Causing and navigating crises: Activist dilemmas between asymmetry and symmetry

TitleCausing and navigating crises: Activist dilemmas between asymmetry and symmetry
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Ciszek, E.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Oregon
Section or WGCrisis Communication Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeCRIW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)CRIW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitlePanel: Causing Crises and Navigating Political Struggle (s): Activists’ dilemmas between symmetry and asymmetry
Submission ID5606

In July 2012, the President and chief operating officer of Chick-Fil-A (a U.S. based fast food chain), made explicit during a radio interview his opposition to same sex marriage. In the media stories that followed, it was reported that from 2008 to 2010, the Cathy family’s nonprofit (the WinShape Foundation) had donated $3.2 million to groups opposing same sex marriage. This episode marked the latest act in the battle between the U.S. Religious Right and LGBT activists. The episode highlights, in part, the role of social media in fueling activist strategies. The public relations literature, however, has often refused to embrace activists as public relations practitioners and has had difficulty articulating a coherent strategy for dealing with activist groups as a public.Through a case study, this research proposes a postmodern approach to examine the ways dissensus functions in the organization-activist relation (Holtzhausen, 2000). This research considers dissensus an alternative conceptualization and suggests the ways it serves as a fruitful site for theoretical consideration. This case study is a critical examination of the discursive nature of power in organization-activist public relations (Edwards, 2009). Functionalism, as the basis of Excellence theory, does not fully account for power differentials and has made questions of activism problematic. By embracing a postmodern approach, scholars can move toward a broader conceptualization of power, control and meaning in activist organization public relations.

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