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Public Relations Strategy, Theory, and Cases

Praxis at Its Best

Tricia Hansen-Horn and Adam E. Horn

Presenting a robust introduction to public relations strategy, this book helps readers explore their perceptions of what strategy is or might be; highlights influencers of strategic decision making such as distinctions among B2B, B2C, and B2G as well as public relations roles and organization types; discusses the education and training value and limitations of the popular case study; and provides a easy-to-understand overview of four theories important for every "student" (academic and non-academic) of public relations to understand. Excellence theory, contingency theory, rhetorical theory, and social capital theory are introduced. In the spirit of praxis (the application of theory to practice), the authors provide theory-specific and other relevant "keys" for use as the reader seeks to apply what is read to actual public relations cases. As might be expected, highly structured case studies that clearly distinguish between objectives, strategies and tactics are included for the purposes of education and training. The featured set of case studies includes: March of Dimes Rebrand; Inside Pediatrics Children’s Mercy Kansas City; Vanity Fair Women Who Do LiftTOUR; TouchNet + Heartland; WeatherTech Public Relations Super Bowl Ad Buy; ZF Race Reporter/Fan Reporter: Europe, Japan and the US; Pinnacle Not So Silent Night; Lee Jeans—Influencer Relations; Fight CRC One Million Strong Collection; Tips for Kids—Seventeen Years Later; and Dairy Queen’s Fan Food Not Fast Food Campaign: Retrospective Cases Analysis from the Outside.

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Chapter Five: Value in Applied Theory: Contingency Theory


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Value in Applied Theory

Contingency Theory

Known widely as the “it depends” approach to public relations, contingency theory is presented as a more complex way of understanding and making predictions than excellence theory. In fact, it’s all about explaining actions and predictions based on WIGO (remember that stands for what is going on, and reminds of what has gone on and should go on). It’s rooted in the idea that conflict (not necessarily a good or bad thing, but simply something that exists in organizational functioning) is an inherent part of what we do whenever something is up for disagreement, acknowledging that disagreement comes in all ways and forms. Conflict can be linked to threats to organizational existence and functioning, as well as competition for limited resources. Chapter five examines the contingency theorists’ perspectives of conflict, competition, and threat, as well as public relations stances as strategic responses that depend on more than 80 situational factors.

Contingency Theory

Contingency theory is all about conflict, competition, and threat appraisal. Conflict occurs when we present ideas different from those others assume to be true of WIGO, or when they present ideas different from those we assume to be true ← 57 | 58 → of WIGO. It involves disagreement over ideas or ways of sense making, as well as perceived threats (especially in crisis situations) to organizational functioning, meaning, sustainability, etc. In this sense, conflict is not necessarily...

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