Negotiation and Two-Way Models in Public Relations
Kenneth D. Plowman
San Jose State University
One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95102-0055
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Negotiation tactics are an integral part of the two-way model of
symmetry for communication practices. This study found that public relations
will become a part of the dominant coalition if it has knowledge and experience
in the mixed motives of the two-way model of public relations to include the
negotiation tactics of contention, avoidance, compromise, accommodation, and
cooperation plus being unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal.
Being unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal are benignly
asymmetrical tactics that benefit the relationship of the parties in conflict.
Membership in the dominant coalition also depends on the ability of
the practitioner to do strategic planning and solve problems for the
organization. This assertion incorporates the long-term accumulation of
expertise and a relationship with the dominant coalition built on sound
judgement and trust.
Negotiation and Two-Way Models of Public Relations
Kenneth D. Plowman
San Jose State University
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95102-0055
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Negotiation and Two-Way Models in Public Relations
Public relations is full of paradoxes. It serves its organization
as well as the publics that affect that organization. It seeks to persuade, yet
can be persuaded. It can involve high moral ethics but may be manipulative. It
can be perfectly functionary in a creative and technical staff role, yet there
is growing demand that it assume a more strategic management role in
organizations. The demand is coming from management in organizations as well as
professionals and academics in the field. More and more, they are scrutinizing
the path to power and influence through public relations to upper management.
As Dilenschneider (1990) put it when speaking of the power triangle, "They
[public relations managers] communicate, see that their communication is
recognized, and convert that recognition into influence"
In the inaugural issue of The Public Relations Strategist (Spring,
1995) a study of 10 company CEOs (Foster, 1995) found that CEOs, more than ever
before, "see the wisdom of bringing their senior managers into the chain of
responsibility when it comes to factoring public relations considerations into
important management decisions"(p. 7). In the same study John F. Smith Jr.,
president and CEO of General Motors, said further, "There is no way to separate
business strategy from effective communications"(p. 7). Yet, the landmark
Excellence Study of public relations in organizations (J. Grunig et al., 1991)
found that although CEOs and other corporate leaders supported public relations
as important to their organizations, they had not connected that support to
participation of public relations at the highest levels of their organizations.
That situation may be changing according to this recent 10-company
CEO study. Richard C. Clarke, CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric, stated, "The
only way CEOs can get what they need from their public relations advisers is to
have them at the table when the policies, strategies and programs are hammered
out" (p. 9). The question, then, is, are they at the table? In challenging
these latest findings, Lesly (1995) asked, "If CEOs say they have such
recognition of public relations' essentiality, why are so few practitioners on
boards of directors and executive committees" (p.7)? Communication is seen by
CEOs as vital in their organization's strategic decision-making but there
remains a disconnect between that communication and the role of public
Added to this dilemma is recent research in public relations and
organizational communication that showed the practice of public relations is
ineffective if it is not an integral part of management decision-making (J.
Grunig, 1992b; Lauzen & Dozier, 1992). The essential nature of communication in
an organization seems to be juxtaposed against exclusion of public relations at
the policy-making levels of organizations.
The abiding question of this study then, is how does public
relations become an essential part of the strategic communication processes of
top management? The major assumptions, based on these findings, are that public
relations is ineffective unless it is a part of top management, and that, public
relations in the upper levels of management is good for the organization.
This study will explain that negotiation tactics can empower public
relations managers to become an effective part of the communication process in
the management decision-making group or dominant coalition of an organization.
My premise is that negotiation tactics are used in J. Grunig and Hunt's (1984)
framework of the four models of public relations, particularly the two-way
asymmetrical and symmetrical models. These two models solve problems in the
environment with important or strategic publics and provide a major explanation
for public relations as part of the dominant coalition.
The most recent model of public relations, that incorporates the
two-way asymmetrical and two- way symmetrical models, is the new model of
symmetry as two-way practices (Dozier, L. Grunig, & J. Grunig, 1995). This
model is based on the Excellence Study, and research by Murphy (1991) using game
theory to examine the two-way models. Her mixed motive game incorporates both
asymmetrical and symmetrical tactics and argued that it better describes the
practice of public relations in the real
world. Again, in mixed motives organizations pursue their own
interests while anticipating the reactions of their important publics. In the
new model of two-way communication practices, the win/win zone uses negotiation
and compromise to allow organizations to find common ground among their separate
and sometimes conflicting interests.
Game theory is part of the larger field of conflict resolution.
Negotiation is the operational communication process for conflict resolution.
Negotiation is the interaction among different parties to define their
relationship. Game theory originated the term mixed motives (Schelling, 1980).
Schelling said there were conflicting as well as common interests in a dispute.
One can win by bargaining, by mutual accommodation, or by avoidance of mutually
damaging behavior. He called these types of games on a conflict/cooperation
continuum, mixed motives.
The intersection then, of the fields of public relations and
negotiation is mixed motives. Mixed motives acknowledge the primacy of the
organization's interests and encompass the scale between two-way asymmetrical
and two-symmetrical communication in public relations. This scale is described
in both fields with such terms and tactics as: bargaining, negotiation,
mediation, compromise, accommodation, avoidance, withdrawing, competition,
contention, cooperation, and collaboration.
The most completely developed model using these types of terms was
the dual concern model of Thomas (1976). He conceptualized two dimensions, one
was concern for self and the other was concern for others. Within those two
dimensions, Thomas described five negotiation tactics: competition,
collaboration, compromise, avoidance and accommodation.
Theoretically, in this study, I overlayed the dual concern model
from conflict resolution on the new model of symmetry for public relations. I
would hope to explain more thoroughly and discover what is taking place in the
practice of public relations for the two-way communication models. For the
practice of public relations, I would like to make a connection between the use
of mixed motives in solving problems for the organization and entrance into the
dominant coalition of the organization.
Public relations is the "management of communication between an
organization and its publics" (J. Grunig & Hunt, 1984, p. 6). The use of the
words management, organization, and publics indicates a relationship that can be
investigated in this study. The definition also implies that communication
plays a strong role in the interdependency of the public relations practitioner,
the organization, and its publics. It also connotes a management role for
public relations in that organization.
Strategic management in public relations is management to meet
long-term goals of an organization. It balances the goals or mission of the
organization with influences from its external environment. It is "the
balancing of internal processes of organizations with external factors" (Dozier
et al., 1995, p. 27).
Public relations managers use strategic management to resolve
problems for organizations. As problems begin to arise among the organization
and its stakeholders or strategic publics, the public relations manager detects
those problems and acts to resolve them. The resolution of problems makes the
public relations manager valuable to the dominant coalition, that group of
senior managers who control an organization. Possibly, the public relations
person may gain power as he or she becomes part of the dominant coalition. As
part of that inner circle of decision-makers in an organization, the public
relations manager then can contribute to the goals, objectives, and general
direction of the entire organization (White & Dozier, 1992). These managers of
communication conceptualize and direct public relations programs (Dozier, 1992).
J. Grunig (1992b) provided strong links among public relations, strategic
management, the two-way models, conflict resolution, and access to the dominant
coalition. Given those strong associations J. Grunig and L. Grunig (1992)
suggested the next step to develop theory for the practice of public relations
is to look at applying general theories of conflict resolution to the two-way
models of public relations.
Models of Public Relations
J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) devised four public relations models, the
latter two being those in which two-way communication with strategic publics is
essential: press agentry, public information, two- way asymmetrical, and two-way
symmetrical. Press agentry or publicity is one-directional from the
organization to its publics. It seeks media attention in almost any way
possible. Public information provides truthful and accurate information about
the organization but does not volunteer negative information (J. Grunig & L.
