Teaching Media Relationships: What’s in the Textbooks?

Teaching Media Relationships: What’s in the Textbooks?

Authors

    

  • Justin E. Pettigrew, Kennesaw State University
  • Kristen Heflin, Kennesaw State University

Abstract

This research examines how popular editions of public relations principles texts and public relations writing texts address media relations. The study consisted of a content analysis of six principles texts and six PR writing texts. One research question was posed, “How do public relations texts address media relations and the journalist/PR practitioner interaction?” and one hypothesis was posited, “When discussing media relations, PR textbooks focus on relationship building more than specific communication tactics. ”The study found that while most texts address media relations from a tactical standpoint, few texts go beyond that to address deeper relational issues, answering the research question and leading to the rejection of the authors’ hypothesis.

Keywords: media relations; public relations education; public relations writing texts; public relations principles texts; public relations introductory texts

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Introduction

“The changing role of traditional media requires public relations to build better and stronger relationships to compete for coverage” (McCormick, as cited in in Guth & Marsh, 2012, p. 22).

It has been more than 17 years since textbooks have been analyzed for public relations content (Byerly, 1993; Cline, 1982; Duffy, 2000; Pratt & Renther, 1989). At a time when public relations scholarship is increasingly concerned with dialogic approaches to maximizing relationships, how are contemporary textbooks in public relations addressing the topic of media relationships? This study provides an extensive examination of how popular PR writing and introductory textbooks address media relations. Because developing strong relationships with the media is central to the success of most public relations practitioners, and because PR textbooks provide a foundation for learning about the profession, it is important to understand what PR texts are presenting about media relations, especially in regard to relationships.

LITERATURE REVIEW

A theoretical shift has taken place in the existing public relations literature, moving from an emphasis on public relations as managing communications to public relations as a tool for negotiating relationships and engaging various publics. For example, Hon and Grunig (1999) highlighted the utility of relationships in public relations, arguing that “the most productive relationships…are those that benefit both parties in the relationship” (p. 11), and suggested that relationship maintenance requires access, positivity, openness, and network-building, along with other elements. In 2000, Grunig and Huang expanded on this argument, contending that the development and maintenance of relationships was the central goal of public relations.

In addition to the scholarship that focused on the importance of maintaining relationships, some also focused on relationship formation. According to Broom, Casey and Ritchey (2000), relationships form “when parties have perceptions and expectations of each other, when one or both parties need resources from the other, when one or both parties perceive mutual threats from an uncertain environment, or when there is either a legal or voluntary necessity to associate” (p. 17). Coombs (2001) added to this discussion, stating that the links that form relationships can be moral, economic, social, geographic or situational, but the common factor is that there is interdependence and interaction between the two parties because they need or want each other for some reason.

In light of the growing emphasis on relationships in public relations, dialogue has become a central focus in the creation of those relationships; however, “dialogue” and a “dialogic relationship” have been described in the public relations literature with little consistency in their usage (Grunig & White, 1992). Dialogue is sometimes used to describe a communication process and sometimes described as more of an abstract, rhetorical position. For example, Heath focuses on dialogue as more of a process that he calls “rhetorical dialogue,” which consists of “statement and counterstatement” (Heath, 2000, p. 72). Meanwhile, Kent and Taylor (1998) present dialogue as a goal, but describe more of an abstract orientation than a step-by-step course of action. They refer to dialogic communication as “any negotiated exchange of ideas or opinions” (p. 325). That is, for a dialogic relationship to exist, parties must view communicating with each other as the goal of a relationship (Kent & Taylor, 1998).

