This summary is provided by the IPR Street Team based on the original study, “Citizens’ political public relations: Unpacking choices, and emergent and deliberate strategies in building trust and relations among groups in conflict” by Arunima Krishna, Stacey L. Connaughton, and Jasmine R. Linabary in Public Relations Review

The concept of citizens’ political public relations (CPPR) can be defined as a pattern of strategies and choices developed by a group of citizens with the objective to improve relations among conflicting groups.

In order to effectively study CPPR, researchers combined work on strategic management, political public relations, and diplomacy using a case study in Noyari, Ghana. In non-Western societies, scholars have acknowledged the scarcity of public relations practices, making this location an ideal case study for the researchers to analyze.

In Noyari, a local youth organization, called the YNP, engaged in their own form of CPPR by voluntarily organizing a football (soccer) tournament between communities in conflict. The purpose of the football match was to determine if it had the ability to foster healthier relationships among the clashing communities and their people.

CPPR is approached differently than traditional PR. In this case, CPPR was enacted by everyday citizens rather than on the behalf of a formal organization, such as a non-profit, or by educated professionals. These individual actors engaged in “citizen diplomacy”, meaning that they advocated for relational diplomacy between the different communities. Additionally, while traditional public relations builds “mutually beneficial” relations between publics and organizations, CPPR seeks to build relations between groups in conflict, as observed in Noyari.

Another important component of this research study was to consider the impact of public relations strategies. Like in any public relations project, the success and impact of CPPR depended on the public response to the YNP’s strategies. The deliberate strategy, purposefully implemented by the YNP, was to give communities a chance to interact in a peaceful manner. They achieved this through the football tournament. The less apparent, emergent strategy, which was not intended by the YNP, was encouraging mutual respect and trust among the players and community members. In Noyari, these two strategies worked together in order to help achieve the goals of the CPPR initiative.

The football tournament had been a great success for the locals. Through the application of CPPR, local citizens were able to promote unity and political violence prevention among communities who had long lacked peaceful interactions with one another.

Researchers collected data from participants ranging in ages from 25-60 years old that were residing in the Noyari district located in Ghana’s upper west region. Qualitative methods such as focus groups, observations, and interviews were utilized to gather the data. The results from these methods were synthesized, using a thematic analysis approach, and then reviewed by authors for “resonance and consistency”. Data collection occurred on September 2015 and May 2016.

Key Findings
• As observed with Noyari’s citizens, researchers found that locals were more than capable of designing and carrying out public relations techniques and strategies without the aid of a formal organization.
• It was discovered that public support of the games increased tremendously as the matches grew in popularity, with the teams receiving donations from citizens.
• As the games progressed, citizens began to regularly reference the match as “an activity that helped enhance relations between the communities”.
• An emergent strategy was discovered after examination of the YNP’s choices and their deliberate strategy. This strategy was found to stimulate mutual trust and respect amongst players and community members.
• The deliberate and emergent strategies worked together to achieve the goals of CPPR in Noyari.

The case study examined, stressed the influence of emergent and deliberate strategies in achieving public relations objectives. Paying more attention to emergent strategies can tremendously improve the future of public relations practice by making the process of strategy development much more reflexive.

Furthermore, the focus on CPPR in this study helps centralize the roles that relationships and trust play in public relations. It expands on the idea that relationships and trust in public relations are not limited to organizations and their publics. Instead, this study indicates that public relations practices to build trust and foster relationships can be implemented between specific sets of audiences–such as Noyari’s conflicting groups.

What lies in the future for public relations research?
CPPR is one example of what the future holds for public relations review. As this study demonstrates, public relations literature is undergoing change and enhancement. As research continues to stray away from traditional corporate-focused studies, broader and more diverse public relations findings emerge. These diverse examples of public relations practices, such as in Noyari, can help broaden and deepen the understanding of the effects public relations procedures have globally and not just in Western societies.

Juliana Ortiz is a member of the IPR Street Team and an Ambassador for the PRSSA chapter at the University of Florida. She is a sophomore majoring in Public Relations.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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