The two-way asymmetrical model has been defined as scientific
persuasion, empirically seeking feedback from stakeholders so an organization
can persuade its publics to its own views. The two-way symmetrical model is
similar except its goal is to manage conflict and promote mutual understanding
instead of persuasion to its own ends. Public relations professionals can
negotiate solutions to conflicts between their organizations and strategic
stakeholders (Dozier et al., 1995). The two-way symmetrical model does not use
the concept of feedback. Rather, it uses the concept of back and forth or
two-way communication that is balanced and symmetrical. The reliability and
validity of these models of public relations behavior have been established in a
number of recent investigations (J. Grunig, 1984; Pollack, 1986; Schneider, aka
L.A. Grunig, 1985). Dozier (1992) maintained that public relations
practitioners using the two-way models are more likely to play the public
relations manager role. The two-way models, then, have been conceptually
connected to the interdependent relationship between the organization, public
relations, and environment. To effectuate this strategic management role of the
public relations manager, that manager must become part of the management core,
or dominant coalition. For purposes of this study, that means the part of an
organization's environment public relations managers actually affect, not
whether the organization is affected by the environment.
Viewed in this way, environmental factors and the use of conflict by
the Grunigs (1992) and Ehling (1992) provided more answers on why and how public
relations practitioners help the dominant coalition make better decisions. This
study, therefore, addressed the question of whether public relations
practitioners are using the knowledge of the two-way models of public relations
and years of experience in resolving problems with stakeholders (conflict
resolution) to become members of the dominant coalition.
As the four models of public relations evolved, J. Grunig (1989b)
described the two-way symmetrical model as "public relations efforts which are
based on research and evaluation and that use communication to manage conflict
and to improve understanding with strategic publics" (p. 17). Note the
introduction of the word conflict. Ehling (1992) asserted that public relations
management can only realize this two-way model by making its primary mission
that of attaining or maintaining accord between the organization and its
stakeholders. However, to attain that accord requires a continual effort to
mediate and mitigate conflict between the organization and its environment.
This involves use of a unique communication system designed by the conflicting
parties together and conducted so as to promote the two-way flow of information
and organizational change.
Although the two-way symmetrical model would seem to be the ideal
for conflict management (Ehling, 1984, 1985), it is difficult to determine the
exact point for behavior on a continuous scale between two-way asymmetric and
two-way symmetric communication (J. Grunig & L. Grunig, 1992; Hellweg, 1989).
Murphy (1991) and J. Grunig et al. (1991) suggested that a mixed motive version
of the two-way symmetrical model might better describe what is happening in
actual practice of public relations because it incorporates both asymmetrical
and symmetrical tactics. Although more recent studies showed more use of the
two-way symmetrical model (L. Grunig, Dozier, & J. Grunig, 1994; Rawlins, 1993),
those studies acknowledge the more frequently practiced model is the one termed
mixed motives. Murphy (1991) drew the term mixed motives from game theory, a
sub-field of conflict resolution.
Since game theorists view perfect symmetry as almost impossible and
public relations scholars admit it is just growing in practice, Murphy (1991)
proposed that real-life symmetric behavior might be easier to locate if it were
slightly redefined in mixed motives. At the one extreme, two-way asymmetrical
organizations have incentives to contend with their strategic publics. They
attempt to persuade these publics because they perceive they can win in a
conflict while the publics lose (using game theory terms). At the other
extreme, two-way symmetrical, organizations have incentives to cooperate with
their strategic publics. They find a way where both sides can win in conflicts
with their publics (Dozier et al., (1995).
Game theory originated the concept of mixed motives. Schelling
(1980) compared the relationship between players of coordination games to
charades, arguing that the primary interest of such games comes from the way
players devise to communicate, in order to align their interests accurately.
The net effect of these infinitely reflexive expectations is a convergence, not
of desired outcomes, but of expectations. Schelling (1980) called these types
of games, on the conflict/cooperation continuum, bargaining or mixed motive
games (p. 89). Mixed motive refers to the ambivalence between players, the
mixture of mutual dependence and conflict, of competition and partnership.
Any solution of a problem like this necessitates a solution for both
participants. Each must try to see the problem from the other's point of view;
but even when they do, each tries to solve the problem in his or her own best
interest. So, although the participants strive for their own best solution, the
solutions are joint and each must base decisions on his or her expectations of
what the other participant will do.
In the broader field of conflict resolution, Bacharach and Lawler
(1980) began to discuss mixed motive negotiation situations. Most negotiations
are neither a clear win/win nor a win/lose situation but combinations of both.
Such mixed motive situations, where combined tactics of contention and
collaboration might occur (Walton, McKersie, & Cutcher-Gershenfeld, 1994), are
difficult particularly for managers to handle strategically (Bacharach &
Lawler). The relationship that exists before negotiations take place, that
develops during the negotiation, and the desired future relationship often will
the bargaining tactic used. The conditions of the relationship
dictate if one side will share the pie, seize it all, or give it away (Savage,
Blair, & Sorenson, 1989).
Public Relations and Conflict Resolution
The relationship of public relations and conflict resolution
involves the management of conflict communication by public relations managers
-- competition, or two-way asymmetrical communication on one side, and mutual
cooperation or two-way symmetrical communication on the other side.
What, then, are these skills that are needed? They would include
skills in the two-way models of public relations and conflict resolution.
Delineated further, those skills are mixed motives and the new model of symmetry
for two-way communication practices.
Murphy (1991) said that each side in a stakeholder relationship
retains a strong sense of its own self-interests, yet each is motivated to
cooperate in a limited fashion to attain at least some resolution of the
conflict. The task in a mixed motive game is to find a balance. Game theorists
define equilibrium as a balance between the player's interests so that neither
would regret his or her action given what the other player chose to do. True
equilibria offer stable solutions to conflict because they lock in benefits and
penalties so that neither side could defect from the agreement without causing
the other player to also defect, thereby hurting each player's cause. In this
sense, mixed motive equilibria do reduce conflict and support the hypothesis
that "asymmetrical public relations would increase (and symmetrical public
relations decrease) the amount, intensity, and duration of . . . conflict" (J.
Grunig & L. Grunig, 1989, p. 58).
Parties in a conflict, an organization and its strategic publics,
act as cooperative antagonists. They may be on opposite sides of an issue but
it is in their best interests to cooperate with each other: "They do not trust
each other, nor do they believe everything communicated by the other side.
However, they do trust each other enough to believe that each will abide by any
agreement reached" (Dozier et al., 1995).
Based on the Excellence Study, Dozier et al. (1995) suggested a new
way of organizing the model of two-way communication practices that incorporates
mixed motives (Figure 1). In the clear areas outside the win/win zone,
organizations and publics are seen as having separate interests. In the
win/win, shaded zone are conflicting interests. Within the win/win zone,
negotiation and compromise work to find common ground between the parties in the
conflict. Arrows 1 and 2 show either the organization or the public persuading
the other party to their respective positions in asymmetrical communication.
Arrow 3 represents public relations people as mediators trying to move the
positions of the organization and its publics toward each other. The authors
dubbed this model two-way, subsuming the former two-way asymmetrical and two-way
symmetrical models. By doing so, they did not exclude the use of asymmetrical
means to achieve symmetrical ends. They said: "Asymmetrical tactics are
sometimes used to gain the best position for organizations within the win/win
zone. Because such practices are bounded by a symmetrical world view that
respects the integrity of long-term relationships, the two-way model is
essentially symmetrical" (p. 49).
A definition of public relations as a mixed motive game helps
reconcile the divergent asymmetric versus symmetric and persuasion versus
bargaining models. Mixed motive games provide a broad third category that
describes behavior as most public relations people experience it (L. Grunig et
al., 1994): a multi-directional scale of competition and cooperation in which
organizational needs Figure 1
New Model of Symmetry as Two-Way Practices
Coalition's Win/Win Zone Public's
_ _ _ _
_ _ _ _
Asymmetric Mixed Motive Asymmetric
NOTE: Adapted from D.M. Dozier, L.A. Grunig, & J. Grunig. (1995).
