Date of Award

12-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Beach

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy Penning

Abstract

There has been a decline in public good will toward institutions of higher education for nearly four decades. Resultantly, the public, media, and politicians call for greater transparency. It would be beneficial for institutions of higher education to utilize strategic means to communicate their stories, successes and brand directly to various publics. A critical, albeit often an overlooked public, are the employees of the university. They can serve as ambassadors for the university interacting with outside publics. In this capacity, not only do employees need to know information about their organization to function well at their positions, they also need to understand the strategic direction of the organization. Strategic communication of this nature can be accomplished with them via internal communication, and that falls under the domain of the public relations entity on campus.

This study seeks to examine how senior level public relations practitioners in higher education develop and carry out their internal communication responsibilities to employees. Understanding was sought regarding the practitioners' beliefs and practices regarding: (a) public relations as a strategic management function; (b) the role of relationship management within public relations; and (c) whether symmetrical communication is used for cultivating relationships while maintaining a feedback mechanism to adjust public relations strategies based on publics and environment.

This study also looked at common and unique elements of practice, how higher education public relations practitioners define best practices, and whether they coordinate internal communication with other entities within their college or university and analyzes some demographic data regarding the career paths and education of the practitioners. It concludes that, while the participants in the study were operating with direct reporting to the president of their respective universities, and that all participants demonstrated working in a strategic capacity, none had documented communication processes with respect to internal audiences, and few had formal methods in place to evaluate the success of their efforts. In addition, none had well-formulated and strategic processes in place with respect to whether symmetrical communication is used for cultivating relationships while maintaining a feedback mechanism to adjust public relations strategies based on publics and environment.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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