Strategic horizons : a paradigm for strategic communication planning and management in organisational contexts

  • James Mahoney

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Despite practitioners’ acceptance of the need to plan professional communication strategically, they often fail to convince senior management of the need to address important public policy issues at a level beyond dealing with the mass news media’s demand for new material. Set in the context of a worldview of constructivist realism, this study used survey research and semi-structured in-depth interviews to examine this significant professional practice problem. In the ontological context of the study, organisations and their spokespeople are social and political actors employing discursive social practices when they plan contributions to, and engage in, dynamic issues debates. To operationalise the study, senior Australian communication practitioners’ direct insights into the issues that influence their strategic decisions were collected via an integrated quantitative and qualitative methodology. The study drew on management, structuration, and other sociological theories for its design, to interpret the findings, and to hypothesise a planning model to give effect to a new definition of strategic communication. The research found that decisions by senior Australian practitioners’ in the study about strategy are primarily influenced by issues that affect organisational reputations and stakeholder relationships, and that they are mostly willing to engage with opponents over issues, but are often driven to short-term tactical methods. These findings informed a proposed new definition of strategic communication as a high-level function that deals specifically with how organisations, as social actors, communicate about mid to long-term public policy issues and manage stakeholder relationships. That explicit definition differentiates strategic communication from other professional communication disciplines. The study’s significant contribution to scholarly understanding of strategic communication is that it explains how issue debates influence initial and subsequent decisions about strategic directions. The study proposes a new definition of strategic communication, and operationalises this through a model for helping practitioners to better align the practice with mid and long-term business planning.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKerry Mccallum (Supervisor), Richard Blood (Supervisor), Deborah Blackman (Supervisor) & Judy Motion (Supervisor)

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