Manager's guide to excellence in
public relations and communication management (p. 48). Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
must be balanced against constituents' needs, but never lose their
primacy. Researchers have shown that most organizations appear to practice a
blend of the three asymmetric models of public relations, as well as symmetric
communication styles (J. Grunig & L. Grunig, 1989).
Creating a Model
The evaluation of the mixed motive spectrum and the creation of a
new model involved the two-way models of public relations and conflict
resolution theory. It will serve to delineate and expand the two-way models to
more accurately describe the real practice of public relations. Such a model
also will pinpoint more precisely reasons for public relations managers to
become members of the dominant coalition.
A dual concern model was developed most completely by Thomas (1976).
He conceptualized the two dimensions of the model as concern for self and
concern for others. Thomas then distinguished five negotiation tactics that
would fall at points on this conflict grid. The five points he described were
competition, collaboration, compromise, avoidance, and accommodation.
Competition is high concern for self and low concern for others. Collaboration
is high concern for self and high concern for others. Compromise is medium
concern for self and medium concern for others. Avoidance is low concern for
self and low concern for others. Accommodation is low concern for self and high
concern for others.
In developing a negotiation model for public relations I integrated
this model with Blake, Shepard, and Mouton's (1964) five steps, Walton and
McKersie's (1965) negotiation models, Pruitt and Rubin's (1986) dual concern
model of conflict resolution, and Conrad's (1990) five variables for
The one dimension satisfies the organization's interests, which I
will label as contending. This represents the extreme asymmetrical ends of the
new model of symmetry as two-way practices (Dozier et al., 1995). The other
dimension satisfies the interests of others, what I choose to label cooperation,
representing the extreme symmetrical middle of the new model of symmetry as
two-way practices. In this two-dimensional conflict management model (Figure 2)
are five ways to settle or resolve conflict: contending (high, low), avoiding
(low, low), compromising (moderate, moderate), accommodating (low, high), and
cooperating (high, high).
Two-Way Negotiation Model for Public Relations
[--- ??? Graphic Goes Here ---]
High Contending Cooperating
Interests of Strategic Publics
The five categories above are:
1. Contending -- one party forces its position on another party.
2. Cooperating -- both parties work together to reconcile basic
interests, a mutually beneficial solution.
3. Compromising -- both parties meet part way between their
4. Avoiding -- one or the other party leaves the conflict either
physically or psychologically.
5. Accommodating -- one party yields in part on its position and
lowers its aspirations.
It was my premise in this study that the new model of symmetry as
two-way practices (Dozier et al., 1995) could be verified and further explained
by these five categories. The next consideration, then in this study, should be
consideration of research questions of this mixed motive model to call for such
an explanation. Research questions are essential as tools in qualitative
research to generate a research protocol and produce a framework for patterns in
the analysis of the results of the study. They also allow for flexibility to
adapt to findings as the research progresses (Marshall & Rossman, 1989). Again,
I maintained that the mixed motive model of public relations is used in
negotiation tactics of public relations ranging from the asymmetrical to the
1. Do knowledge and experience in solving problems of public
relations include the two-way models of public relations and
2. Does this range of knowledge and experience encompass mixed
motives and the new model of symmetry as two-way practice?
3. Do public relations managers use this knowledge and
to solve problems with an organization's stakeholder groups in
negotiation model for public relations?
4. Does the use of tactics of negotiation translate to power in
strategic management for public relations in
long-term relationships for the
The qualitative method was the preferred method for my study because
it seeks to interpret and understand the meaning of interpersonal attitudes and
behavior among the public relations manager, external publics, and the top
management or dominant coalition of an organization. To ensure questions are
answered fully in the interpersonal context, they must be asked face-to-face
(Fontana & Frey, 1994).
Interviews are conversations with a purpose (Kahn & Cannell, 1957),
rather than a formal set of structured questions. The interview respects how
the interviewee frames and structures responses.
This type of qualitative interviewing is known as depth, long,
intensive, collaborative, informal, semi-structured, and unstructured (Lindlof,
1995; Marshall & Rossman, 1989; McCracken, 1988; Patton, 1990). The voluntary
character of the interview process is vital so that the interaction between
researcher and participant occurs as freely as interviewing (possible strangers)
can permit. The whole interviewing process leads to a view of something between
(inter) people (Brenner, 1985). Lindlof (1995) made the point that even though a
researcher wants to cover certain areas going into an interview, "Relatively
little structure is imposed on what the respondent says" (p. 5).
Interviewing, then, is primarily a hearing device (Harding,1987)
that involves listening carefully to how participants think about their lives.
A listening technique like the depth or long interview would be an appropriate
data-gathering method for the complex and personal nature of the research
questions for this study.
Individual perspective is the primary strength of depth and long
interviews. The researcher gains understanding and insight into the
participant's own perspective of a situation. In the relationship developed by
the interviewer and participant, there should be honest and frank disclosure of
how they truly appraise their interpersonal relationships (Lindlof, 1995). Such
disclosure allows the researcher to "learn about things that cannot be observed
directly by other means" (Patton, 1990, p. 278). The relationship among public
relations, the dominant coalition, and strategic publics cannot be observed by
Interviewing is adaptable to theory-based research. Categories and
specific questions can be derived from the research questions to follow both the
general interview guide approach or the stanardized open-ended interview
espoused by Patton (1990). The first approach outlines a set of issues to be
explored. Specific questions arise in the interview to cover these issues. The
second approach uses a standard set of questions arranged in a specific order.
I used a combination of the above in developing a set of 16 questions in an
interview protocol that were adapted for each interview.
The credibility and transferability of this study came from a
multi-case approach (Yin, 1994) of interviewing and a combination of stages of
analysis developed from such qualitative methods as ethnography, participant
observation, grounded theory, focus groups, and case studies. Fortner and
Christians (1989) followed Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Denzin (1978) in
resolving the issues of credibility and transferability as a process of
triangulation. Stake (1994) said triangulation is generally considered a
process of multiple perceptions to clarify meaning, verifying the confirmability
or repeatability of results. It acknowledges that no interpretations of results
are perfectly repeatable. Fortner and Christians said the goal is complete
analysis by combining all lines of approach, each probe revealing certain
aspects of real meaning. Triangulation helps avoid personal biases and
superficiality that stem from one narrow probe. Triangulation can be of method
(interviews, observation, document analysis); by time (historical view versus
modern view of issue); or by theory (several theoretical outlooks focused on one
problem to see which gives broader explanation)(Fortner & Christians, 1989;
My study encapsulated the dependability and confirmability criteria
for qualitiative research (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) by incorporating triangulation
of theory among the various concepts of public relations and conflict
resolution; triangulation of interview method, interviews on a multi-case basis;
and triangulation of analysis, looking at the data from several different levels
and perspectives. The other two criteria of qualitative research, credibility
and tranferability, will be illuminated in Results chapter. Interviewing
I adopted the interview guide approach of Lindlof (1995) and Patton
(1990), what L. Grunig et al. (1994) called interview protocol. The interview
guide approach uses elements of the semi-structured and unstructured
interviewing techniques. Semi-structured interviewing calls for a specific list
of questions, given in a specific order, with a limited number of responses
already categorized by the researcher (Patton, 1990). There is little room for
divergence from the topic unlike the more open-ended semi-structured approach in
the feminist literature. Unstructured interviewing is completely open-ended,
allowing the participants to lead the conversation where they will.
An interview guide creates a menu of questions to be covered and
leaves the exact order and articulation to the interviewer's discretion. Of
course, all questions were asked of all participants in roughly the same way.
