The formation of dominant voice in issue arenas
Abstract The aim of the present study was to map out required changes to current stakeholder thinking in public relations (PR) research and practice for a better suited model for PR professionals. The concept of issue arenas (Luoma-aho & Vos 2009) was adopted for the future direction of stakeholder thinking. Further, a central aspect of PR management on issue arenas is the division of voice – or indirect power – of different players. It was suggested that gaining a dominant voice in an issue arena would facilitate the attainment of organizational goals. Meaning was considered cental in this process. This thesis, focused, on the formation of dominant voice in issue arenas. Two research questions were selected. These were 1) What are the constituents of dominant voice in an issue arena? and 2) How is dominant voice formed in an inter-organizational context? Both research questions help defining central elements of and provide tools for future PR research and practice challenges by investigating new areas of research. The research method was a combination of multiple approaches. First, there are elements of a conceptual paper, as many features of the central concepts have not been defined earlier. One form of this was the creation of new theoretical model for the formation of dominant voice in issue arenas. Second, a wide array of literature was used in a way that could loosely be defined as literature review. Finally, a practical case example was provided to test the theoretical model in a real-life setting by theoretical means. Dominant voice was seen to consist of at least three factors. These were 1) one or few players lead the discussion on an issue, 2) other players refer to the dominant player(s), and 3) dominance is witnessed within managing meanings, not necessarily attributed to direct power. Moreover, two strategies were identified for the formation of dominant voice in an inter-organizational context. These were dominance through resources and dominance through recognition. Dominance through resources refers to the material resources through which an organization can provide value for other players on an issue arena, or the ownership of media space via more quantity and quality communications than other players can. Dominance through recognition refers to the charismatic character of one player who has gained the position granted by other players due to a recognition building trait or capacity to act. Finally, alliances were seen instrumental catalysts to both strategies. The findings of the present thesis suggest that the identification of relevant issues should precede the identification of stakeholders. Also, key to success in today's operating environment comes from giving key importance to the management of zones of meaning as a fundamental aspect of the PR practice. ...
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