On Tuesday after class, I had the huge privilege of attending a discussion panel at Aalto University School of Arts. The panel was titled “journalism and commercialism in the Finnish media”, which included war photojournalist Tim Page as a distinguished guest. Other panelists include:
— Michael Pentikainen. Previous Sanomat News CEO;
–Carl Hurtig. Media entrepreneur;
—Niklas Meltio. Photojournalist;
—Jesper Vuori. Visual Director.
Halfway through the discussion, a visibly agitated photographer in the audience asked passionately:
“Why are so many talented photojournalists unemployed today? Journalism today is of such low quality!”
This comment was similar to the “will” expectation documented by Olkkonen and Luoma-Aho on the “unsteady unemployment”, expressed by one of their “journalist” interviewees— “They (media companies) cut down people, especially young and talented people, and it’s hard to get a more permanent foothold”. (p.230).
Pentikainen and Hurtig responded from the business perspective, saying that the harsh reality is that digitalization has caused the revenues of the media industry to dwindle, causing unemployment. They then stressed on the importance of looking for new business models in the industry.
The photographer got angrier. Yet, when Page and Meltio later commented, “There are simply too many fine arts graduates these days”– he accepted their explanation.
Two economic rationalizations to the same phenomenon are presented—yet, why is the latter more readily accepted than the former? Perhaps, people’s expectations are not necessarily always guided by rationality. Should organizations blindly “manage” and not “control” such expectations then?
As Page said:
Perhaps, most photographers want to believe that only they know what a “true” bloody glamour is. As PR practitioners, let us earn respect from more of these groups if we ever work with them professionally. For starters, taking a DSLR class will help.😉
According to Olkkonen and Luoma-Aho (2014), a PR professional should care because a broader understanding of public expectations can “deepen communication management approaches” (p. 223). These “communication management approaches” include—(1) Issues management, (2) relationship management, (3) reputation management, and (4) crisis management. They conducted an empirical study in the context of the Finnish media industry, with qualitative interview data collected from six stakeholder groups—“advertisers”, “journalists”, “digital natives”, “NGO experts”, “editors-in-chief” and “heads of PR agencies”.
From the results, the researchers categorized expectations into four types expressing varying degrees of hope and possibility of fulfillment—“Must”, “Will”, “Should” and “Could”. (p.232) The authors posit that once expectations are identified, expectation management can be used as a “strategic tool” to help organizations thrive “in an environment where support of the public has perhaps never been a more important asset”. (p.235) Therefore, examining PR via the lens of expectations management helps organizations ensure that the public have clear expectations of what their organization can actually deliver.
This study is commendable as an “early-phrase development of a new approach” (p.235)–it has shown “how and why expectations matter for public relations”. (p.224) There is however—one critical fallacy in the paper: The assumption that all expectations held by stakeholders are necessarily rational, or informed. The authors took great care to “stress that expectation management does not equal controlling or manipulating public expectations”. (p.235) Yet—if expectations by any stakeholder are misinformed or irrational, why should organizations not control them?