There exists, however, flexibility for the interviewer to ask optional
questions, pass on others, and depart briefly to follow unexpected
conversational paths. Experiences and background vary among participants and
the interviewer should have the discretion to reshuffle questions to pursue
issues relevant to the moment or new issues altogether (Lindlof, 1995). In
essence, what I call the interview protocol emphasizes the goals of the
interview in terms of the research questions to be explored and the criteria of
a relevant and adequate response (Gorden, 1969). Suffice it to say that I used
an interview protocol approach with specific questions that were open-ended
enough to allow for participants to pursue their own directions in their
Specific open-ended questions in the interview protocol of this
study were adapted to either the public relations participant or the dominant
coalition participant in each organization. The interviews were conducted with
a representative of the dominant coalition familiar with the public relations
function, the head of public relations, and sometimes another member of the
public relations department in 10 organizations. McCracken (1988) said the
ideal number of interviews was no more than four and Wolcott (1994) argued that
fewer is better for adequate depth of investigation and thoroughness of analysis
required for the interviewing method. I wanted to add to my triangulation
factor of credibility so I conducted 23
The interviews lasted from 30 minutes to four hours. McCracken
(1988) suggested three interviews of one to one and one-half hours with each
participant. Hon (1994) found that for women in public relations, a single
lengthy interview was adequate. For the insights necessary in the follow-up
qualitative study of the Excellence Study, L. Grunig et al. (1994) found this
also was true. For research purposes related to upper management, time
availability, and responsiveness to questions other studies found one to two
hours was sufficient (Agar, 1994; Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Bonama, 1985;
Gummesson, 1991; Kauffman, 1992).
Selection of Participants
In a purposive approach to selecting participants, I chose people
representative of dominant coalitions and public relations, and those that might
have some knowledge of two-way communication and negotiation principles. To get
a varied sample across industries I interviewed a cosmetics firm and an
experiment station classified as excellent in the excellence study. I
interviewed four firms, a city government and three associations, that were not
classified as excellent in the study, and four companies that did not
participate in the excellence study at all. They consisted of a drug company; a
holding firm that owned a bank, autodealerships and a sports franchise; a spice
company; and a hi-tech corporation.
Interviewing began in April 1994 with four companies in Texas. I
was interested in interviewing one of the authors of an article on public
relations and conflict resolution that had appeared in a previous issue of the
Public Relations Journal. That author worked for a large corporation in Texas.
Also, I was part of the research team doing the follow-up case studies to the
Excellence Study. As a member of that team, I was able to obtain permission to
contact organizations that had previously participated in the Excellence Study
and to add questions to two case studies I was conducting for that project.
Texas happened to be an area not covered by any other members of the research
team. Two of the organizations in Texas previously had been classified as
excellent by the Excellence Study, one had not, and the fourth had not
participated in that study.
A second round of interviewing occurred in July with another four
firms in the Washington, D.C., area. I was completing my studies there at the
University of Maryland. Three of those organizations had participated in the
Excellence Study and had not been classified as excellent. The fourth company
had not participated in the Excellence Study.
The final two organizations were interviewed in November 1994 in the
San Francisco Bay area of California. I took a position at San Jose State
University as an assistant professor for public relations in August. Neither of
those organizations had participated in the Excellence Study.
Participants were volunteers. Before the actual interview, contact
was made by phone, with confirmation by letter, and a date set for the interview
meeting. Those communications gave potential participants general information
on the nature and purpose of the study, how they were selected, and the
approximate length of the interview. Above all, participants understood that
any data collected were to be in confidence and that referral to any specific
situation (not naming the organization) in the dissertation would be attributed
to a confidential source.
Initial interviews were to be in-person and in the offices or
similar comfortable surroundings for the participants. Any follow-up interviews
were to be conducted by telephone. In actuality, all but five of the initial 23
interviews were conducted face-to-face and in their offices, or at a local
favorite restaurant. The difficulty in arranging schedules and the erasing of
two tapes going through airport security led to the five telephone interviews.
Every interview was tape-recorded after asking permission of the
participants. Some individuals seemed uncomfortable with the tape recorder at
first. Others were used to it, but all the participants seemed to forget about
the presence of the tape recorder after a while and were forthcoming in their
responses. I also took extensive notes, especially of key points during the
interviews, and even asked for any accompanying material that might illustrate
what was discussed in the interview -- but after the interview so as not to
interrupt the participant's train of thought. My tape recorder failed during
one interview. After that interview, I immediately reviewed what recording I
did have and augmented my notes from memory.
It was essential to tape-record these interviews (Lindlof, 1995;
Patton, 1990). Patton said: "The raw data of interviews are the actual
quotations spoken by interviewees. There is no substitute for these data" (p.
347). Tape-recording not only increased accuracy of the information collected,
it allowed the interviewer to have a more natural conversation with the
participant. After failure of my taperecorder in the interview mentioned, it
was extremely difficult to pay attention to non-verbal and even verbal cues of
the participant. The pace of the interview became very non-conversational
Field notes became essential to recreating that interview. These
were notes of key phrases, lists of major points, or key terms in quotation
marks that reflected the participant's own language (Patton, 1990). The
combination of recording methods used in this study of: tape-recording, field
notes, and then the later full transcriptions of the tapes allowed for a more
thorough analysis of the data, the next step in the methodology.
The two primary parts of analysis are data reduction and
interpretation (L. Grunig et al., 1994). Data reduction began with tape
recording the interviews, taking field notes, and adapting the questions to the
situation of the individual participants. The tapes were fully transcribed. I
listened to the tapes while following the transcriptions to make notes on
emphasis and key points. These notated transcriptions were then compared to
notes and other materials (if any) related to the organization. Additional
notes then were made on the transcriptions to put all the research data into one
cohesive document per participant for later interpretive analysis.
I used a combined method of interpretive analysis based on the
in-depth interview method of Marshall and Rossman (1989), the long interview
method of McCracken, (1988), the case study methods of Yin (1989) and Bogdan and
Biklen (1992), the analysis techniques of Miles and Huberman (1984), the
feminist orientation of Hon (1992), and grounded theory of Strauss and Corbin
(1990). To capitalize on the advantages of these approaches yet control for
inherent disadvantages, I used a number of steps:
1. Within the individual interviews I looked for key issues,
recurrent events, or activities in the data that might become
focus. Categories should be internally
consistent but distinct from one another (not mutually
2. I compared the interviews of dominant coalition participants
to each other across the 10 organizations in search of patterns
of incidents that
might become categories of consistency or contradiction.
3. Then, I compared the public relations participants across
companies to discover their own distinct patterns or themes.
4. Finally, I compared the patterns of the dominant coalition
public relations participants as another cross-check for
patterns and categories,
testing them against the data, challenging them, searching for
of patterns. I approached the data with skepticism, looking for
adequacy, usefulness, and credibility. Yin (1989) substantiated
when he wrote of multiple cases for evaluation purposes.
Multiple cases allow
for repetition of pattern, comparison, and appropriate
extraction of credible and
generalizable findings. Such multisite and subject studies are
toward developing theory than generalizing to a population
(Bogdan & Biklen,
5. For another comparison, I intended to conduct a second set of
interviews with a select number of the initial participants as a
final stage of
analysis for added credibility. Unfortunately, time for the
study became a
factor. However, I did review the results with one public
who found them useful but I had to re-explain the models of
public relations and
negotiation terminology to some extent.
6. After the data were gathered and patterns seemed to emerge, I
searched for alternative explanations -- to challenge the very
patterns that seem
so evident or obvious. I considered the research as an argument
that builds an
interrelationship among assertions and conclusions. Then I
explanations until a more universal relationship could be
7. I used visual devices. (Strauss, 1987; Miles & Huberman,
such as charts, graphs, and tables. I even used the approach of
pasting, and putting in folders -- both on the computer and
8. As a final check, I speculated, vented, and took breaks. I
used an intuitive approach (Agar, 1994).
These eight steps of analysis served as a record of the process of
reflection and analysis and as a condition of the qualitative dependability and
confirmability of the study (Kirk & Miller, 1986, p. 51). An explanation of
qualitative data must show exactness and no unnecessary ambiguity. It also must
force the researcher to make a minimum number of assumptions while still
explaining the data.
