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