From a dialogic perspective, communication should not be a means to an end, but rather an end in itself in that it establishes and builds relationships (Kent & Taylor, 1998). In presenting their concept of a dialogic theory of public relations, they described dialogue as a “communicative orientation” (Kent & Taylor, 2002, p. 25). Similarly, Botan (1997) argues, “dialogue manifests itself more as a stance, orientation, or bearing in communication rather than a specific method, technique or format” (p. 202). Theunissen and Noordin (2012) state that, while dialogue and two-way communication principles have been treated as two sides of the same coin, they are, in fact, based on different underlying philosophies. They suggest that dialogue, as it stands, is not only deeply philosophical but also abstract in nature (Theunissen & Noordin, 2012). This study draws from the work of Kent and Taylor (1998, 2002), Botan (1997), and Theunissen and Noordin (2012), by conceiving of dialogue as an end in itself, an abstract orientation that values communication as central to relationship building.

Recent scholarship suggests the utility of a dialogic approach to understanding relationship building as it applies to media relations. For example, Bruning, Dials and Shirka (2008) argued that a relational approach, grounded in dialogic principles, requires that an organization tailor communication and organizational action to specific recipients based upon relational needs (Bruning et al., 2008). Thus, public relations practitioners should actively work to understand the needs of the media and develop communication materials and procedures to meet their needs. Schwab (2011) found that dialogic communication strategies may be equally effective in dealing with online citizen journalists or bloggers and argues that practitioners should develop dialogic relationships with appropriate bloggers before pitching them.

Given the focus on relationship building in public relations literature, it would be interesting to understand the degree to which relationship building is discussed in today’s PR textbooks. In other words, at a time when public relations theory is increasingly concerned with dialogic approaches to maximizing relationships, do contemporary textbooks in public relations address these issues? Are future public relations practitioners learning about dialogic approaches to relationship building? This study will address these questions by presenting a systematic analysis of the ways public relations textbooks discuss media relations, because media relations is one of the most common relationship building practices associated with public relations.

Analyses of PR Textbooks

Previous scholarship on the content of public relations texts is sparse, and almost all of it is outdated. In one of the earliest studies, Carolyn Cline (1982) compared public relations sections of introductory mass communication textbooks with discouraging results. Her study showed “a confusion about the relationship of advertising and public relations, a lack of historical backgrounding, and a fierce anti-public relations stance hardly offset by some grudging acknowledgment of the existence of PRSA, codes of ethics and a few honest practitioners” (p. 64). In 1989, Pratt and Renter examined how a selected sample of introductory PR texts addressed ethics. While all of the texts they examined contained the entire PRSA code of ethics, Pratt and Renter (1989) argued that such a heavy reliance on the PRSA code may have stunted the development of lively ethical debate in the texts.

In a subsequent analysis of public relations textbooks, Byerly (1993) found that the textbook authors generally agreed on the following characteristics of public relations: PR practices tend to be goal-oriented; PR involves the implementation of intentional, strategic processes; and PR is generally carried out in campaigns by organizations seeking to establish mutually beneficial relationships between themselves and their publics within a complex environment. Finally, in the most recent study, Duffy (2000) used a postmodern and deconstructive approach to analyze five leading PR texts and argued that Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) concept of symmetrical public relations is obsolete.

The current study contributes to this conversation on public relations education by providing an updated analysis of public relations textbooks. More specifically, this study focuses on the ways public relations textbooks discuss media relations with a particular emphasis on the extent to which these texts address relationship building.

Research Question and Hypothesis

Given the increased focus on relationship building in the public relations scholarship and because the everyday practice of public relations requires strong relationships, it could be argued that public relations textbooks should address the practice of media relations from a dialogic, relational perspective. As such, this study will focus on one research question and one hypothesis.

RQ: How do public relations texts address media relations and the journalist/PR practitioner interaction?

H: When discussing media relations, PR textbooks focus on relationship building more than specific communication tactics.

