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Communicating strategically: public relations and organisational legitimacy

This thesis aims to facilitate an understanding of some of the critical debates in public relations theory and practice. It joins others in contributing to a shift from a functional systems-based public relations paradigm to one where public relations is transparently seen as playing a role in shaping democracy in a global society. The research analyses NATO's communication operations in the Kosovo Campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, examining the case from a number of different perspectives. The thesis contributes to the body of knowledge of public relations practices and how, in this case, they were used to inform and persuade publics of the moral cause of a bombing mission to achieve specific strategic organisational and communication goals. Further, it contextualises the case of NATO as an organisation facing a crisis in legitimacy following the end of the Cold War. It demonstrates how the Kosovo Campaign provided a vehicle to transform NATO's identity while retaining military capabilities, to make the organisation relevant to the global demands of the 21st century. In this way, NATO could claim a unique self and maintain its credibility and relevance. The thesis argues that NATO's public relations campaign was successful in maintaining both credibility and popular support for a 78-day bombing campaign within the 19 nations of the Alliance. The campaign allowed NATO to claim that it was the only organisation that could provide ii security and stability, as well as be the main bulwark of the defence of Western values in a rapidly globalising and changing world. Moreover, by framing the Kosovo air campaign as a humanitarian intervention, NATO was not only able to legitimise its actions but transform its military might with an acceptable human face in order to achieve its broader ideological goals in Europe. This thesis demonstrates how military interventions on behalf of powerful interests can be legitimised if the appropriate public relations framework is used and acceptable communication strategies employed. It suggests how citizens of democratic countries can be led to support decision-makers who present themselves as acting altruistically even when their actions may be self-interested.
Type of thesis
Schoenberger-Orgad, M. A. (2007). Communicating strategically: public relations and organisational legitimacy (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2630
The University of Waikato
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