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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

The Expressive Governmental agency - consequences of marketization on communication in swedish Governmental agencies


The Marketization of the Public Sector Governmental agencies in contemporary wealth-fare states face major reforms mainly as a result of changed relationships and dynamics between the public sector, the state, markets and citizens. The agencies have to deal with diversified - and partly new - political, economical and social conditions for their activities. As described and studied in research on New Public Management these changes lead to new principles for coordination, evaluation and control. In this tradition the starting point for analysis has been the increased exposure to and implementation of marketoriented rationales in to the definition of role, responsibilities and character of the public authorities. Such rationales imply that governmental agencies are governed on a basis of exposure to competition and with clear goal and result orientation where implementation of client/execution models, and co-operation with private actors are some of the key components. Parallel to this the control executed by the state has become more explicitly oriented towards evaluation rather than regulation. Moreover, other actors - such as the media, customers and competitors - play a more central in defining and forming the regulative and normative conditions to which governmental agencies have to relate to and act upon. As the variety and number of actors being involved in shaping the landscape in which the agencies operate steadily increase, these organizations often meet contradicting and inconsistent requirements and expectations. Increased accessibility and adjustability, clearly and transparent description of own products and services as well as presentation of legitimizing organizational accounts are some of the expectations and demands the governmental agencies have to relate to and deal with. Four Aims of Communication Parallel to the marketization of the public sector governmental agencies have come to pay an increased attention to communication as a strategic tool. The agencies - similarly to other types of organizations from the private, public and non-profit sectors - are increasingly involved in communication activities such as creation of communication departments, employment of PR-professionals into senior management positions, strategic enhancement of business and media intelligence, development of strategies for branding, media training of middle and senior management, and hiring PR/Mediaconsultants to support/complement the work of own communication experts. The functions of communication vary but we can - at least for analytical reasons - distinguish between four basic aims of communication.1. The informative function - the mediation of factsIn short, governmental agencies are assigned to provide public information about political decisions affecting individuals and their ability to act as citizens. It is a rather limited understanding about public information but it has been further developed by also including responsibility to inform about central and current aspects of the society, how it works and how it is organized, the rights and responsibilities of the citizens, or provide specific information related to extraordinary events or situations. Moreover, the agencies also need to report to the state government about their performance and whether they have reached their goals.2. The persuasive function - to influence others in a given directionTo influence, promote but also to reduce certain types of behavior and activities is an extensive part of the assignment of governmental agencies. Communication campaigns are one of the tools used to achieve these goals. In other cases the communication is used to promote own activities and agendas. In a system where public sector organizations are exposed to competition and other market mechanism the agencies have to persuade existing and future customers that their services or products are competitive.3. The social functionTo interact with others Governmental agencies are also required to build and maintain egalitarian relationship to citizens. With increasing demands on adaptability, influence and deliberative democracy the authorities use interaction-oriented activities. But it is not only citizens the agencies have to interact with. They also have to create cooperations with other societal actors - such as the media, corporations and other business organizations, NGOs and other governmental agencies.4. The expressive functionTo manifest identity, values and self-conceptualization To ensure legitimacy and trust, agencies express values, self-conceptualization and the way they understand the different social contexts in which they conduct their activities. Here communication is used to answer questions about the agency's identity, what it is and what it stands for, and how it conceptualizes its current as well future role and responsibility. These messages come to live in core-values, brand policies and corporate identity programs. The expressive communication should also be able to handle the paradox of exclusivity and normality - i.e. a governmental agency should distinguish it self from other organizations, at the same time as it need to express that it functions and operates in accordance with common ideas about public sector organizations. The above categorization is a theoretical construction that aims to clarify and emphasize the common and typical communicative activities of governmental agencies. However, in a given situation a communicative activity aims for all functions. Nevertheless, they can be more or less prominent or emphasized depending on the context. The Hypothesis of the Expressive Governmental Agency Historically the communication of governmental agencies has been dominated by the informative and the persuasive function. Communication has been seen as a means to reach greater democracy based on the assumption that educated individuals are better equipped to execute their duties as citizens, but also on the assumption that the state has the right to govern the society in line with the public's interest. In the field of political science there are a number of scholars who have pointed out an increasing use of persuasion among governmental agencies. In some cases it is seen as a consequence of a decreasing scope for regulations. In other cases the voices are more critical pointing out that governmental agencies to an increasing extension are used as tools promoting ideological interests. In the context of "marketization" of the public sector, there is reason to believe that the aim of communication has changed.However in opposition to others we assume that : 1. governmental agencies predominantly use communication for expressive means, and 2. that this is a consequence of being exposed to market oriented principles The first hypothesis rests on the fact that the governmental agencies have increased their use of communication as a strategic resource. We believe here that the informative and persuasive communication is of great importance, but the expressive element gain a central role. Based on the analysis of other types of organizations - mainly companies - it is hypothesized that the authorities ' communications is primary used as a means to manifest the authorities' identity, goals and values - i.e. basis for institutional legitimacy. The second hypothesis rests on an understanding of governmental agencies as exposed to an increased complexity and uncertainty concerning their primary goal, priorities, and activities as being redefined in an existing marketoriented discourse. We believe - supported by the current research - that such uncertainty leads to an increased need to express and communicate images of the organization as founded in a strong identity, clear goals and unambiguous organizational structures and activities. Empirical study To answer these two hypotheses we have conducted a study including all Swedish Governmental Agencies (N=249). We have used a content analysis categorizing the content of policies and other documents managing the communicative work in each agency. Apart from the functions and aims of communication we have also categorized the explicit and implicit motives expressed.
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Dates et versions

hal-00840373 , version 1 (02-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00840373 , version 1


Josef Pallas, Magnus Fredriksson. The Expressive Governmental agency - consequences of marketization on communication in swedish Governmental agencies. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840373⟩


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