Public Relations Leadership in the Context of Atlantic Canadian Universities
Mount Saint Vincent University
While leadership has been a long-studied phenomenon in management and organizational behaviour, it has received little attention in public relations until relatively. Juan Meng and Bruce Berger (Meng, 2012; Meng, Berger, Gower & Heyman, 2012; Meng & Berger, 2013) can be credited with the most recent and comprehensive work on public relations leadership. They conceptualized excellent leadership in public relations and identified the leadership dimensions practitioners should employ to facilitate public relations effectiveness. What remains unknown, however, is a) whether there is agreement between practitioner understanding of public relations leadership and the prescribed definition of excellent leadership in public relations; b) whether practitioners perceive themselves as aligning with the key dimensions; and c) how practitioner role and gender influence this alignment. This qualitative study of public relations practitioners in Atlantic Canadian universities contributes to our understanding on these points. This study employs the existing principles of the excellent leadership in public relations theoretical construct (Meng, 2012; Meng, Berger, Gower & Heyman, 2012; Meng & Berger, (2013) to increase understanding of public relations leadership in a Canadian context and expand on development of the excellent leadership in public relations theory. Overall, how study participants understand and interpret public relations leadership is consistent with the excellent leadership in public relations theoretical construct. Notably extending the integrated model, however, this study found that it is the attributes of a leader in public relations in addition to the communication and public relations work one produces that supports and elevates the quality of the communication team’s work; and that public relations leadership boosts the credibility of the profession as well as the organization. Further, this study also suggests that public relations leadership does not allow for informal leaders (i.e., those without formal authority to influence others), because participants indicated that a leader in public relations must be in a position of authority within the university. This finding is contrary to the excellent leadership in public relations theoretical construct; Meng & Berger (2013) assert that leadership is not limited to senior levels in organizations and can be found at every level.
Public relations, leadership, Atlantic Canadian universities