INTEGRATING STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT: EVALUATING PUBLIC RELATIONS AS RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT IN INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION
Smith, Brian G.
Toth, Elizabeth L.
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There is a gap in public relations and marketing communication literature. In spite of increasing professional use of integrated communication--a process by which organizations coordinate the communication functions and activities for stakeholder impact--public relations roles have been under-developed in scholarship. In fact, most insights on public relations and integration appear to be opinion-based and normative. Hallahan (2007) has argued that the literature is "fragmentary and hardly conclusive" (p. 308), and other scholars claim that integrated communication research is still in its pre-paradigmatic stages of development (Kerr, et al., 2008) as research emphasizes definitions and perceptions (Kliatchko, 2008, p. 133). This research--a multi-case study of three organizations that carry out varying levels of integration--addresses the need to outline and evaluate public relations and integrated communication from a theoretical perspective. This study considers public relations a strategic relationship management function, consistent with Grunig (2006a), Ledingham (2006) and other public relations scholars. This perspective is in contrast with that of marketing communication scholars, who consider public relations a marketing support function (Keh, Nguyen, Ng, 2007; Debreceny & Cochrane, 2004; Hendrix, 2004). This study demonstrates that concerns that integrating public relations and marketing may lead to marketing imperialism and "an inferior technical role" for public relations, as Hallahan's (2007) review of the literature discovered (p. 305), may be based in opinion only, and may not represent professional practice. In fact, higher levels of integration yield a greater emphasis on public relations as a strategic relationship management function. This research also demonstrates that integration occurs naturally, regardless of organizational structure. In spite of varying levels of integration evident at each organization (based on the structure outlined by Duncan and Caywood  and Caywood ) integration is a natural process based on internal relationships and connections--a process I refer to as "organic integration." This multi-case study fulfills three challenges facing public relations and integrated communication proposed by Hallahan (2007). It provides a research-based definition of integrated communication, considers the theoretical convergence of public relations and integrated communication, and it conceptualizes organizational communication and department structures (p. 309-313).