The object, however, is not to be too directed in this process but
to build a conceptual framework of patterns from the interviews, allowing the
emergent findings to take their course. The conceptualization provides guiding
direction, giving the researcher the freedom to establish recurrent patterns
from the findings. Only then are the findings compared back to existing theory.
This comparison to theory is the ninth and final level of analysis to establish
or discredit the specific model developed from theory.
As can be seen from these nine levels of analysis, there are usually
no fixed formulas for analysis of data in qualitative research methods. The
process consists of examining, categorizing, tabulating, or otherwise
recombining the evidence to address initial propositions of study. To do this,
the researcher needs an analytic strategy that relies on theoretical
propositions as guides.
The primary analytic strategy emphasized here is pattern-matching.
According to Yin (1989) this analysis of data consists of comparing empirically
based patterns with a predicted one -- if something was thought to predict
something else, and that something else did occur, and alternative explanations
could not be found, then outcome matched prediction.
Most importantly, the interview method focused on the research
questions while examining relationships and preparing templates (see next
section) for matches in the interview data (McCracken, 1988, p. 33). As already
stated, even though a preliminary pattern-matching template may be considered,
the interviewer also should be adaptive and flexible to follow responses that
may not fit the research questions and theory behind them.
Limited space in this paper precludes a detailed findings section
illustrating each finding with quotes. Hopefully, the conclusions section is
detailed to the extent there are examples from the participants in the study.
The following is a summary of the major patterns found in the research that were
similar between the dominant coalition and public relations managers:
1. Models of Public Relations -- mixed motives with a trend to
the goal of two-way symmetrical.
2. Negotiation Processes -- all five used: contention,
cooperation, compromise, avoidance, and accommodation. An
emerged of unconditionally constructive with win/win or no deal
as part of
3. Membership in the Dominant Coalition -- the ability to solve
problems was the major requirement here. This included the
ability to do
strategic planning, knowledge and experience in the field, and
Comparing these three patterns to the four research questions led to
adapting or changing those questions for public relations managers to gain entry
into the dominant coalition to the following research statements or assertions.
1. The dominant coalition is looking for managers with knowledge
and experience in publics relations and the mixed motives of the
new model of
symmetry as two-way practices.
2. This knowledge and experience include the five negotiation
processes of contention, cooperation, compromise, avoidance and
plus unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal.
3. Public relations managers use this knowledge and experience
with the addition of ability to do strategic planning and good
judgement to solve
problems for the organization in the new two-way model of public
4. Public relations managers are empowered through solving
problems for the organization to become members of the dominant
Overview of Major Findings
The first finding in this study was that public relations among the
10 organizations was, for the most part, a two-way practice. This practice
encompassed mixed motives, that is the five negotiation tactics plus
unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal. Being unconditionally
constructive is a unilateral approach that probably will fall in the win/win
zone of the new model of symmetry. The win/win or no deal perspective is a
forced or contending approach to mutual collaboration. In some instances,
participants in this study used both unconditionally constructive and win/win or
no deal as benignly asymmetrical tactics to gain a symmetrical result.
In a way, win/win or no deal is a positive ultimatum stating that
one party's walk-away alternative or avoidance is better unless both parties
cooperate in a conflict situation. Neither party will regret its decision later
if it chooses to cooperate but if it chooses not to cooperate it will regret any
other contention, accommodation, or compromise solution. The only other
alternative, then, is to choose no deal. The development of the conflict may
evolve in the future and the parties could then renegotiate as strategic publics
for each other when their walk-away alternatives are no longer better for
avoidance than for cooperation.
In the next finding, the knowledge that the public relations
managers had of the public relations field plus their experience using the (now)
seven negotiating tactics led directly to their ability to solve problems and
to do strategic planning for the organization. The accumulation of knowledge
and experience also led to the practice of good judgement and to a trusting
long-term relationship with the dominant coalition. Part of judgement and
trust incorporated the willingness to apply the negotiation tactics to serve the
interests of the organization. Interests are those underlying long-term
strategic goals of the dominant coalition that serve the organization's
Public relations managers relied on their ability to solve problems
and to participate in strategic planning to gain entry into the dominant
coalition. Incorporating the negotiation tactics of being unconditionally
constructive and win/win or no deal into the two-way negotiation model for
public relations might make it look like Figure 3.
[--- ??? Graphic Goes Here ---]
Two-Way Negotiation Model for Public Relations
High W/W or ND
Interests of Strategic Publics
When the interests of the organization are not of great importance
or low, it can either avoid or accommodate on the public relations problem. The
organization can afford to avoid the problem if the interests of its strategic
publics are low or if its walk-away alternative is higher. If the interests of
the strategic public are high and have consequences for the organization, the
organization cannot ignore its public and must accommodate. It gives in to the
strategic public because its interests are low and the organization has nothing
When the interests of the organization and its strategic publics are
moderate or fairly even towards one another, then both organizations are more
willing to compromise. Neither organization is fully satisfied with the
resulting agreement but both are partly and equally satisfied.
Under contending, the organization's interests are high while its
strategic publics' are low. Since being a strategic public equates to having
consequences for the organization, that could be interpreted as power over that
organization. However, when the interests of the strategic publics are low,
consequences are low and power over the organization is low. On the other hand,
when the organization's interests are high and its strategic publics' are low,
it perceives fewer consequences and usually exercises more power over its
publics. The organization sees that it can win while its strategic publics
Cooperation is the situation where both the organization and its
strategic publics' interests are high. Both can collaborate in a mutually
beneficial relationship and both parties are fully satisfied with the result.
This is a win/win relationship.
The position of being unconditionally constructive, that I found and
labeled as such in this study, is where both parties have high interests and
high consequences for each other. But, for some reason, one party will not
agree or even negotiate. The organization then chooses, even though there has
been a two-way exchange, to do what it believes is the best course of action for
the relationship between both parties. Yet this is done without the other party
agreeing to the solution. It is supposed to be mutually beneficial. It is a
positive relationship and that is why it is shown above cooperation on the right
side of Figure 3. The grave danger in this situation is that the solution to
the problem is not really mutually beneficial and the result falls back to the
contending category of two-way asymmetrical communication. If this happens,
then the situation is no longer unconditionally constructive for the benefit of
the relationship between the parties.
Even further on the scale of high interest to both parties in the
dispute is win/win or no deal. It is shown above cooperation and
unconditionally constructive on the right side of Figure 3. Both parties have
strong interests, both can benefit from the solution, and they have other
alternatives to choose from (mostly accommodation or compromise). At least one
party, however, has a better walk-away alternative for all the negotiation
tactics except win/win. The choice of alternatives, then, is either win/win or
no deal at all.
Again, all of these tactics in this study led to resolving problems
in the environment with strategic stakeholders and helped public relations
managers to participate in strategic planning as members of the dominant
coalition for their organizations.
Comparison to Research Questions
How did these findings then support or fail to support the research
statements as determined by the current state of the fields of public relations
and conflict resolution? How should these research statements be altered or
changed? What did I really find that emerged from the patterns in this study?
These research questions represented two levels of investigation in
this study. First, knowledge and experience in public relations may include
knowledge and experience in negotiation tactics. Even more specifically, this
knowledge and experience encompass the range of mixed motive communication
between two-way asymmetric or the negotiation tactic of contention, and two-way
symmetric or the negotiation tactic of cooperation.
This level of congruence seemed to occur in this study, and the
fields of public relations and conflict resolution merged. I then was able to
move on to the second level of research questions. That is, a mixed motive
model is used to solve problems for the organization. The solution of problems,
in turn, gives power to public relations in a long-term relationship that allows
public relations to become part of the dominant coalition.
What I found in this study of 10 organizations, was that, first,
from the perspective of both the dominant coalition and public relations, mixed
motive public relations applies. They used all five of the negotiation tactics
plus what Fisher and Brown (1988), termed as unconditionally constructive and
what Covey (1989) called win/win or no deal.
