TOWARD A THEORY OF JUST COMMUNICATION: A CASE STUDY OF NATO, MULTINATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, AND ETHICAL MANAGEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT
Van Dyke, Mark A.
Grunig, James E.
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation used a qualitative, case study to explore how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) applied strategic public relations management during peace operations in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1995 to 1996. The purpose of this research was to propose a model of ethical communication that extended the excellence theory in public relations and contributed to a global public relations theory. This proposed model relies on an ethical framework for moral reasoning that helps justify public relations decisions. The model incorporates interdisciplinary concepts drawn from the situational theory of publics, the excellence theory, an activist theory of communication, a moral theory of just war, and game theory. Fourteen long interviews, four elite interviews, and three focus group interviews explained how NATO applied principles of the excellence theory and global theory in public relations, how organizational culture and conflict influenced NATO communication management, and how NATO leaders made communication decisions. It had been assumed that NATO's political-military, authoritarian nature would lead the alliance to reject symmetrical communication and to adopt asymmetrical communication strategies. The study found that NATO mixed symmetrical communication - and other principles of the excellence theory and global public relations - with asymmetrical strategies like coercion to manage conflict. The study also identified a constellation of divided cultures among NATO's 26 member nations that influenced alliance public relations. Furthermore, senior NATO leaders relied heavily on intuitive knowledge when making decisions, leaving communication choices vulnerable to ethical relativism. In conclusion, this study has significant implications for theory and practice. The integrated, coercive-collaborative model of ethical communication developed through this study offers normative and positive value for managing asymmetrical conflict situations in which one or more parties demonstrate no willingness to cooperate. This model retains the value of excellence in public relations, which produces strategic, long-term, symmetrical relationships. Demonstrating how symmetrical outcomes can be achieved through ethical application of short-term coercive as well as collaborative communication tactics represents a major leap forward for the excellence theory. Practical implications of this study extend to any organization that relies on communication to manage conflict, build strategic relationships, and reduce costs - especially in a global, multinational context.