Defining public relations in New Zealand through its history and practice

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Sele, Morten
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Master of International Communication
Unitec Institute of Technology
Mason, Edgar
Rolland, Deborah
Masters Dissertation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
public relations in New Zealand
Sele, M. (2006). Defining public relations in New Zealand through its history and practice. Unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of International Communication, Unitec New Zealand, New Zealand.
This project sets out to examine how public relations is conceptualised in theory and in practice in New Zealand. Further it aims to advise the profession’s future direction. An examination of the PR literature identified three struggles within the professional field of Public relations; (1) a gap between theory and practice, (2) PR is struggling with a bad reputation, and (3) there exists a huge diversity within the practice of PR, which makes it hard to offer a concrete definition of what PR is. The review showed that there are clear historical reasons for these struggles, and that they are slowing down the ongoing professionalisation of an ever increasing important practice to organisational communication. A survey was conducted amongst Public Relations Institute of New Zealand’s 735 working members (Student members were excluded as most of the questions in the questionnaire would be irrelevant to them), and with a response rate of 21%, the questionnaire more or less backed up the struggles. In-depth interviews were conducted on four senior practitioners in New Zealand, where the results from the questionnaires were discussed, and advices for the future of the profession were given. The project concludes with several areas of research that must be conducted by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ). PRINZ should in particular pay attention to Great Britain, where the industry has become chartered. The process that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR) has been through and their experiences from this shift should be studied by PRINZ in detail. The dissertation also recommends PRINZ to continue its communications with the tertiary institutions in New Zealand, as well as the media. It is also important that Statistics NZ understands what public relations is all about. The dissertation concludes that the struggles listed above, need to be taken seriously by PRINZ, as they are decelerating the ongoing professionalisation of public relations in New Zealand. It is important to emphasise that the purpose of this report was not to generate a quantitative overview of the PR industry in New Zealand, rather the report intended to capture a ‘snapshot’ of the practice today.
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