Public relations practice in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates: western theory, local culture

Abdelhay, Nawaf (2014) Public relations practice in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates: western theory, local culture. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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In the last two decades public relations has developed and expanded in some parts of the
Arab Middle East much more than in others. The most likely reason for this is the differences
in the political and socio-economic environment (Sunil, 2004). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
(KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are very different countries: KSA is a
conservative monarchy while UAE is a federal and more liberal state. The aim of this
research is to investigate how public relations is practised in each of the two countries, and
how the public relations profession is affected by the prevailing cultural, political and socioeconomic
environment in each country.
For the purposes of this research, a combined methods approach is chosen as it can be seen as
advantageous to this study. Quantitatively, the study investigates the public relations models
that are most applicable in KSA and UAE. The first questionnaire is based on James Grunig’s
(1984) four public relations models plus the personal influence model (Sriramesh, 1992) and
the cultural interpreter model (Lyra, 1991). The second questionnaire is based on Broom's
(1982) practitioner’s role measure. Qualitatively, the study investigates journalists’ opinions
on the performance of public relations practitioners in both KSA and UAE. In addition,
substantial theoretical background is provided in order to contextualise the emerging field of
public relations in the Middle East.
The results of this study have identified two characteristics of public relations models
practices in KSA and UAE. Firstly, instead of Grunig’s (1984, 1992) four original public
relations models, the two international public relations models, the cultural interpreter model
and the personal influence model, are the most frequently practiced models in both KSA and
UAE. The present study found that the cultural interpreter model is the most frequently
practiced public relations model reported in UAE, and the second most frequently practiced
model is the personal influence model. In contrast, practitioners in KSA are practicing the
personal influence model the most and the cultural interpreter model comes next. The twoway
symmetrical model is fairly practiced although the use of research as a tool to gauge the
needs of the public is something that both KSA and UAE relations practitioners are evidently
struggling to embrace.
The finding of the present study also shows that practitioners in both KSA and UAE are
functioning mainly as “cultural mediators” and “technicians”, rather than “managers”, as they
show a limited management involvement in public relations itself.
In summary, the findings of the present study contribute to theories of public relations and
support the position that public relations practitioners with two-way asymmetrical
communication and a management perspective are more likely to be found in organisations
working within political and socio-economic environments that are moving towards

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Social sciences > Communication and culture
Depositing User: Marzena Dybkowska
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2015 14:14
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2017 09:22


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