METHOD

To answer the research question about PR textbook coverage of media relations and to test the hypothesis that PR textbooks will focus on relationship building more than specific tactics, a content analysis was conducted of six introductory public relations texts and six public relations writing texts. The decision to analyze introductory PR texts stemmed from the precedent set by Cline (1982), Byerly (1993), and Pratt and Renter’s (1989) examinations of introductory texts and the fact that their analyses yielded useful insights about the characterizations of public relations practice. The decision to analyze public relations writing texts was based on conversations with professors at three U.S. universities and a review of syllabi at the researchers’ home university, which indicated that a public relations writing course was the most likely class in which media relations instruction occurred.

Sample

Texts were identified on October 14, 2015 through an Amazon.com search using the search terms “Introduction to Public Relations textbook” and “Public Relations Writing textbook.” Texts were selected based on relevance to the search terms and popularity (best-selling), with only those texts with multiple editions chosen as part of the sample. The decision to analyze texts with more than one edition was made because these texts are more likely to be updated on a regular basis. The top six textbooks in each category were included in this study.

Content Analysis

Texts were content analyzed for how they approached media relations (with traditional and online news media) from both a strategic and tactical standpoint. Examining media relations from both standpoints enabled the researchers to assess the support for the hypothesis: When discussing media relations, PR textbooks focus on relationship building more than specific communication tactics. The coding sheet required the researchers to identify and record words, phrases, or concepts that addressed the relationship and interaction between reporters and PR practitioners. For example, the instrument required the researchers to determine whether media relations or working with journalists appeared in the index or table of contents. It also called for the researchers to assess whether the text provided tips for working with journalists, addressed the human dimensions of the PR/journalist interaction (i.e., caring for journalists’ needs and being self-aware) or discussed the importance of forming ongoing relationships with journalists. The instrument also assessed tactical approaches to media relations by asking the researchers to note discussions of ways to provide information to the media (i.e., news releases, photos, media tours, Facebook) and ways to build relationships with the media (i.e., learning the reporter’s “beat,” connecting on Twitter, developing mutual dependency).

Intercoder reliability was established using two coders, the authors of this work. Each coded two of the same text. Items that could be treated as nominal were run in SPSS to calculate a Cohen’s Kappa. Initial agreement was .44 and .46 with 58 items. After discussion and clarification, the same two textbooks were re-coded and an additional text was coded with a Cohen’s Kappa of .85 and .94, and .92.

FINDINGS

Addressing Media Relations in PR Texts

The content analysis of public relations writing texts and introductory public relations texts revealed a variety of ways both kinds of texts addressed media relations. Some books devoted chapters to the subject, and some did not address working with members of the media at all. The next sections will examine differences and similarities in more detail.

Media Relations in PR Introduction Texts

The analysis of PR introduction textbooks revealed that discussions of media relations vary widely. Some introductory textbooks allotted entire chapters to media relations, while others only mention media relations briefly. Discussions of media relations appear in a variety of contexts with some books referring to the practice in chapters on ethics, corporate communication, or public affairs.

Four of the introductory texts had complete chapters dedicated to media relations (Broom & Sha, 2013; Lattimore, Baskin, Heiman & Toth, 2012; Seitel, 2014; Wilcox, Cameron & Reber, 2015), two briefly discussed the ethics of working with the media in chapters on ethics (Newsom, Turk & Kruckeberg, 2013; Wilcox et al, 2015), two included media relations as part of the discussion of public relations tactics (Guth & Marsh, 2011; Newsom et al., 2013), one briefly mentioned media relations in a chapter on crisis management (Seitel, 2014), one had a short discussion of the importance of media relations in a chapter on corporate communication (Wilcox et al., 2015), and one devoted a significant section of a chapter on government and public affairs to media relations (Broom & Sha, 2013). The four chapters on media relations were titled, “External Media and Media Relations,” (Broom & Sha, 2013), “Social Media and Traditional Media Relations,” (Lattimore et al., 2012), “Media,” (Seitel, 2014), and “Preparing Materials for Mass Media” (Wilcox et al., 2015). Media relations was also discussed in sections of chapters titled: “Facilitating Media Relations,” (Broom & Sha, 2013), “Controlled vs. uncontrolled media,” (Guth & Marsh, 2011), “Dealing with the Media,” (Seitel, 2014), “Publicity Through the Mass Media,” “Preparing to Work with the Media,” “On the Job with Media People,” “Reciprocal Trust,” (Newsom et al., 2013), “Ethical Dealings with the News Media,” “The Art of Pitching a Story,” and even one titled “On the Job Insights: Media Relations: How to Get a Date with a Reporter,” (Wilcox et al., 2015).

