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Beyond Institutionalization of PR and Corporate Communication

(project completed in 2013)

Most of the academic and professional literature deals with the strategic role of the public relations function and managers (Grunig, Grunig, & Dozier, 2002; Murray & White, 2004; Steyn, 2007) within private and public organizations. The strategic role component consists of contributing to organiza­tional decision-making process, providing it with a societal view, and supporting the accomplishment of organizational strategies and goals (Steyn, 2007).

Recent quantitative studies (Invernizzi, 2008; Gregory, 2008; Swerling et al., 2008; Zerfass et al., 2008) provide evidence of an ongoing process of institutionalisation of the public relations function within American, European and Italian organizations. The involvement of PR managers with the dominant coalition and the consideration of PR managers’ proposals by top management, represent two indicators of the growing strategic role of PR within the cited institutionalisation process.

Now we need to understand better how and in which directions the institutionalization process is heading, how the strategic role is enacted and what are the variables that PR brings to the process of defining corporate (goals and objectives OR decision-making). In particular, we need to explore the nature of the strategic interventions of PR managers at the Board level. Firstly, we need to understand the perceptions of CEO on the specific content of strategic interventions by PR managers. Secondly, we need to deepen understanding of the CCOs’ perspective by defining the meaning they attach to the term “strategic” with regards to interventions they bring at the Board level and the nature of those interventions.

Aims of the project

Explore and conceptualize specific contents and practical implications of the strategic interventions enacted by public relations managers in the strategic decision-making process at the Board level: understand CEOs’ perspectives with regards to the nature of strategic interventions acted by PR managers; understand CCOs’ perspective with regards to the specific contents of their strategic interventions both at the Board level and (towards other organizational functions such as marketing, HR); compare the two perspectives in order to find out similarities and differences.

Finally, a further aim of the research could be to understand how the organizational structure of PR function should changed in order to play a strategic role, both at the organizational and the functional level.

Overall timeline

The project started in May 2009. Download the presentation made in Berlin in 2009.


A paper has been presented at the Euprera Bucharest Congress, September 2009, and has been submitted for publication at the Journal of Communication Management: E. Invernizzi. S. Romenti, “Strategic Communication and decision-making processes: Toward the Communication Oriented Organization“.

Other papers have been presented and accepted at:

  • The Euprera congress in Jyvaskyla, September 2010: A. Gregory, E. Invernizzi, S. Romenti, N. Mc Grath, “The Contribution of Communicating in Organizational Strategies. A Managerial and Communication Perspective”.
  • The ICA conference in Boston, May 2011: E. Invernizzi, S. Romenti “Adopting an Entrepreneurial Perspective to the Study of Strategic Communication”.
  • The BledCom Symposium, July 2011: E. Invernizzi, S. Romenti, S. Biraghi, “The strategic role of internal communication. Comparing communication and management perspectives”.
  • ICIG Symposium in Segovia, September 2011: E. Invernizzi, S. Romenti, “Process of change management at Ferrari”.
  • Sinergie congress in Milan, November 2011: E. Invernizzi, A. Gregory, S. Romenti, “Management and Communication Perspectives on the Strategic Role of Communication”.

Publications also appeared in:

  • Invernizzi E., Romenti, Strategic Communication and the Entrepreneurial Role of Corporate Communication Officer, in Gambetti R., Quigley S., Managing Corporate Communication, Palgrave Macmillan
  • Gregory A., Invernizzi E., Romenti S., Institutionalisation, organisations and Public Relations: two-sided process, in Sriramesh K., Zerfass A., Kim J. Current Trends and Emerging Topics in Public Relations and Communication Management, Routledge NY


A congress on this issue, organized with Sinergie (an Italian leading scientific journal in management) and IULM University, took place on November 10-11 2011. The congress theme was “Corporate governance and strategic communication. Is communication taking over?”.

Project leader

Project team members

  • Anne Gregory, Leeds University, UK
  • Francesco Lurati, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland
  • Stefania Romenti, Università IULM, Italy

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