Over the past decade, there has been a growing amount of academic research into strategic communications and their role in a world of increasing accountability and transparency. Anne Gregory is the University of Huddersfield’s professor of corporate communications, strategy, marketing and economic, and, together with the University of Houston professor Robert Heath, she’s co-edited a new four-volume anthology on this branch of public relations titled ‘Strategic Communications’.
At the same time, Professor Gregory has just received an honorary fellowship from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in recognition of her work in developing the standing of the profession in the UK. A former president of the institute, she was behind the process of its achieving chartered status.
“The institute was representative of practitioners and had an enforced code of ethics,” she says. “There was a growing body of knowledge about PR and there were professional and university courses – so all the hallmarks of a profession were in place. But we had to go through many hoops to get chartered status. We had to go back and forth between ourselves and the Privy Council before they were satisfied.”
The professor’s honorary fellowship was conferred at a meeting in London. Professor Gregory was already a holder of the institute’s Sir Steven Tallents Medal – named after a founding father of the PR profession in the UK – and is one of only six people who have ever received both distinctions.
She became co-editor of the four-volume ‘Strategic Communications’ after an approach from Robert Heath. “‘Strategic Communications’ is about organisations using communications in a particular way to help it achieve its objectives,” says Professor Gregory. “This approach to public relations is relatively new, but over the past ten years it has accumulated a considerable body of published work.”
The 1,680-page book includes more than 80 research articles from authors around the world. There are several contributions from Professor Gregory’s own body of work, including her articles ‘Communication Dimensions of the UK Foot and Mouth Crisis’ and ‘Involving Stakeholders in Developing Corporate Brands’.
“Changes in technology combined with globalisation means that good communication and transparency are increasingly important,” she says. “Senior management within organisations find themselves constantly in the public gaze, and new technologies have made them more accessible, so they have become much more accountable. There was a time when they could hide behind a gatekeeper – but they can’t now.”