Second, the knowledge, experience, and expertise gained from
practicing mixed motive public relations enabled public relations managers to
solve problems and to do strategic planning. It was the inclusion of both
abilities, resolving problems and doing strategic planning, that brought public
relations into the dominant coalition.
Implications for Current Practice and Theory
These findings affected both the first and second levels of
investigation for the research questions. They affected the practical and
theoretical confluence of the two-way models and negotiation tactics; and the
power control theory as it relates to membership by public relations in the
Two-Way Models and Negotiation Tactics
This study revealed that two-way communication and negotiation
tactics are inextricably intertwined. The initial research questions and
adapted research statements separate the two. The adapted research statements
were that public relations managers became members of the dominant coalition
1. Knowledge and experience in publics relations, and the mixed
motives of the new model of symmetry as two-way practices.
2. This knowledge and experience includes the five negotiation
processes of contention, cooperation, compromise, avoidance and
plus unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal.
Combining these two could result in the statement:
Public relations will become a part of the dominant coalition if
it has knowledge and experience in the mixed motives of the
two-way model of
public relations to include the negotiation processes of
compromise, accommodation, cooperation, unconditionally
constructive, and win/win
or no deal.
At any time informal or formal research is conducted to determine
overt positions and underlying interests of strategic publics that have an
effect on an organization, communication tactics are required for the
organization to deal with those publics. This study has shown that negotiation
tactics are an integral part of those communication strategies. Ehling (1987a)
described such activities to be in the public relations jurisdiction if they
entailed the strategic means and ends of public relations. Strategic means
entail communication and conflict resolution strategies. The "strategic
end-state of public relations management is to achieve a non-conflict state via
the means of a well-designed communication system" (p. 29). The mixed motives
result at the strategic level seems to satisfy Ehling's requirement for
"selecting courses of action which will allow an organization to survive, grow
and prosper in some way over a long period of time" (Ehling, 1987b, p. 7).
As Dozier et al. (1995) stated, the combination of asymmetrical and
symmetrical tactics seemed paradoxical when examining their two extremes
superficially. Dozier explained the dilemma by subordinating asymmetrical to
symmetrical practices. Short-term tactical advantages may be gained through
two-way asymmetrical practices between parties in a mixed motive game. Yet, for
long-term integrity of the game and for parties to maintain continuous
relationships over the long-term, cooperative tactics should be employed to
maintain the integrity of binding joint agreements that both sides believe the
other will respect.
The long-term relationship revealed in this study was the trust
developed between the dominant coalition and the public relations manager to
allow the public relations manager to solve problems for the organization. This
long-term relationship was a part of the judgement and trust condition that
allowed a public relations manager to become part of the dominant coalition.
The solution of problems ranged from the asymmetrical to the symmetrical in a
mixed motive pattern. One was not subordinate to the other but rather combined
elements of both in concurrent usage. As the director of corporate
communications said for the holding company in this study, "Wire both ends
against the middle." When considering the organization's best interests,
contend if the organization can win but cooperate at the same time to solidify
long-term relationships with strategic publics and hedge against negative
consequences for the future. To contend may or may not be unconditionally
constructive based on the long-term good for the relationship between parties.
A specific question regarding this short-term versus long-term usage of
negotiation tactics would be a useful direction for future studies.
Walton et al. (1994) found that asymmetrical and symmetrical
tactics were both contradictory and complementary at both the short-term and
long-term levels. They are contradictory in the author's use of the terms
forcing (asymmetrical) and fostering (symmetrical). Forcing uses information
control in the negotiation process, whereas fostering requires the information
flow to be open. Forcing increases hostility between groups while fostering
promotes mutual interest and trust.
The two tactics also can be complementary in that they alleviate
some of the risks of either strategy. Escalation of the problem is an inherent
risk of forcing and complacency to go ahead and solve the problem can be a risk
of fostering. Although a combination of forcing and fostering can be used
concurrently or sequentially, the researchers found that a limit on forcing
tactics and an eventual shift to fostering is critical especially for long-term
relationships to exist.
In 1990, Putnam espoused a rejoining of the opposite ends of the
asymmetrical to symmetrical continuum in a mixed motive and interdependent
approach somewhere between Dozier et al. (1995) and Walton et al. (1994).
Although her viewpoint may change because of these more recent studies, she
viewed the two extremes as mixed motives and complementary, as an energizing
process for the discovery of underlying interests, and creating more
alternatives for creative solutions to problems. Indeed, Pruitt and Rubin
(1986) believed that negotiation tactics could not be considered in a linear
continuum because both contending and cooperating can be strong at the same
time. They said: "People can be both selfish and cooperative (leading them to
engage in problem solving in an effort to reconcile both parties' interests)"
In the Excellence Study (J. Grunig, 1992), the public relations
department's knowledge of two-way symmetrical practices ranked second to manager
role expertise and knowledge of two-way asymmetrical practice ranked third as
indicators of communication excellence. Earlier, Murphy (1991) connected these
second- and third-ranked factors and dubbed their coexistence as mixed motives,
borrowing the term from game theory. In mixed motives, both parties can still
pursue their own self-interests. Organizations and their strategic publics can
be both selfish or contending, and cooperative. This leads the parties to
engage in problem solving to reconcile their overlapping interests (Pruitt &
Rubin, 1986). Dozier et al. (1995) used the term cooperative antagonists. I
would agree and add that the parties are cooperative protagonists in the
struggle to satisfy their own interests with the knowledge that satisfaction is
best accomplished through satisfying each other's interests as well. The
question is not one of mixed motives where short-term asymmetrical tactics are
combined with long-term symmetrical tactics as advocated by Dozier et al.
(1995), but rather one of discovering the priority-level of importance for the
common interests of the strategic parties.
Much of what has been discussed so far about two-way models,
negotiation tactics, and mixed motives has been in the context of interests.
Interests seem to be the concept by which these other issues
are measured. Once again, by interests I mean those underlying
long-term values and goals of an organization on which an organization's
economic good health depends.
Organizations negotiate to further their interests (Lax & Sebenius,
1986). To be successful at resolving problems for organizations, public
relations managers need to broaden their focus on interests, expand the pie
(Pruitt & Rubin, 1986), or use the abundance mentality of Covey (1990). As hard
as it would be to determine the interests for one's own organization,
understanding the subjective scheme of values as perceived through the peculiar
filters of strategic publics -- is probably very difficult. Yet, if this can be
done, the resolution of problems between an organization and its strategic
publics could become possible.
Another term for the subjective values of an organization could be
strategic interests, with the same meaning for strategic as in strategic
stakeholders -- those underlying interests of an organization that have positive
or negative consequences for the interests of other groups or organizations.
These strategic interests are of the utmost importance for public relations
managers because it is only in finding commonalities among the interests of an
organization through two-way communication that negotiating can take place.
Of course, as found in this study, the resulting solution to any
problem must be aligned with the dominant coalition's long-term personal or
institutional strategy. The multiple management boards of the spice company or
the participation in the Malcolm Baldridge organizational excellence program by
the high-tech firm are examples of CEO-led two-way communication practices.
They are reaching out in their corporate environments to find out what makes
other companies prosper. These programs help make their organizations
successful. They are aligning their interests with those interests that succeed
in making their companies money. By doing that, their personal and
institutional power-control goals are fulfilled. These changes come about from
a "reverberating process in which the other player adapts to you and you adapt
to the other and the other adapts to your adaptation" (Axelrod, 1984, p. 120).
The final outcome of reconciling interests can be a highly complex
process. "Focus on interests, not positions," said Fisher and Ury (1981, p.
11). Interests are the underlying motivators, the deep-seated reasons people
and organization have for doing things. About positions, they said: "Your
position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you
to so decide" (p. 41). Behind what are apparently opposed positions lie shared
and compatible interests as well as conflicting ones. It is these complementary
interests on which an agreement can be made. Other interests may be independent
and several positions can even represent multiple interests. Finding the
commonalities is the difficult task and the key to successful agreements.
