisational approaches gives some understanding and perspective to tackling this task (2011). It could even be argued that by advocating for a more symmetrical way of internal communication, a PR practitioner can broaden the operations of the organisation. It seems to me that it could be a cyclical relationship.

However, it appears to me that this body of theories would dictate more than just the internal communication of an organisation. Chia and Synott provide a similar framework as an understanding of public relations practice as a whole (2012), discussing systems theory, cultural and critical perspectives.

To simplify, the organisational structure dictates the nature of communication internally. Ethical and honest PR would express this internal nature to their wider publics. If an organisation participates in task, social and innovation communication in all directions and through all channels, the opportunities for their external communication would be much greater.

In my human resources studies, I have discovered that competitive advantage in today’s market relies on attracting talented employees (Stone 2013). To do so, the image of the organisation as an employer needs to be positive. With new media, this is more transparent than ever. So, to reflect on this research, it seems that organisational communication is inextricably linked to many things, including the achievement of organisational goals.






Chia, J & Synnott, G 2012, An Introduction to Public Relations and Communication Management, 2nd Ed, Oxford, Melbourne, Victoria

Cornelissen, J 2011, Corporate Communication, A Guide to Theory and Practice, 3rd Ed, SAGE Publications, London

Miller, K 2012, Organisational Communication, Approaches and Processes, 6th Ed, Wadsworth, Boston

Stone, RJ 2013, Managing human resources, 4th Ed, Wiley, Milton, Queensland

PR in camouflage


This video is one of the most high profile PR initiatives to come out of the Australian Defence Forces in recent years. It is only the tip of the iceberg.

In two weeks of desktop and primary research, i have seen and heard stories about gender equality and sexism, community relations, strategic planning*, and endless other topics.

*The strategic communications plan for the ADF is a HUGE document!

It is abundantly clear that a career in Defence PR would be exciting. And challenging. And rewarding. And confronting.

I spoke with Leanne Glenny – former senior adviser to the head of ADF public affairs and corporate communications – about what it’s like to be employed by the ADF. The appointment appealed to her for reasons beyond the salary and tangible benefits.

Originally, she was attracted by the excitement of the job, and the opportunity to do something different and perhaps out of her comfort zone. Her motivation in this role stemmed from a culture of team spirit and camaraderie, and the satisfaction of doing something for society.

With a significant organisational focus on career development and training, Leanne recalls learning strategic thinking skills, developing breadth of understanding, mental and physical strength and personal resolve.

As a current PR educator, Leanne says she would be thrilled to see graduates of her program pursue a career in the ADF, undertaking the challenge of understanding the organisation as a whole and communicating their efforts to global publics.

According to Defence Force Recruiting’s Captain Rachel Chipman, a lot of the ‘bread and butter’ PR work involves the safety of our troops, ensuring a positive reception for them when they arrive in different communities.

Both women speak of the ADF as an inspiring and worthwhile place to work, and believe that there is lots of ground to be covered in terms of gender equality in the organisational culture.

Working as a Special Services Officer (SSO) for public relations would allow me to combine my love for fitness and travel and my passion for gender equality into a PR role, and develop skills and attributes that I value.
The organisational culture of excellence, development and teamwork would motivate me, and I identify strongly with their values.

Reading through other blogs about military PR, I’m beginning to understand that it’s a very unique environment in which to operate.

With over 80,000 personnel in three services, one can only imagine the amount of PR required by the ADF and the country that it represents. The sheer number of news releases would be incredible. The organisation is in a unique position of both protecting and representing the country and Government. This kind of accountability would require transparency and discretion, compassion and toughness. A balance that Chief of Army David Morrison and speechwriter Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor seem to have not only achieved but maintained through many organisational and cultural issues that have arisen. To be responsible for content creation, issue/crisis communication, community relations or more for such a team would be an incredible experience, and rewarding in so many ways.

The application process involves vigorous testing of aptitude, personality, experience, medical and physical ability and more. It is a competitive entry program and requires four years of civilian experience. The ADF employs PR SSOs in reserve, part time and full time capacities, and these Officers work at both tactical and strategic levels all over the globe.

I start this process on April 30.

Week 11 – Public Relations Research

For me this topic linked back to Week 4’s Public Opinion topic, and to some extent Publics and Relations. I spoke earlier about the challenge of immeasurable and indefinable ‘public opinion’, and I guess research is the solution I was looking for. It was mentioned in the lecture that research helps us to identify and understand issues, which makes a lot of sense. The concept of inputs, outputs and outcomes demystified a lot of things for me. I was thinking; ‘if public opinion is so unreliable and inaccurate, how the heck do we know how to improve our relationship and reputation with publics??’ but it’s becoming clear that there are research methods that help to determine what problems need to be solved and can indicate how we might go about it. I’m starting to see how integral it is to the communication process. How do we communicate effective messages if we’re not well informed? As boundary spanners, we’ve got to have one ear to the ground.

Week 10 – Media Management

Media management… Interesting concept. Since the beginning of this course I have had this overarching idea that PR should encompass all communication. Through recent personal experiences this has been solidified. How effective is a communication plan or strategy in improving reputation, if another person/department/discipline is communicating in a completely different way? I think this is why the controlled vs uncontrolled media discussion has intrigued me, and perhaps intimidated me.
Working on the organising team for a tiny event in February this year, I had an interesting experience that frequently returns to mind. There was discussion about a media release about a week before the event. It wasn’t a priority for the main organiser, but he was convinced by someone who had experience in such things, and it went ahead. The next day, a journalist and photographer rocked up, and the day after, there was a fantastic piece in both print and online media! The event was very successful.
I thought this was quite fantastic. Our little project was accepted by the powers that be.. The gatekeepers. The tutorial exercise was helpful in understanding this. I can see now that the release reflected the newsworthy values our event possessed. It had proximity, timeliness, human interest and the extraordinary.
This was a hugely positive experience, and the coverage was a great reflection of the event, the organisation and our goals. It is all too obvious though, that at one time or another we won’t be so fortunate. Hopefully maintaining a positive relationship with both the media and the local publics, we can keep it to a minimum.


Other thoughts…

So a few posts ago, I used the term ‘dipstick’ to describe people who aren’t really transparent about their NFP involvement. I’m considering finding a stronger word for the organisers of The Colour Run. Lets play spot the difference…

Item 1: Email Exchange

“Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your email!
The Color Run™ is not a charity or non-profit organization. The Color
Run, LLC is a “for profit” event company.
In each city, we ask a local organization to be our charity partner.
The number one goal of The Color Run™, as it relates to charities, is
to increase cause awareness. We want to help shine a light on
important issues. We hope our Color Runners™ will spend time on the
website of our partner charities, join mailing lists, attend other
events hosted by the charity and become an advocate for these causes.”

Item 2: Article from Monday’s Advertiser…

Hmm. It turns out the ‘charity’ recipient is the vaguely named ‘Celebrate Life Foundation’ – a very discreet branch of Swisse. I can’t describe how mad this makes me.

On another note, I stumbled across this video on Facebook, and it reminded me of the lecture on the power of words by Dr Schultz…