Author(s), Title and Publication
Cardwell, L. A., Williams, S., & Pyle, A. (2017). Corporate public relations dynamics: Internal vs. external stakeholders and the role of the practitioner. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 152-162. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.11.004

While scholarship has focused on enhancing the public relations (PR) practitioner’s ability to build mutually beneficial relationship between the organization and its external publics, little research has explored the internal communication process that corporate PR practitioners face on a daily basis and how those internal interactions shape the practitioner’s role. To address this gap in PR research, this study’s authors conducted twelve weeks of observation and eleven interviews at a Fortune 1000 technology company to identify and describe the complicated relationship dynamics that practitioners face in their daily roles and how those dynamics affect their performance.

The majority of participants recognized the importance of building mutually beneficial relationships, but overwhelmingly cited internal relationship dynamics as a barrier to external relationship building. Participants mentioned some principles of dialogic communication, such as commitment, mutuality, and empathy as important processes in external relationship building. Overall, the participants who identified external relationship building as an important part of the job, admitted that they did not spend as much time as they should cultivating these relationships. Participants named the lack of newsworthy content, the lack of trust in journalists, and general competition in the industry as common barriers to external relationship building. The single most common type of comment concerned the internal processes that affected their ability to perform functions of the PR role. References to internal relationship dynamics included working relationships with the external PR agency, a lack of time and resources, executive involvement in PR opportunities, and relationships with internal stakeholders. The participants expressed a desire to spend more time managing media relations, but described internal communication processes as consuming the majority of their time. Comments reflected the view that the strategic management role of PR requires practitioners to fluctuate between internal and external stakeholder audiences, yet further demonstrates that PR practitioners experience difficulty in managing both audiences at the same time. Finally, in-house practitioners described executive involvement in public relations as necessary for success.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) be aware that the corporate PR practitioner’s ability to manage internal stakeholder relationships is a prerequisite to successful external relations, and (2) prevent internal relationship dynamics and internal stakeholder demands to act as a barrier to external relationship building.

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