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Public Relations, Values and Cultural Identity

Edited By Enric Ordeix, Valérie Carayol and Ralph Tench

As organisations seek legitimacy in a fast-moving, interconnected and changing world, how do public relations help them to manage their identity, responsibilities and impact on society? In a more interactive society, organisations need to align their actions with social demands and values. If the main role of public relations is to build trust and influence opinionmakers, media, the public and the political agenda, what are the constraints and limitations at play here, and what is the impact on ethical principles?
The published research shows the profession is facing crucial changes: the existence of new organisational structures better aligned with social demands; the emergence of new techniques for interacting with organisations in a more trustworthy manner; and growing pressure by social groups acting both for and against particular social values, ideas and identities.
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Strategic Public Relations versus Public Values? The ‘Swarming’ of German Defense Minister Zu Guttenberg


Strategic Public Relations versus Public Values?

The ‘Swarming’ of German Defense Minister Zu Guttenberg


Campus Helsingborg, Lund University Sweden

The following article presents a case study of a prominent communicative conflict. We take a look at the two-week-period that led to former German defense minister Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg’s resignation on March 01, 2011. The first part of the study is dedicated to an account of the case, paying attention to Guttenberg’s attempts at handling it. Second, we present an explanation why Guttenberg’s attempts failed. On the face of it, the reason was unprecedented ‘swarm activism’, a ‘killer swarm’. We want to clarify what the metaphor captures. We argue that a) the speed and thoroughness with which the swarm worked, b) the indisputability of its results due to impartiality and transparency and c) the anonymity of the swarm members undercut ‘traditional’ strategies such as ‘accusing the accuser’ or ‘playing for time’. We conclude, thirdly, with a theorization of the clash of strategic Public Relations and public values illustrated by the affair.

It should be noted that we are well aware of the extensive body of literature systematizing strategies of crisis communication. We chose not to discuss it for three reasons: 1) limitations of space, the focus being on the novelty of the case; 2) because we assume that the repertoire is well-known and self-explanatory; 3) there is no evidence that the actors involved relied on...

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