“Let’s have a dialogue”: the potential risks of dialogue for corporations

Theunissen, PS
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AUT University

Dialogue is often touted as the preferred and most ethical form of public relations practice; its potential risks and disadvantages often glossed over in Public Relations theory. Equally, corporate identity is perceived as being constructed and managed by the organization, suggesting that it is relatively static in nature and that it can be controlled. Using Lee Edwards’ (2010) recent criticism that Public Relations scholars’ view of corporate identity is superficial and overly simplistic, this paper argues that dialogue contributes to the construction of ‘authentic’ identities (assuming that such identities exist) and explores the nature of dialogue and its relationship to corporate identity. It suggests that dialogue can become a double-edged sword: assisting in the formation of corporate identity while potentially exposing manufactured ones. Perceived, then, from an organization’s point of view, dialogue carries potential risk, and one must consequently ask whether it is indeed (and should be) the most desirable form of Public Relations practice.

Presentation at the 2011 Journalism, Media and Democracy conference (JMAD '11): Political Economy of Communication, Auckland, New Zealand
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