The description of South African corporate communication practitioners that contribute to organisational performance

Authors: Le Roux, T.

Editors: Rensburg, R.S.

Journal: Public relations review

Volume: 40

Issue: 2

Pages: 193-215

Publisher: JAI Press

ISSN: 0363-8111

DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.11.008

Public relations are a function that contributes to the greater good of society and the performance of an organisation (Grunig, 2006b; Grunig et al., 2002). However, many times the practitioner fails to accomplish this undertaking (Grunig et al., 2002; Tobin, 2004; Van Ruler, 1997).

Practitioners, researchers and professional bodies from various countries have researched, and tried to suggest the abilities, skills, knowledge and approach that practitioners should have and take, in order to make a contribution to organisational performance. However, no study has provided a comprehensive prioritised list of all these variables in order to describe the practitioner that contributes to organisational performance.

In light of this problem, this study tries to describe the South African public relations practitioner that will be able to contribute to organisational performance. The study firstly prioritises and tests all the variables influencing practitioners listed in literature against the views of South African practitioners in top performing organisations. Secondly the study, through the use of structural equation modelling, builds a model that describes the variables pertaining to a South African practitioner that contribute to organisational performance, from the view of South African practitioners.

The study is framed within the relational, reflective, two-way symmetrical and feminist paradigms, supported by the general excellence theory as meta-theory, and the relationship management and corporate communication role theories. The multidimensional paradigm was specifically selected to accommodate the complex research context (Grunig, 1989, 2006a; Valin, 2004).

The research methodology followed is both exploratory and interpretive. The literature study is followed by semi-structured interviews with four purposefully selected practitioners and the chairpersons of the two professional bodies (PRISA and IABC) in order to verify the variables identified in literature, and possibly identify new variables pertaining to the South African environment. All these variables were then used to construct a questionnaire completed by public relations practitioners active in the 1319 top performing South African organisations as per South Africa's Top 300 National Companies List (Fletcher, 2007) and the Financial Mail Top 200 Companies List (Williams, 2005). A response rate of 19.9% was achieved.

The qualitative data was content analysed and the quantitative data analysed by means of Statistica (StatSoft Inc., 2007) and SPSS (SPSS Inc., 2007) data analysis software. In order to build a model that describes the South African practitioner that contributes to organisational performance, structural equation modelling by means of AMOS (SPSS Inc., 2009) software was used.

In essence it was found that practitioners should take ownership of and manage their contribution to organisational performance. Furthermore, 13 variables pertaining to the individual-, industry- and professional-levels were statistically verified as the most important variables describing South African practitioners contributing to organisational performance. Due to the specific relationship between these variables, it would seem that enhancing any of these 13 variables would enhance the practitioner's contribution to organisational performance. The main contribution of the study is to add to the discussion on the how the profession can manage and expand its contribution to organisational performance.

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