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This article argues that organization–public relationships (OPR) generate challenges for PR as both a practical and theoretical discipline. The investigation is set against the backdrop of the growing pre-occupation with OPR in research and practice. The study highlights disconnections between how the field represents itself in an OPR context and the existence of particular attitudes and practices in each of these areas. It uses the Orwellian concept of doublethink as a conceptual device to tease out these tensions. These contradictions are framed as public relations doublethink and presented as critical propositions designed to illustrate the gaps that can exist between representation and reality. The article also debates the implications of these examples for the practical and theoretical development of public relations using research that considers how organizations listen to stakeholders on-line. It seeks to stimulate further debate through a new conceptualization of social media listening, as well as a set of inter-disciplinary insights concerned with the study of complex phenomenon.
Aspects of practice and scholarship in the field of OPR are not living up to their promise. Wine might be expected but vinegar is often served. These failings are characterized in this study as a form of disciplinary doublethink. At the heart of these contradictions is a tendency to ignore a number of inconvenient truths. In the area of PR practice these relate to the logistical and attitudinal challenges associated with organizations investing greater resources in the architecture of listening. Social media activities associated with listening to stakeholders are used to illustrate this point.