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Title: When interests collide : the story of an industry-community relationship
Author: Jahansoozi, Julia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 8228
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis makes a new contribution to the field of public relations in the area of organization-public relationships (OPRs). The thesis focuses on a petroleum industry-community relationship in Sundre, Alberta, Canada, which was explored in-depth. A qualitative phenomenological orientation was adopted as it suited the focus of the research which was to explore and describe the lived experiences of the actual participants involved in the Organization-Public Relationship phenomenon as well as how they described the relational elements and related them to their experience of the OPR. In-depth interviews, as the primary method, were conducted with both industry and community members. Secondary methods played an important but minor role and were used primarily for the purpose of the researcher as a tool to double check the interview findings and included participant observation, discourse analysis, and a small co-orientation survey. The empirical research undertaken uncovered the importance of the background context of the OPR when engaging in relationship building and maintenance activities, opinions regarding the relational elements, relationship building processes, including the importance of having communication and trust building workshops. An interesting finding for this particular industry-community relationship emerged concerning the influence of ‘management guru’ Stephen Covey’s work which shaped the way the industry and community members engaged with each other. Trust emerged as the fundamental relational element, whilst transparency was critical for rebuilding trust after a crisis. This thesis has added to the body of theoretical knowledge in the field of public relations. Specifically it extended the understanding of an area of practice, community relations, and it has explored options for the management of activism and community engagement. The thesis also contributes to public relations practice. Public relations practitioners working within the oil and gas industry as well as other non-renewable resource extraction industries are responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with key publics, including the communities they operate within. Practitioners need to be able to work with the relational parties and collaborate in the development of processes that meet the needs of the participants. As practitioners shift their focus to developing relationships with key publics they will need to develop new skills in areas such as conflict resolution, community engagement, and interpersonal relationship building. This piece of research is functional as it reflects on the OPR and highlights findings that are useful for gaining insight into the relational dynamics for academics and practitioners as well as questioning the power distribution and dynamics within this particular OPR. By adopting the phenomenological approach it has provided a representation of an OPR, which whilst it cannot be generalized it does provide a richer understanding of how relationship building processes can operate as well as the importance of trust and transparency building when there has been a relational history of hostility, distrust and deep unhappiness. Further qualitative research should explore the development and maintenance of the other OPRs in order to understand more about the various contexts, processes, content and ability to set agendas within relationships. It would also be interesting to further explore the influence of management gurus and management fashions adopted or promoted by senior management involved in OPRs and illuminate how these approaches are implemented and impact an organization’s external relationships.
Supervisor: L'Etang, Jacquie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Organization-public relationships ; Community relations ; Petroleum industry ; Trust ; Transparency ; Covey ; Community relations Trust ; Petroleum chemicals industry Communities Canada Case studies