Focusing exclusively on interests may not always be successful.
When parties have deep and conflicting ideological differences, for example,
satisfactory agreement on smaller issues may only be possible if ideological
concerns do not arise. The animal rights issue of the cosmetics firm in this
study is a case in point. The animal rights activists were ideologically and
unalterably opposed to the use of animals to test products. The cosmetics firm
accommodated the activists by placing a moratorium on animal testing. It
avoided the ideological issue with this moratorium, but the company left open
the possibility of doing animal testing in the future. The need for this kind
of testing was not imminent and in the meantime the cosmetics firm was pursuing
other alternatives to test its products. The parties came to agreement, in a
sense, on the immediate or smaller issue with the hope of resolving the problem
permanently through other alternatives. In such cases, the negotiations should
focus on the issues or on a much narrower set of interests -- not fully on the
underlying interests. Even so, focusing on interests can help develop a better
understanding of mutual problems and invent creative solutions by reformulating
issues to align better with underlying interests.
The animal rights case is also an example, in this highly complex
process of negotiation, where the parties involved were unclear, to some degree,
about their own and their opponent's interests. Reconciling these interests is
intermixed with defining and understanding which solutions represent the highest
priority interests of the parties in the conflict (Raiffa, 1982). Many
negotiators hold back the creation of alternative solutions by failing to
distinguish the overt positions of an issue under discussion from its underlying
interests. When the issue poorly matches the interests at stake, modifications
of issues sometimes enable all parties to satisfy their interests better (Lax &
Negotiation, then, is a process of potentially opportunistic
interaction where parties with some conflicting interests could do better for
themselves. To find the alternatives for potential solutions to problems
requires looking at interests. As Putnam (1990) put it, the search for
compatible interests "resembles solving a mystery in which there are multiple
plausible solutions but wrong guesses reduce the likelihood of ever unraveling
the case" (p. 25).
Related to the negotiation of underlying interests in this study was
the problem of what to do when the opposing party refused to come to agreement
when both parties used cooperative tactics. The alternative action for getting
around this stalemate was that negotiating tactic of being unconditionally
constructive. Being unconditionally constructive was used in the positive
sense of Fisher and Brown (1988). That is, guidelines that "will be both good
for the relationship and good for me, whether or not you follow the same
guidelines" (p. 37). Even if the other party in the conflict does not
reciprocate, the organization acts in reconciling the strategic interests of
both the organization and its strategic public. Even though the decision to
take this altruistic tactic is unilateral, it remains two-way because the
organization must have done research to determine the interests of its strategic
public. It also is a win/win situation because both parties mutually benefit
from the result of the tactic. Even though the strategic public does not have a
choice in the decision and may already regret that decision, it will tend to be
better off. This is so just as the organization is better off than if it were
to pursue another negotiation tactic with different choice alternatives. The
key lies in both parties' common interests. One party cannot be unconditionally
constructive if the interests of the other party are not affected positively.
Those common interests allow for a limited set of options to be unconditionally
constructive (personal communication, Schelling, November 8, 1995).
Unconditionally constructive tactics include six elements (Fisher &
Brown, 1988). I have added a seventh from Fisher and Ury (1981) as a safety
mechanism using the mixed motive results of this study:
1. Rationality. Even if the strategic publics act
emotionally, balance emotions with reason.
2. Understanding. Even if the strategic publics
the organization, try to understand them.
3. Communication. Even if the opposing parties are not
listening, consult them before deciding on matters that affect
4. Reliability. Even if the other parties are trying to
neither trust them nor deceive them: be reliable.
5. Noncoercive modes of influence. Even if the opposition is
trying to coerce, neither yield to that coercion nor try to
coerce; be open to
persuasion and try to persuade.
6. Acceptance. Even if the strategic publics reject the
organization and its interests as unworthy of consideration,
interests as worthy of consideration, care about them, and be
open to learning
7. Protection. I would add an element of mixed motives here, as
a fail-safe alternative to protect the organization's ultimate
on this study's finding, there should be an option when being
constructive in case a strategic public perceives the
organizational stance as
weakness and attacks the organization using contending tactics.
is the walk-away alternative of Fisher and Ury (1981). This
alternative is the
one that is better than if any negotiation took place, even an
constructive one, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement
Win/Win or No Deal
This alternative negotiation tactic arose from interviews with a CEO
and a public relations manager from different companies. Although not a major
pattern in the study it seemed to develop as an alternative beyond
unconditionally constructive to avoid stalemate in a negotiation. To get past a
stalemate in a positive way for both parties, at least one party's best
alternative to a negotiated agreement, was the option of no deal at all. The
only options in this situation were for either both parties to collaborate in
mutually beneficial circumstances or to hold off on any agreement until both
parties were ready for a win/win deal to be struck. In conflict resolution
terms, such a situation is called ripeness.
In 1989, Covey adapted the game theory terms of Deutsch (1973) into
what he called "six paradigms of human interaction." The first five are covered
essentially in the five tactics of negotiation for public relations outlined in
the Conceptualization for this study. Two participants in this study did not
mention these first five but instead emphasized directly the sixth paradigm,
win/win or no deal. Covey said, "If these individuals had not come up with a
synergistic solution -- one that is agreeable to both -- they could have gone
for an even higher expression of Win/Win -- Win/Win or no deal" (p. 213). The
no deal addition to the term win/win means that if the parties cannot find a
solution that would benefit both, then they would agree to disagree -- no deal.
At least one party wants a win and wants the other party to win, too. The only
alternative, Covey said: "It would be better not to deal than to live with a
decision that wasn't right for us both. Then maybe another time we might be
able to get together" (p. 214). With no deal as a viable alternative to a
dispute, then the participants in this study could use it to resolve their
Unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal are alternatives
that were used by participants in this study to get past a stalemate on the way
to resolving problems. There are a number of models of the dynamic process of
conflict resolution. They consist of various stages, from emergence to
contention, escalation, de-escalation, and, finally, resolution. One stage of
these models is usually stalemate, where neither party can progress toward a
resolution of the conflict. Usually this stalemate involves power and
contending tactics by the parties in the dispute. In this study, however, the
stalemate is viewed positively. The opposing sides give up on cooperative
problem solving for the time being until the conflict is ripe for resolution.
The conflict must evolve to the point where the parties are willing and able to
find a solution that integrates their interests. Mitchell (1981) referred to
this starting point for ending a conflict as one of perceived success, a mutual
desire from both sides to come out of the conflict in a better situation than
they entered it. Once this state is achieved for both sides then they can
engage in problem solving, or find a solution that integrates their underlying
Problem solving is the process mentioned earlier by Putnam (1990)
that includes reframing positions to interests and the abundance mentality of
Covey (1989). This is the concept that "there is plenty out there for
everybody." Perhaps Pruitt and Rubin (1986) described best these many forms of
problem solving where a win/win is the result. They included the alternatives
of expanding the pie, which expands the resources available to the parties or
increases the available outcomes (Mitchell, 1981); and bridging where neither
party achieves initial demands, but a new option is devised that satisfies the
most important interests underlying those demands. The problems in the dispute
are reframed until most of them are satisfied.
Although these additional forms of win/win can be found in the
literature, the results of this study helped to adapt the first level of
investigation in the guiding hypotheses. This was the integration of the
two-way models, negotiation tactics, mixed motives, interests, being
unconditionally constructive, and win/win or no deal. The integration of these
issues might change the new model of symmetry for two-way public relations
practices to look something like Figure 4:
Mixed Motive Model of Public Relations
Contention Cooperation Accommodation
1-Way _ _ _ _ _ _ 1-Way
Avoidance Unconditional Compromise
Win/Win or ND
Interests of Organization and Publics
The box represents all of the independent, complementary and common
interests for both the organization and its strategic publics. The box also
encompasses the alternatives of negotiation tactics for both parties. The
arrows above the dotted line extending through the win/win zone shows that
these alternatives can flow both ways through the win/win zone to less desirable
Note the absence of the terms asymmetrical and symmetrical. That is
because the definition of mixed motives is a combination of asymmetric and
symmetric communication. This model deals with degrees of each over the
spectrum of asymmetric and symmetric communication. The only way to represent
two ends on either side of the model would be to represent the one-way models of
press agentry and public information. The two-way models would not quite extend
to the one-way model ends. Two-way symmetrical communication is not entirely
win/win. It can include elements of compromise, accommodation, and even
avoidance since part of avoidance is unconditional or win/win or no deal.