Though the depth of and context surrounding the discussion of media relations varied in these texts, it should be noted that a discussion of media relations was present in all of the introductory PR texts. “Media relations” or terms related to media relations were listed in the indexes for all introduction texts. While “media relations” was the most frequently used term in these indexes to characterize this content, other terms such as, “third party endorsement,” (Guth & Marsh, 2011), “Media, responding to,” (Newsom et al., 2013), and “Ethical issues, news media relations,” (Wilcox et al., 2015) were also used. Media relations was also present in four of the introductory texts’ table of contents, listed as “External Media and Media Relations,” (Broom & Sha, 2013), “Media,” (Seitel, 2014), “Media Relations,” “Ethical Dealings with the News Media,” “On the Job Insights: Media Relations: How to Get a Date with a Reporter,” (Wilcox et al., 2015), and “Social and Traditional Media Relations,” (Lattimore et al., 2012). Four introductory texts referred to the media as an audience or public, two used “gatekeepers” when describing journalists, one referred to journalists as “clients,” and one portrayed them as “partners.”

Media Relations in PR Writing Texts

The content analysis of public relations writing texts revealed that, like the introductory textbooks, media relations was addressed in a variety of ways. Some books devoted entire chapters to the subject, some contained a thread of media relations through most of the book, and two did not include any reference to media relations.

Two of the writing texts allocated entire chapters to media relations and/or working with journalists. The two chapters on media relations were titled “Media Relations and Placement” (Bivins, 2014), and “Working with Journalists and Bloggers” (Wilcox & Reber, 2013). Each chapter provided a detailed checklist of guidelines for dealing with the media and guidelines for correcting errors in a reporter’s story.

Two books included a chapter on media relations in the table of contents (Bivins, 2014; Wilcox & Reber, 2013). One book included media pitches in a chapter covering a broader range of topics including media kits, backgrounders, and columns (Stovall, 2015). Another text listed the media as a “public” in a section titled “Strategic Foundations for Public Relations Writing,” (Treadwell & Treadwell, 2005, pp. 20–21). Media relations appeared in the index of three of the writing texts, listed as “media relations,” (Bivins, 2014; Newsom & Haynes, 2016; Wilcox & Reber, 2013), “media professionals,” (Bivins, 2014), “media relations and placement” (Bivins, 2014), “working with journalists,” (Wilcox & Reber, 2013), “working with bloggers,” (Wilcox & Reber, 2013), “media pitches,” (Newsom & Haynes, 2016), and “pitchmaking,” (Wilcox & Reber, 2013). Three writing texts used the terms “audience” or “public” to describe the press, while one used the term “partners” in addition to audience.

Some texts contained a thread of dealing with the media throughout the book. Newsom and Haynes (2016) addressed dealing with the media during crises, in online press rooms, and at special events. Treadwell and Treadwell (2005) listed numerous tactics for reaching the press in different chapters of their text.

Media Relations Tactics in PR Introduction Texts

Table 1 provides an overview of the media relations tactics discussed in the introductory textbooks. Based on these findings, the most frequently discussed media relations tactics were news/press releases (with 5 books discussing this tactic), followed by press kits, photos, interviews, press conferences, Facebook and Twitter (with 4 books discussing these tactics). The tactics that were discussed the least were press parties, VNRs, satellite media tours, and using a resource like ProfNet or HARO.

