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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Abstract

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 two-way 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 democracy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Social sciences > Communication and culture
Depositing User: Marzena Dybkowska
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2015 14:14
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2017 14:29
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1273

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