The impact of managers' characteristics on the use of public relations strategy : an exploratory study in Queensland schools

Macpherson, Elizabeth Letitia (2010) The impact of managers' characteristics on the use of public relations strategy : an exploratory study in Queensland schools. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


While previous positive and normative studies have focused on the role public relations should play in organisations and the need for management in all organisations to attend to public relations (Cutlip et al., 2006), there has been little discussion in the public relations literature on why or how managers choose to enact public relations strategies for their organisations. If the discipline of public relations is to cement itself as a management function, then researchers must gain a better understanding of managers themselves given that they are the ones who decide if and how public relations strategies should be employed in the organisation. This study has sought to explore evidence of a relationship between management characteristics and their impact on decisions managers make when choosing which public relations strategies to adopt in response to changes in the organisation’s operating environment.

This exploratory research study has been conducted within a specific context of schools in Queensland, Australia. Queensland schools have been facing a number of changes within their operating environment due to changes in Federal funding models in Australia’s education system. This study used an exploratory, qualitative approach to understand the management characteristics demonstrated by managers in schools and how these have impacted on the selection of public relations strategies for responding to their changing and increasingly competitive environment. The unit of analysis for this research study was principals in State (government) schools and in non-government schools. Ten principals were interviewed from four different types of schools in Queensland – the more traditional, elite, private schools (GPS Schools); other Independent Schools; Catholic Schools; and State (or public) schools. These interviews were analysed for quantitative comparisons of the managers’ characteristics across the different schools (in terms of the number of principals in each age bracket, those holding postgraduate qualifications, years of experience etc.); and for qualitative data to provide a greater sense of their understanding of public relations.

The 10 schools were selected within a geographic area from Brisbane’s inner city to its outer western suburbs to include an element of competition amongst those managers being interviewed. A detailed review of government, school and other public documents was also conducted to gain an insight into the environment in which principals made decisions about public relations strategy to respond to increasing competition.

This study found support for the literature on the relationship between management characteristics and strategy. However, there was also variation in findings warranting further investigation of the literature on the relationship between management characteristics and strategy in a school setting. Key relationships found in this study were between: management characteristics themselves; age and the use of public relations strategies; and gender and the use of public relations strategies. There was also evidence of support for the literature linking the impact that the combination of managers’ age, education and experience had on the use of public relations strategies.

While this study was exploratory in nature, it did reveal a number of areas that require further investigation to gain a deeper understanding of how and why managers choose public relations strategies as a response to changes in their operating environment. It also provided a different framework to gain a better understanding of managers’ understanding and support of public relations in schools, which, in conjunction with an analysis of their management characteristics, will hopefully allow public relations scholars and practitioners alike gain an understanding of how and why managers use public relations strategies.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 39148
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Bartlett, Jennifer & Drennan, Judy
Keywords: public relations, strategy, management characteristics, private schools, state schools, principals, environment
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Dec 2010 04:54
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:00

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