Media Relations Table 1

Media Relations Tactics in PR Writing Texts

Table 1 also provides an overview of the media relations tactics discussed in the writing textbooks. Based on these findings, the most frequently discussed media relations tactics were news/press releases (with 6 books discussing this tactic), followed by online newsrooms and VNRs (with 5 books discussing these tactics). Press kits, e-press kits, email pitches, media alerts, photos and Twitter were discussed as tactics in four of the texts. The tactics that were discussed the least were satellite media tours, press parties, and using a resource like ProfNet or HARO.

When considering both PR writing texts and PR introductory texts, press releases are the most frequently discussed media relations tactic overall (with 11 out of 12 books discussing this tactic), followed by press kits, photos, online newsrooms, and Twitter (with 8 books discussing these tactics). The tactics that were discussed the least in both PR writing and PR introduction texts were press parties, satellite media tours and using a resource like ProfNet or HARO.

Addressing Practitioner/Journalist Relationships in Introductory Texts

All of the introductory texts discussed the PR practitioner/journalist relationship to some degree. Moreover, they all argued that having a strong relationship with the media was crucial for an organization to receive news coverage. For example, Broom and Sha said, “Ultimately, the relationship between practitioners and journalists has an impact on the quality of news coverage about organizations”(2013, p. 228). Guth and Marsh (2011) argued this same point, using a quote from Gary McCormick, director of partnership marketing for HGTV: “. . . the changing role of traditional media requires public relations to build better and stronger relationships to compete for coverage” (p. 23). Lattimore et al. (2012) echoed this sentiment more than once, saying, “Practitioners know that they must facilitate the work of journalists if they expect their organizations to get covered” (p. 183), and “When public relations practitioners take the time and make the effort to establish good personal relations with journalists, they are much more likely to attract positive news coverage for their organizations. Good public relations begins with good personal relations” (p. 180).

In a similar vein, Seitel (2014) provided the following tip: “Relationships are the name of the game. The better you know a reporter, the more understanding and accommodating to your organization he or she will be” (p. 189). Newsom et al. (2013) made a comparable argument, stating “The secret of success in placing publicity is to develop a good working relationship by knowing and anticipating the needs of the media” (p. 271). An analogous statement in Wilcox et al. (2015) added further support to this idea: “Establish a relationship. As one reporter said, ‘The best e-mails come from people I know; I delete e-mails from PR people or agencies I don’t recognize’” (p. 379). The fact that each introductory textbook discusses the importance of developing these relationships echoes the shift in PR scholarship toward an emphasis on relationship building.

In addition to highlighting the importance of building relationships with the media, all of the introductory textbooks also provided tips and tactics for relationship building. Generally speaking, the texts offered advice for developing positive social interactions and advice for meeting the technical and professional demands of journalists.

In terms of developing positive social interactions, one text suggested public relations practitioners should form a relationship with a journalist before pitching a story:

Call a journalist with whom you know you will be working. Introduce yourself.

Suggest a time to come to the newsroom and talk about some newsworthy story ideas. Reach out through your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to include journalists in your networks – and follow them on their blogs and Tweets and status updates. (Lattimore et al., 2012, p. 184)

Wilcox et al. (2015) expanded on this notion, arguing that public relations practitioners should cultivate relationships with journalists over time, equating the process of relationship building with courtship:

Don’t expect to get everything you want on the first date. If it’s the first time you’re talking to a journalist, don’t expect them to write about the story the first time. . . Just like dating . . . invest the time and energy in building your relationships and you’ll get more out of it. (p. 380)

In a similar vein, two texts emphasized the need to behave in a way that was respectful of journalists and their needs. Seitel (2014) plainly stated, “Treat the reporter as a client,” (p. 188), while Lattimore et al. (2012) stressed professionalism and living up to expectations, as well as not asking reporters for favors.

