The purpose of this paper is to link public relations to peacebuilding. Although scholarship has discussed public relations as relationship management, the nexus between public relations and peace building has been understudied. To address this deficiency, this research studies the negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP separatist group that lead to the landmark peace treaty between the two entities that had fought for over five decades with thousands of deaths. Three research questions addressed the communication factors that contributed to the two sworn enemies – FARC-EP and the Colombian Government – finally sealing a peace agreement; the specific public relations strategies and techniques that led to relationship building between the two sides leading to the landmark peace agreement; and the use of the indicators of relationship building proposed by scholarship in the negotiations between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP.
The case study method was used and a purposive sample of news reports from three national newspapers at specific key dates yielding a final sample consisted of 504 articles was analysed. A codebook with deductive and inductive categories was developed specially to study the existing communication factors (
RQ1), public relations strategies and techniques ( RQ2), as well as contributions by relationship indicators ( RQ3). Given the sensitivity of the issues, only secondary data could be relied upon for this study. Findings
The results of
RQ1fall within the scope of Grunig’s (2001), Sriramesh’s (1992) and Hung’s (2001) notion of the personal influence model where the leveraging of individuals’ network is important to facilitate communication. Indeed, the relations already existing and established with third parties are revealed to be fundamental to the success of the negotiation process. As for RQ2, findings demonstrate that the Colombian Government used third-party mediation, principled and distributive strategies, while FARC-EP mainly used contending strategies. But results showed that both used compromising during the whole process, and that both transitioned from one-way asymmetrical strategies, such as principled or contending towards compromising along the peace talks. Finally, findings demonstrate evidence of the four indicators of the relationship and their link with public relations techniques. The most evidenced indicators of the relationship were trust, commitment and control mutuality. Trust was the indicator of the relationship the most evidenced in the Colombian case. The dimension was built during the whole process and evolved continually. Distrust was the total between the two enemies at the beginning of the pre-negotiation. However, as parties entered into a relationship, confidence and trust increased. Research limitations/implications
The inability to obtain primary data is the major limitation of this study. It was caused by the sensitivity of the topic.
This study links public relations to a very practical case that is also vastly understudied/underreported – peacemaking/peacebuilding – while also addressing communication by governments and civil society in Latin America – an area that is largely understudied.
This is the first study that links public relations with peacebuilding.