What Role Does Public Relations Play in German Communication Agencies? How do they Understand and Apply Public Relations Concepts?
In the course of globalisation (which includes global trade and the quick penetration of new media technologies), the public is increasingly fragmented into various stakeholder groups. In order to meet the communication needs of these groups, an increasing demand of public relation (PR) services can be recognised. Until now the acceptance of the PR field in Germany can still be improved a lot in comparison to other parts of the world where PR is already accepted as an inherent part of the field of communication. My PhD project will attempt to evaluate – from a practitioners’ point of view – how far the general lack of PR acceptance in German society is linked to the historical background of the 20 th century. PR is at the same a field of communication which becomes increasingly important for German communication agencies today. Nowadays global markets are facing stronger competition which forces companies to communicate beyond the classical marketing mix. In a more and more fragmented portfolio of stakeholder groups, companies have to communicate preselected and tailored information to each of these groups to ensure a balanced as well as high quality level of exchange. Consequently the question arises whether fast-changing communicational environments are influencing the PR field in Germany and whether they have an impact on the daily business of communication agencies. This research will therefore ask if PR services are perceived to be able to serve as a strategic function in order to generate competitive advantages. In order to study the significance of the field of PR, my PhD project will rely on the analysis of Anglophone as well as German literature in the field of Public Relations/ Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. This analysis will be combined with a qualitative sample of semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted with experts from German communication agencies. The experts interviewed will be representatives of German marketleading communication agencies (mostly in managerial positions). The research will be supplemented by consulting individual academics and practitioners who can provide essential data concerning the structure of the German communication market. The PhD project will examine whether there are specific communicational and economical parameters which are responsible for the current reputation and position of Public Relations in Germany. The main research question is: How do German communication agencies understand and apply Public Relations concepts?