While the examples above offer advice for social interactions with journalists, the texts also offered advice on how to handle technical aspects of the relationship. One common tip was that practitioners should get to know the professional routines and practical needs of journalists. For example, Newsom et al. (2013) stated “A good PR practitioner knows newspeople’s [sic] jobs almost as well as the newspeople do” (p. 285). They also contended that, “Whatever the circumstances, you have to be sensitive to media schedules” (Newsom et al., 2013, p. 276). Broom and Sha (2013) expanded on this advice: “Knowing about the media – knowing how to work with each medium, create content for each, address each medium’s audiences, adhere to specific style requirements, and meet the deadlines of each – is a major part of many practitioners’ jobs” (p. 226).

Some texts suggested that public relations practitioners move beyond simply knowing journalistic routines and preferences toward acting like a reporter.

In gathering information for a release, a publicity writer must act the way a reporter would with the same access. Start with secondary sources, finding out if the company files contain anything written about the subject – any research or sales reports, any memos. Then seek out the primary sources, interviewing people to learn everything they know and are willing to share. (Newsom, Turk & Kruckeberg, 2013, p. 275)

Finally, one text offered a piece of advice for improving both social interactions and practical outcomes, arguing that the key to building relationships with journalists was for PR practitioners to tell the truth. According to Lattimore et al. (2012), “Nothing will destroy a relationship faster or more completely than an affront to the truth. Accuracy, integrity, openness, and completeness are the basis for trust bestowed by journalists. Once trust is broken, it can rarely be regained” (p. 185). While the quotes above provide an in- depth look at the relationship building tips provided in these texts, Table 2 provides an overview of the specific tips provided.

Addressing Practitioner/Journalist Relationships in Writing Texts

Five writing texts discussed the importance of the PR practitioner-journalist relationship; one did not. However, only three writing texts provided a detailed discussion of this relationship. One text referred to the “symbiotic” relationship between public relations professionals and reporters, which is based on mutual respect for the other’s work (Wilcox & Reber, 2013, p. 92). Wilcox and Reber (2013) stated, “one definition of public relations is that it is the building of relationships between the organization and its various publics, including journalists” (p. 92). That same text provided a detailed list of tips for pitching.

Media Relations Table 2

Another text cited the importance of getting to know journalists, explaining:

The media are a powerful force, and they can do a lot for you – or against you. The determining factor may well be how much you know about the media professionals and how well you get to know them as people. (Bivins, 2014, p. 69)

While only three writing texts discussed the PR practitioner-journalist relationship in-depth, four writing texts discussed specific tactics for building relationships. Table 2 gives a complete breakdown of the specific tactics suggested in the introduction to PR and PR writing texts for building relationships.

Bivins (2014) also placed the responsibility for relationships with the media squarely in the laps of PR practitioners. Bivins (2014) said, “Journalists have a tough life – I know – so do you. Most journalists, however, haven’t experienced public relations work firsthand. Thus, it is often up to you to make the relationship work” (p. 69). He suggests that “If you’re new to your job, the first step is to get out there and introduce yourself. Call or e-mail first” (p. 70). Bivins (2014) also included “Guidelines for Dealing with the Media,” with detailed instruction on negotiating relationships (pp. 70-71). Treadwell and Treadwell (2005) also emphasized the importance of developing “close and mutually respectful relationships with the media” explaining that such relationships “help to ensure that your organization is always treated fairly by the media, especially in circumstances where you have no control” (p. 227). However, while Treadwell and Treadwell address the concept of forming ongoing relationships with key contacts in the press, unfortunately the text stops short of explaining how to form those good working relationships, other than mentioning trust and the importance of close and mutually respectful relationships. The authors did acknowledge that, “There are times when even the best relationships in the world are not going to get your release published” (Treadwell & Treadwell, 2005, p. 229).

