Why All This Communication? Explaining Strategic Communication in Danish Local Governments from an Institutional Perspective

Jeppe Agger Nielsen, Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen

Abstract


Public organizations are increasingly paying attention to strategic communication. However, the extant literature on public sector communication is predominantly descriptive, exploring how strategic communication is performed in practice, with little emphasis on why strategic communication has become so popular. Drawing on organizational institutional theory together with reports from a case study of strategic communication in Danish local governments, we take a first step towards explaining “all this communication”. Our results reveal how normative and mimetic institutional pressures occur, as key external stakeholders support and legitimize strategic communication while communicating general, yet detailed, instructions for performing strategic communication in a context of radical organizational changes. Moreover, we demonstrate how local governments translate strategic communication somewhat differently than external stakeholders, causing not only isomorphism but also heterogeneity in organizational strategies. Based on the empirical findings, we argue that strategic communication issues might benefit from being interpreted in a broader socio-political context rather than as a simple management tool for professionalizing public sector communication.


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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413