30 years of Polish Government Spokespersons: History of governmental communication practice and their implications for education of Public Relations in Poland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


12 out of the 25 spokespersons of the Polish Government appointed after 1989 were full-time politicians, 10 were journalists, and their dominant educational background was in journalism and political studies. On one particular occasion, a weather presenter of a local TV station has accepted the role of a spokesperson for a right-wing government. One would contend that the consistency in the choice of professionals responsible for government’s communication in Poland is a compelling case of transitional Public Relations. Although this is inarguably the case, it should also be noted that commercial institutions present in Poland since 1990, has been relatively quick to adopt professional approaches to building relationships with stakeholders, and introduced findings of the Grunig’s excellence asymmetrical and (occasionally) symmetrical model in practice, this was not the case for the government’s communication. The purpose of this paper is to examine to what extent the educational and professional background of those most-recognisable communicators have built the image of PR in Poland and how it affects the development of mutual understanding between the government and its publics.
Studies indicate that in Poland Public Relations is most frequently associated with governmental PR, negative publicity and crisis management. While one would argue that these characteristics may show some resemblance to US practice of PR, where the emphasis has been put on image and media relations, it should be evident that different factors contributed to the status quo. Also, more importantly, it bears different consequences. While market economy makes private companies increase their proficiency in organisational listening (Macnamara, 2015), a higher sense of responsibility on a societal level would be expected from governments, who are obligated to balance needs of different, also less powerful publics. The government should then adopt a more socially-oriented approach to public relations (Edwards, 2018) and better understand what PR’s role in the society L’Etang (1992). It seems that the gap between contemporary PR scholarship and Polish governments’ practice needs understanding and bridging.
In the first step, this research project examined to what extent have Polish Government spokespersons contributed to (negative) associations with PR through analysing an array of the most frequently employed communication/PR tactics. Secondly, it aimed at understanding how PR element is represented in university programmes whose graduates most commonly entered the role of the government spokesperson. It was assumed that the general approach to communicating with publics of the spokesperson is a consequence of their background, knowledge and competencies. To satisfy this, curricula of Polish Universities offering programmes in Journalism, Political Science and History were analysed to determine to the extent to which they are representative of the contemporary Public Relations scholarship.
Findings indicated that the choice of spokesperson responsible for spoke manifested by Polish governments after 1989, regardless of their political/ideological orientation, led to the dominance of two prevailing themes in – focus on traditional media and asymmetrical incomplete communication of facts.
The argument presented in this paper asserts that by virtue of educational and professional background, neither meaningful dialogue can be established nor goals of the publics can be satisfied unless either changes to non-PR centred educational curricula are introduced or government’s spokespersons are selected and recruited using more industry-specific criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication10th International History of Public Relations Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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