Contextualizing and redefining authenticity in organizational communication
Natascha Zowislo-Grünewald (Bundeswehr University of Munich, Germany),
Jürgen Schulz (Berlin University of the Arts, Germany)
ABSTRACT: Public relations and its techniques and methods stand as an intermediary between an or- ganization on the one hand, and the corresponding public or publics on the other. A contradiction is implicitly construed, namely that PR serving an organization’s needs can by no means be serving the needs of the public(s) or vice versa. Presumably, PR which serves an organization’s interests is oftentimes not true and seeks to project the best possible image. The public interest in PR, however, takes aim at the truth, the organization’s self, the authentic core. Nowadays, when speaking of authenticity, one traditionally differentiates between true being and mere image/deceitful appearance. Organizational communication’s challenge is that suspicious (self-serving) interests of the subsystems such as politics and business and, thus, inevitable deficits in truthfulness and sincerity are imputed. However, this paper (theoretically and practically) establishes why authentic communication is impossible and unnecessary at the same time and might even be a risk factor. Correspondingly, it also explores new perspectives for a different understanding of how to achieve corporate authenticity without disregarding legitimate rhetorical options and without being caught in a strict dichotomy of truth and falsehood.