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The Science Behind Effective Public Relations

Posted At: April 9, 2008 12:11 PM
by Amelie Smith

In public relations, the most important aspects of the job are two-way communication with your public and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with them. In the world of television, it is no different.

It has been several months since the Writers Guild Association strike ended, and there are many lessons that have emerged from this strike.

Why did it take so long to reach a conclusion? Who is the real winner of the strike? Is this the start of more events to come?

While all of these questions are important, the key PR-related question is how do you know when you are crossing the line between mutually beneficial solutions and favoring one public over the other? In the case of the WGA strike, the primary media focus was on the writers and what their wants were.

According to the WGA Annual Report, at fiscal year end 2007, there were 7,452 current active members in the western division. Also reported were 726 associate active members and 1,543 post-current active members. This means that almost 10,000 people in the WGA western division alone were affected by the outcome of the writers’ strike.

On the other side of the issue, according to the NBC Universal fact sheet, there are an estimated 15,500 employees at this particular studio alone. Then there are the other major networks such as ABC, CBS and Fox Broadcasting Company that have a large number of employees as well.

While numerically more people in television studios were affected than those in the WGA, the wants of the writers were at the center of the attention.

So was that invisible line crossed and was one side publicly favored over the other?

There might be a deeper reason behind the WGA winning the public over. In 2002, the University of Washington issued a news release in which Vince Stricherz discussed mutually beneficial relationships from a scientific approach. He said, “New evidence suggests that in relationships that benefit both species, the one that evolves more slowly has the advantage.”

In the case of the writers’ strike, the large studios are the species that evolve quickly and the WGA are the species that evolve more slowly. To overcome the “natural advantage” of the WGA, the large studios must focus on altering specific elements of the relationship to eliminate this advantage and ensure that both parties benefit.

So perhaps the main issue when dealing with the strike is not about finding a monetary compromise, but instead about overcoming the inherent advantages of one group over another.

By reestablishing positive relationships between the two parties, perhaps nature can be defied and the goal of public relations can ultimately be met.


(2007, June 10). Annual report. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from Writers Guild of America, West Web site:

(2008). GE Businesses: NBC Universal, Universal Studios, Television, Fox. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from GE: Imagination at Work Web site:

Stricherz, Vince. (2002, December 30). “In mutually beneficial relationship, slowest-evolving species gains upper hand.” Retrieved March 10, 2008, from University of Washington Newsroom Web site:

How much of an impact do you think science has on public relations?

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