Från ingenjörskonst till informatörskonst : Studier av PR och riskkommunikation

Sammanfattning: Eriksson, M., Från ingenjörskonst till informatörskonst: Studier av PR och riskkommunikation (From Engineering to Public Relations: Studies of PR and risk communication). Written in Swedish with English summery. Örebro studies in Media and Communication 2.This thesis discusses the external risk communication of industrial companies. Such risk communication is here viewed as a division of the companies’ PR operations. There are some central weak points in current risk communication research. Up to now, this research has been dominated by a psychometric perspective and is to a great degree perception-oriented and lacking in a wider organisational perspective. A means for reaching a deeper understanding of the importance of organisational aspects in risk communication is to seek theoretical influences outside the traditional risk communication research. In this study, the two adjacent research areas of risk communication and public relations are thus cross-fertilised for the purpose of making such a knowledge contribution. The aim of the study is to examine the importance of the organisational conditions for the management of risk communication as well as to study how risk communication is developed over time. This is effected in the form of a critical analysis by the productivity of Grunig’s PR theory for the risk communication field, applied on empirical findings collected from four companies in the risk management industry (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co., Rohm and Haas Nordiska, Preem Raffinaderi and Skandinaviska Raffinaderi). The study uses qualitative and comparative case studies, where the empirical data has been collected through interviews and document studies. To summerise the result of the different case studies, I make the following conclusion: (1) The internal-organisational conditions are of great importance to the way in which PR and risk communication is managed and developed. (2) A more mechanical structure and authoritarian attitude towards employees and the public give primarily asymmetrical techniques, methods and strategies (3) A more organic structure and egalitarian attitude give both asymmetrical and symmetrical communication in the proactive work. (4) When development of PR and risk communication is underway, messages are changed longitudinally from being based on facts and positive arguments to more obvious offers of exchange, ethical appeals and invitations to dialogue. (5) When PR and risk communication make for higher levels on the risk communication ladder, prevailing notions and structures in the organisation are also renegotiated. The thesis concludes that Grunig’s theory in some way is productive for risk communication, but it also points out several weak things in Grunig’s concept. Among other things, these concern the fact that the causal thinking about the link between the organisational conditions and the communicative strategies to a high degree appear as circular reasoning. The theory’s division between authoritarian and egalitarian oriented cultures is also debateable as it to a great degree only focuses on instrumental values in the organisation. Even the distinction between asymmetrical and symmetrical communication can be criticised, among other things due to vague operationalisation and its one-dimensional character.In order to develop the organisational dimension of risk communication, a more symbolistic perspective is proposed. The symbolistic perspective signifies, among other things, a more distinct integration of the internal and the external as well as the informal (imaginary) and formal (physical) within the organisations. In addition, the symbolistic perspective reduces the importance of the causal thinking in the Grunig theory and its central distinction between asymmetry and symmetry becomes less important. Instead, the focus is increasingly on the rhetoric and symbolism with leaders, communicators and in information material etc.

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