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PR theory Essay

The article Power Over, Power With, and Power to Relations: Critical Reflections on Public Relations, the Dominant Coalition, and Activism by Bruce K. Berger (2005) talks about the “Dominant Coalition” in the Public Relations (PR) world. It focuses on a theory that the dominant coalition is a major influence in making organisational decisions, but not much is known about the things that go on inside the dominant coalition’s tight and limited “inner circle” (Berger 2005: 6).

With a total of 21 interviews from PR men and women, Berger (2005) got an insider’s point of view of the dominant coalition in the PR world, showing the intertwined relationships and problems encountered in it. Some of the problems prevent PR practitioners from doing the “right” thing despite knowing the right thing to do (Berger 2005: 6). The author argues that in order for PR to have a significant use for the population at large, those involved in the business have to accept that activism could be the best means to achieve this (Berger 2005).

The main point of this article is the dominant coalition and its role in public relations. A public relations practitioner’s decision making is thought to be geared towards the right thing once he or she has become a member of the dominant. However, the author argues that the complex happenings inside the dominant coalition make it difficult for practitioners to really do the right thing even if they want to (Berger 2005: 6). Berger (2005) provides six propositions based on interviews with 21 public relations executives.

To recapitulate his first section, the author provides a summary at the end. This is an important feature of every article. In the summary, Berger reiterates the role of the dominant coalition in PR theory and the reason why PR managers should be part of the dominant coalition. As managers, they should have an influence over what goes on in their organisation, and when or if they do get inside, it has always been thought that they always do the right thing for everyone concerned with the organisation.

The rest of the paper is therefore an attempt to confirm whether this assumption is true or not, and more importantly, the article aims to draw a picture of the complex world of the dominant coalition (Berger 2005). In trying to open up the dominant coalition, Berger (2005) has come up with 6 Propositions based on interviews . Proposition 1 breaks the myth about the existence of one coalition per organisation. Berger’s (2005) interviews reveal that there is almost certainly more than one dominant coalition per company.

Proposition 2 reveals that venues constantly change from formal to informal. Proposition 3 shows that the absence of the leader poses a lot of trouble. Proposition 4 answers whether decisions by the dominant coalition are always final—they are not. Proposition 5 suggests that the coalition may value the opinion of public relations but almost always demand some kind of press release. Lastly, Berger’s (2005) sixth proposition states that PR professionals are also subject to the pressures of organisational compliance.

All of these propositions are of course relative to Berger’s interpretation of the interviews he has gathered. The author has merely expressed his answers and opinions regarding the dominant coalition in Public Relations. However, being an expert in the field of PR, he has every right to publish his work because the people he has interviewed are or were from the world of Public Relations. The article serves its intended purpose—to open the dominant coalition in PR theory to the readers.

The author has provided six propositions that give a glimpse of what really goes on inside the closed doors of the dominant coalition. Sources are numerous and credible, which may be interpreted as overkill by some critics but nevertheless effective. List of Reference Berger, B. K. (2005) ‘Power Over, Power With, and Power to Relations: Critical Reflections on Public Relations, the Dominant Coalition, and Activism. ’ Journal of Public Relations Research [online] 17, (1) 5–28. Informaworld. [4 May 2009]


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