Strategic role of public relations in the process of integrated reporting - An exploratory study

Purposes of the paper: This research aims to illustrate the strategic role that public relations can play in the process of integrated reporting. A qualitative approach is followed, the design being exploratory and non-empirical.

Methodology: The method is a literature review and the data come from literature on the strategic role of public relations, corporate governance, sustainability, CSR and strategy, Triple Bottom Line, social auditing, risk management, stakeholder relationships and integrated reporting. The focus of the analysis is on the integrated reporting process.

Findings: The findings of the study are inter alia that the concepts of enterprise strategy and enterprise governance (and its constructs enterprise relationship and enterprise risk governance) are relevant frameworks for understanding the strategic role of public relations, as well as the sustainability dimensions of strategy and governance.

Research and managerial implications: The research outlines the contribution that strategic public relations theory, through the enactment of the reflective strategist role, makes to the integrated reporting process. From this perspective, a senior public relations practitioner in the role of the reflective strategist that operates at top management level — conducting environmental assessment and contributing to enterprise strategy development substantially contributes to organisational effectiveness. Reporting to stakeholders in the integrated report on how their legitimate expectations have been addressed by management has become an imperative for contemporary organisations.

Value of the paper: Findings of the study assist public relations practitioners in their strategic communication management responsibility to identify, address and report on stakeholder expectations. It also increases senior managers understanding of how to harness existing PR theory and expertise in the integrated reporting process.

Originality of the paper: The research provides an original approach to the contribution of public relations to the new organisational process of integrated reporting.

Key words: Strategic public relations, governance, sustainability, strategy, stakeholder inclusiveness, integrated reporting.

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