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An Open-System Approach to Building Theory in Public Relations

By Arintya Iga Permata; 135120207121005

Department of Communication Science, Faculty of Social and Political Science
University of Brawijaya

Public relations is a profession that is in the realm of science communication which in

practice takes the theories or even in the process of building a new theory to support PR
practitioners in their work. In advance, i was learned about the role of public relations
theories that written by Watts (2006) within his thought a practitioner needs
profesionalism, but it is not as easy as you say “in my experience” because it was not
enough to ensure acceptance of advice. Beside that, knowledge needed to be based on

Public relations research is needed to develop a theory of public relations. In his research ,
Public Relations not only quasi -science but also apply a variety of other fields of science .

A further intellectual integration in which communication study would merge with

anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, and political science—and perhaps
other disciplines—to form a science of human behavior. Schramm expected that
communication study would lead this drive toward unification … of all behavioral
sciences around a communication core (Schramm, in Glen M. Broom, 2006, p.149)

Due to this time, the lines of conversation between PR theory and other bodies of
knowledge have not always been open (Cheney and Christensen, 2006). In this case, the
exploration of new theories that a wider range of public relations needs to be done.

Glen M. Broom is a researcher down his thoughts in the journal entitled An Open-System
Approach to Building Theory in Public Relations. In this Journal, the writer discusses the
need for new approaches in research to develop theories that can reaches beyond the
limited literature and paradigms. It also should be explaining about how the research is
conducted, how the data are analyzed, and how the findings are linked to theory and
practice (Broom, 2006).

The problems in this journal is the researchers tend to use closed system as the basis for the
formation of a theory. The researchers tend only developed theories of existing literatures
rather than construct a theory by charting new areas that have not been in explored for use
in the future research. Close system likened as a prospectors who looking for a gold nugget.
When breaking new ground, refining concepts, or exploring a new concept, it is unlikely that
there is a nugget to be found (Broom,2006).

Based on Walker and Avant (1983) and Caffee (1991) and Broom (2006) experiences on
open-system approach introduce the concept analysis process to build the theory with some
credits from the original authors, therefore the concept analysis process are:
1. Select a concept of interest

2. Determine purpose.

3. Identify how the concept has been defined and used.

4. Determine defining attributes.

5. Create a model case.

6. Create related, but different, cases.

7. Develop the measures.

8. Build theory around the focal concept

Broom (2006) says that “Concepts are the building blocks of theory, so the quality of theory
building in public relations depends on the soundness of the concepts used in the
construction.” The concepts must be defined empirically to avoiding the ambiguity when
used in other studies.

An open system is a system that regularly exchanges feedback with its external environment. If in a
case of a public relations do not deal with right and wrong method applied or what decisions must
be taken , it would have a negative impact on an organization's input and vice versa , if handled
properly can have an impact on the good input.

As an example, in 2013 the case that come from one of the companies that produce chocolate with
famous brand silverqueen got a lot of criticism and complaints from consumers as a result of the
discovery of worms in these products. It is then taken up by public relations PT . Ceres in which he
said that the products have been through quality control is good and the condition is usually
discovered due to a mismatch field conditions with standard factory. In addition to providing
information , public relations PT.Ceres also use the strategy through the media that invite one TV
station to record and demonstrate their factory work and the quality of the product itself.

Broom, G.M. (2006). An open-system approach to building theory in public relations. Journal of
Public Relations Research, 18 (2), 141-150.
Cheney, G., & Christensen, L.T.(2006). What should public relations theory do, practically speaking?.
Journal of Communication Management, 10 (1), 100-102. doi: 10.1108/13632540610646418
Watts, R. (2006). What is the role of public relation theory?. Journal of Communication
Management, 10 (1), 103-105. doi: 10.1108/13632540610646427