Measuring excellence in public relations has been a much talked about but elusive concept in PR scholarship over the past several decades. In a unique partnership between researchers at Mount Saint Vincent University and the Public Affairs Branch of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), this study puts Excellence to the test. By first establishing a metric to define and measure excellence, and then applying that measurement to public relations practice at the AER, this research offers a comprehensive analysis of excellence in public relations practice within an applied, organizational context. Highlighting the relationships between organizational culture and communication, this Excellence in Organizational Context model was tested using empirical data gathered through in-depth semi-structured interviews and a self-report questionnaire survey conducted with individuals from various identified organizational stakeholder groups. The researchers took this mixed-method approach to explore and understand the multi-dimensional nature of PR practice within this organization.
Initial findings indicate that the Excellence in Organizational Context model proposed here is a valid and appropriate method for measuring public relations performance when applied as a mixed-method approach for measuring practice and establishing context within an organizational culture. This indicates the need for both organizational, stakeholder, and sector/national level data in confirming relevant benchmarks.
Amy Thurlow, PhD, APR, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University, where she teaches public relations management, communication studies, and organizational communication.
Thurlow’s research interests focus on the areas of identity construction, critical historiography and organizational communication. Grounded in an approach of critical theory, her work has looked at the impact of communication on organizational change strategies, the role of power and legitimation in the construction of organizational and individual identities, and the relationship between history and theory in understandings of knowledge production.
She is an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) and a member of the Canadian Public Relations Society.