Excellent in-house journals in South Africa : case studies of five leading publications
Although companies and organisations worldwide publish in-house journals, there is no comprehensive theory (including technical and normative dimensions) available on this important public relations instrument. In particular, no research is available on what the characteristics of excellent South African in-house journals are or ought to be. In this study a number of dimensions are thus introduced in order to help create a comprehensive framework for analysing in-house journals, in particular South Africa’s leading in-house journals. Firstly, James Grunig’s excellence in public relations theory (published in 1992), which incorporates the concept of two-way symmetrical communication (which in turn is informed by a “symmetric” world view), is put forward as basic point of departure. Secondly, a set of technical criteria for excellent in-house journals gleaned from a wide range of sources, is compiled. Furthermore, the internal and external environments in which South African in-house journals function are identified. The role of other new media (such as e-mail, intranet, television and radio) is also taken into account. Five leading South African in-house journals are then analysed and the views of editors reflected. It was found that Abacus (Absa Bank), Harmonise (Harmony Gold Mining Company), Hello the future (MTN), Pick ’n Patter (Pick ’n Pay) and Sandaba (Sanlam) all measured up well against the theoretical statements flowing from the said theoretical points of departure. However, the analysis did also bring to the fore deviations from the said statements which give new insight into what is required to publish an excellent in-house journal. In conclusion, the criteria are evaluated against some of the more detailed findings of the analysis and adapted to create a set of theoretically based guidelines that can be used by South African companies, focusing inter alia on how the unique character and environment of a company influence its internal communication, to create excellent in-house journals. In final analysis, it is argued that all factors, starting with the philosophical points of departure informing communication strategies, management’s attitude toward internal communication, organisation culture, the socio-political environment in which in-house journals function as well as the technical aspects of these publications, need to be considered when formulating criteria for “excellent” in-house journalism. This study thus endeavours to contribute to the professional integrity of public relations in a sea of asymmetric, marketing-driven internal communication.
- Humanities