Likewise, two-way asymmetrical is not entirely contending but can include
elements of all the other negotiation tactics. Remember, mixed motives still
looks after the best interests of the organization itself. It is an enlightened
self-interest stating that what is best for itself is best for its public, too.
Membership in the Dominant Coalition
The second level of the guiding hypotheses dealt with the entree of
public relations managers into the dominant coalition through their experience.
In the last part of the Results chapter, this level was changed to three
research statements. Research statements 3 and 4 depend on experience. The
two second level research statements were:
3. Public relations managers use this knowledge and experience
with the addition of ability to do strategic planning and good
judgement to solve
problems for the organization in the new two-way model of public
4. Public relations managers are empowered through solving
problems for the organization to become members of the dominant
The experience set forth in research statements 3 and 4 included
both expertise in the technical functions of public relations and ability to
resolve problems for the organization. The ability to resolve problems depended
on knowledge and experience of two-way communication and negotiation tactics.
This ability led to participation in strategic planning and to membership in the
dominant coalition. Distilling these patterns further for this study could lead
to the statement that:
Membership in the dominant coalition for public relations
on the experience and ability to do strategic planning and
solve problems for
The number-one characteristic of communication excellence in
organizations is manager role expertise according to the recent Excellence Study
and its follow-up case studies. The expertise to be a communication manager is
tied closely to expertise to engage in two-way practices of communication. The
specific manager role revealed in this study is the problem-solving process
facilitator role that helps management evaluate problems systematically to find
a solution (Dozier & Broom, 1995). This role involves the strategic management
of relationships with publics. Strategic management means "the balancing of
internal processes of organizations with external factors" (Dozier et al. p.
The Excellence Study and its follow-up case studies showed that top
communication departments combined knowledge of both manager and technician
roles. Further, these studies said that the role of communication manager and
senior advisor should be combined, the former on a formal basis and the latter
giving informal advice that leads to more formal influence in strategic
This study confirmed those findings. Part of the experience factor
for membership in the dominant coalition was expertise in the tools of public
relations like writing, newsletters, and media relations. But that was just the
beginning. The rest of the equation for experience from the perspective of the
dominant coalition was expertise in two-way communications, negotiation tactics,
and strategic planning. When informal advising was included, almost all of the
participants in this study, both managers of public relations and members of the
dominant coalition, filled the criteria of communication manager and senior
advisor making substantial contributions to strategic planning.
Another finding in the follow-up case studies to the Excellence
Study was that top communicators become part of the dominant coalition only over
time. Most recently, in a 10-CEO study Foster (1995) found that the chemistry
that exists between the CEO and the senior public relations executive is more
critical than that among any other senior executives in a company. Several of
the public relations managers in this study reiterated that point. Often, a
public relations manager will become a part of the dominant coalition only after
a trust relationship has been built over time, of course dependant on the other
factors of experience already discussed. The 10-CEO study also found that this
relationship begins with "sound judgement that has been put to the test
Another pattern found in the case studies follow-up to the
Excellence Study was that "Gaining the trust of senior management depends in
large part on knowing the business or industry, as well as public relations" (L.
Grunig et al., 1994, p. 67). This study found weaker support for this
conclusion. However, in example after example, participants said they needed
such knowledge to resolve communication problems for their organizations.
The findings of this study, then, predominately concur with the
state of the field for both practice and theory in public relations. It
strongly reinforces the fact that the typical practice of public relations
involves mixed motives. It begins to flesh out what mixed motives means,
especially when the definition of two-way symmetrical communication is given as
one of negotiation between parties for mutual benefit. This study answers
questions of the degree of negotiation solutions to problem-solving for public
relations and what is meant by mutual benefit. It also adds the concepts of
unconditionally constructive and win/win or no deal to the lexicon of symmetric
or win/win communication. It differs from the new model of symmetry in public
relations in that mixed motives are not symmetric but can stretch along the
entire spectrum of the new model to include asymmetric communication either from
the dominant coalition or the strategic publics' perspective. The study also
introduces other alternatives of win/win or ways to get past stalemate to
include expanding the pie or bridging.
What it Means
The abiding question of this study was: How does public relations
become an essential part of top management? That answer is that a public
relations manager must have the experience and the ability to participate in
long-term strategic planning and solve problems for the organization. To do
this, the public relations manager must gain knowledge and experience in the
seven negotiation tactics; the mixed motives of the two-way models of symmetry
for public relations.
Dominant coalitions are looking for a return on investment for most
changes they make in their organizational structure. They are looking for
people in their organizations that help satisfy their own agenda for the
organization. That return on investment for public relations is strategic
planning and problem-solving. As Carrington (1992) emphasized, there is a
shortage of communicators with the conflict resolution skills that can practice
the win/win skills that CEOs of excellent organizations seek. Excellent
organizations need public relations managers with skills in two-way
communication and strategic planning (J. Grunig, 1992a). Again, they can get
those skills from knowledge and experience in the use of the two-way negotiation
model for public relations (Figure 3).
Any long-term relationship, whether it be between a public relations
manager and the dominant coalition, or an organization and its strategic
publics, depends mostly on activity that is reciprocally positive for its
survival. This study has shown that short-term two-way asymmetrical or
contending tactics can have a place in a long-term relationship. Those
activities, however, are outweighed by longer-term, two-way symmetrical tactics
that can include avoidance, accommodation, compromise, cooperation,
unconditionally constructive, and win/win or no deal.
Recommendations for Further Research
A number of questions arose from these conclusions that deserve
further investigation. Are short-term asymmetrical communication practices
subordinate to long-term symmetrical practices as Dozier et al., (1995)
suggested? Or, should those communication practices be considered separately
from tactics or interests? Can short-term and long-term public relations be
contradictory and complementary at the same time? Should solutions to problems
be considered sequentially? Or, should they be considered concurrently in mixed
motive relationships as this study might suggest? Can solutions to problems
truly be benignly asymmetrical with the parties involved acting as cooperative
This study seems to modify the new model of symmetry for two-way
public relations practices to a broader spectrum, mixed motive model of public
relations. Are there other options to this model? And, in the win/win zone,
what other types of win/win are there besides possibly expanding the pie and
bridging? Do these other types of win/win serve to get around stalemate, or
will those other types of win/win be something new altogether? If the other
side will not agree, regardless of any other options, what about dealing beyond
unconditionally constructive or win/win or no deal?
This study, like most research in conflict resolution, made the
assumption of dyadic negotiation behavior, offering prescriptions to parties
prepared to enter one-on-one negotiation (Fisher & Ury, 1981; Pruitt & Rubin,
1986; Walton & McKersie, 1965). By comparison, what about dealing with multiple
publics with multiple interests: How do you negotiate with multiple publics?
These subjects remain neglected topics (Polzer, Mannix, & Neale, 1995).
In creating the mixed motive model for public relations, I suggested
that the ends of the model be one-way public relations models, as in press
agentry and public information. Does that make sense? This study suggested
that one-way techniques in public relations could be used in two-way programs
for public relations. Perhaps the separation of the one-way and two-way models
should be re-investigated with the
mixed motives model in mind. Likewise, perhaps the technician versus
manager roles in public relations
would bear further scrutiny in light of the mixed motives model.
The possibilities are exciting. The field of public relations
definitely seems to be expanding, and ripe -- ready to explore.
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