An analysis of public relations programme’s strategies for sustaining stakeholder relationship with its key industry partners
Kassongo, Rashidi Francois
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Public relations (PR) scholars and industry partners continue to emphasise the importance of a sustainable relationship between PR disciplines and key industry iii partners. This relationship seeks to respond to stakeholders that remain despondent with the quality of engagement between the South African PR academia and industry. Existing literature in this field argues that PR departments at South African universities are experiencing adverse scrutiny by industry as many current academic programmes do not produce students who are industry ready. To address this critical concern, building and sustaining relations with key stakeholders is imperative. This study examines engagement strategies that the PR programme at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology uses to build and sustain relations with key industry partners. The research draws on two Public Relations theories: stakeholder theory and two-way symmetrical communication to make sense of the strategies used by this programme. It is based on a qualitative approach and an exploratory case study research design. Empirical data were collected through one-to-one interviews and focus group discussions with PR programme staffs, final year PR students and employees from two external PR consultancies. The data were coded and thematically analysed. The main finding of the study is that current engagement strategies are ineffective for relationship building purposes between the PR programme and key industry partners. To sustain mutually beneficial relationships, it is recommended that existing strategies be revised in order to improve relations between the PR department at Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT) and its industry partners, as well as to promote the advancement of both PR as an academic discipline and a profession.