DISCUSSION

This study sought to answer the question: How do public relations texts address media relations and the journalist/PR practitioner interaction? As the section above details, the majority of writing texts and the majority of introductory texts addressed the importance of relationships in the PR practitioner/journalist exchange. Wilcox and Reber (2013) referred to the relationship as “symbiotic” (p. 92), Treadwell and Treadwell (2005) called it “mutually respectful” (p. 227), and most other PR introductory or writing texts gave some credence to the idea that both parties need each other to do their jobs. The finding that the majority of these introductory and writing texts at least mention media relations is comforting considering PR professionals reported that they spend anywhere from 30% to 90% of their workweek devoted to media relations (Pettigrew, 2013).

Despite mentioning media relations, few of these texts went further to talk about the human aspect of the reporter/practitioner interaction, which lends support for rejecting the hypothesis: When discussing media relations, PR textbooks focus on relationship building more than specific communication tactics. While all of the introductory texts and three writing texts discussed the importance of developing relationships with the media, these texts were still primarily tactical in their approaches to media relations. Few texts provided suggestions for forming and maintaining those relationships beyond basic fundamental instruction on “getting the word out” to journalists. There was no reference to the nuances of relationship building like offering exclusives, providing news tips not related to a practitioner’s client or company, or recognizing the value of an occasional e-mail just to “check in” with a reporter, providing further support for rejecting the hypothesis.

CONCLUSION

This analysis updated the work of Cline (1982), in that today’s editions of texts do address the functions and duties of public relations practitioners, at least in regard to media relations. Although this study did not examine ethical matters as addressed in public relations texts, Pratt and Renter’s 1989 study may require updating, as there was an emphasis on practicing media relations in an ethical manner in many of the texts.

This study also reveals that there is certainly room for improvement in how textbooks address media relations. First, because there is an increased focus on relationship building in public relations scholarship, PR textbooks should incorporate the findings presented in this scholarship. In other words, at a time when public relations theory is increasingly concerned with dialogic approaches to maximizing relationships, contemporary public relations textbooks should address these issues. Second, if public relations practitioners are spending anywhere from 30 to 90% of their time on media relations (Pettigrew, 2013), then public relations texts should devote at least a full chapter to discussing the nuances of relationship building as well as media relations tactics. This may be an unrealistic stance, considering the constraints of space and the scope of information covered in these texts; however, if the goal is to prepare students to be successful PR practitioners, it seems a reasonable suggestion.

While textbooks provide a foundation for instruction in the classroom, they are just one part of a student’s educational experience. While educators may rely on the text for exercises, examples, activities, and assignments, they can also elaborate or expand on the text to fill in any perceived gaps. Because the texts analyzed in this study typically did not focus much attention on the relationship building practices associated with media relations, it is up to PR educators to discuss the importance of these practices as well as offer guidance for developing mutually beneficial relationships with journalists. One way for educators to provide this information could be to create experiential learning exercises to help students get more hands-on experience in how media relations is practiced. Another option would be to get students out of the classroom whenever possible to visit news stations or newspapers. If time does not permit outside activities, then perhaps bringing in bloggers or journalists is a good alternative (whether in person or via Skype). The point here is to increase students’ exposure to the people with whom they need to build relationships— members of the media.

Limitations

Given the constraints of space and the scope of information covered in an introduction to PR or a PR writing class, it is difficult for an introductory or writing text to provide detailed information about every topic. As such, it is understandable that many of these texts fell short in delivering detailed, nuanced guidance for developing relationships with the media. It should also be noted that this study did not analyze all introductory PR or PR writing textbooks. Therefore, it would be impossible to generalize these findings across all introductory PR or PR writing texts. However, because our sample was comprised of the top selling texts with multiple editions, this study does provide a strong a sense of how introductory PR texts and PR writing texts address media relations.

The coding instrument for this study examined only specific topics and items. Thus, a more holistic, thematic analysis of these texts could lend more insight into certain themes and patterns that might be present. Additionally, what professors actually teach about media relations is beyond the scope of this study.

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