Dealing with Increasing Complexity: Media Orientations of Communication Managers in Public Sector Organizations

Sandra Jacobs, Anke Wonneberger


Communication managers in public sector organizations operate in increasingly complex environments. An influential political realm, diverse stakeholder environments, and media scrutiny combined with macro-level developments in the public sector put high demands on their media and stakeholder relations. Media are both important stakekeepers and sources of information for other stakeholders. Therefore, we assume that individual-level perceptions of the media in relation to the organization are important factors in understanding stakeholder relations, but these perceptions have not been systematically analyzed and theorized. The present qualitative interview study focused on communication managers of Dutch independent administrative bodies. We developed a new conceptualization of media orientation and empirically explored how its dimensions are reflected in the managers’ understandings of stakeholder relations. We found that communication managers try to cope with sector-specific challenges by implementing integrated communication strategies and exploring their communicative autonomy. Level of management support and incidents are key determining factors.


media orientation, communication managers, public sector organizations, stakeholder relations

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