Public Relations and Identity Management Issues: an Autoethnography of a Ugandan University

Barbra Natifu

Abstract


This study examines how I and other Public Relations (PR) practitioners of a Ugandan university experienced the way the institution’s actual and communicated identity was constructed and managed by its top management, Public Relations Officers (PROs) and the media. It also examines factors that influenced how the institution’s identity was constructed and managed or not managed by top management and the PROs.
As a methodological point of departure, the study uses three stories of my lived experience to construct an autoethnography of how I experienced the institution’s identity management practices and challenges. To attain validity of this highly subjective method, I combine my personal account with dialogue accounts derived from interviews with nine former and current PROs, five Vice-Chancellors and a University Secretary in order achieve a reflexive and analytic autoethnographic approach.
Using Balmer’s (2001) functionalist conception of identity with its seven new identity management mix components (i.e., strategy, structure, communication, culture, environment, stakeholders and reputation) as a theoretical analytical lens, the study observes that resource is a key factor in identity management. It proposes addition of ‘resource’ as the eighth component to Balmer’s (2001) new identity management mix. The study makes a contribution to understanding PR in Uganda, drawing from a higher education institutional context. It demonstrates how factors of resource, communication structure, dynamic environment, and management’s leadership style, perception of PR and control of its access to information can impact on effective organisational identity management. It also shows the merits of decentralisation of the PR function to efficient identity management of complex organisations


Keywords


identity management; organisation; PR; Uganda; autoethnography; resource; access to information; communication structure; management perceptions; environment

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The University of Newcastle
ISSN - 1839-8227