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Developing Public Relations Leadership
Building success through the process of collaboration.
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 by Dr. Dan Eller

Dan EllerCollaboration is defined by Rubin (2002) as an activity "creating a context and decision in which others choose to work with you toward a shared goal" (p. 11). Public relations leaders should use collaboration in their practice of public relations.

In defining what distinguishes collaborative leaders from other types of leaders, Rubin (2002) noted that collaborative leaders are distinguished by the bridges they build; bridges that individuals willingly cross, connecting their personal needs and motives with a shared public purpose, and the work that they do with others whose coordinated alliance can help them do it better, faster, more easily, more enduringly, more efficiently, with bigger impact, with broader ownership, or with higher meaning (p. 14).
The public relations practitioner can use collaboration to build a strong public relations team. According to Stein and Short (2001), leaders have realized that collaboration helps participants "make use of each other's talents to do what they either could not have done at all or as well alone" (as citied in Wildavsky, 1986, p. 237). Furthermore, Hoff (1999) concluded, "the sharing of information by a comprehensive system of communication is probably one of the strongest and most effective modes of empowering people within any organization" (p. 323).
Glass and Jackson (1998) regarding the collaborative development team concluded, "the development team has two functions, completing the task and maintaining effective collaborative relationships" (as citied in Bolman and Deal, 1991; Johnson and Johnson, 1995). Maintaining these collaborative relationships with stakeholders provide a platform where the team’s public relations efforts can grow in a sustainable environment.
The lack of collaboration or team work can create organizational politics that as Hoy and Miskel (2008) stated, "inevitably produce conflict" (p. 246). Thomas (1976) concluded that collaboration is an assertive and cooperative style of conflict management that is a problem-solving approach where problems and conflicts are seen as challenges, and differences are confronted and ideas and information are shared where there is a concerted effort to find integrative solutions where everyone wins (as cited in Hoy and Miskel, 2008, p. 248). Furthermore, according to Hoy and Miskel (2008), coalition building is the process of individuals banding together to achieve a common goal" (p. 241).
Finally, collaboration allows internal and external publics to build successful and sustainable long-term relationships with the public relations leader and his/her team. Ultimately, this will allow the public relations practitioner to create a winning environment.


Glass, J. C. & Jackson, K. L. (1998). A new role for community college presidents: Private fund raiser and development team leader. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 22(6), 575-590.
Hoff, K. S. (2004). Leaders and managers: Essential skills required within higher education. Higher Education, 38(3), 311-331.
Hoy, W. K. & Miskel, C. G. (2008). Educational administration: Theory, research, and practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rubin, H. (2002). Collaborative Leadership: Developing effective partnerships in communities and schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Stein, R. B. & Short, P. M. (2001). Collaboration in delivering higher education programs: Barriers and challenges. The Review of Higher Education, 24(4), 417-435.

Dr. Dan Eller holds a Doctorate in Education from the Gevirtz Graduate
School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
and is an Assistant Professor of Public Relations in the Journalism
Department at California Polytechnic State University.

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