Communication managers in the dominant coalition: Power attributes and communication practices

Stacey Frank Kanihan, Kathleen A. Hansen, Sara Blair, Marta Shore, Jun Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine formal and informal types of power, and identify the characteristics of corporate communications managers who are in the dominant coalition. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reports on results of a survey sent to a representative sample of S&P 500 corporate communications managers and CEOs in the USA Data about industry sector, company size, annual revenue and profitability were collected for the responding companies and a random sample of 100 non-responding companies. The responding companies (n=161) did not significantly differ from the non-responding companies Findings: The paper finds that four attributes of informal power differentiate communications managers who are in the dominant coalition from those who are not: reciprocal trust, strategic business decision-making, social inclusion and communication expertise. Research limitations/implications: Future research should explore whether any of the 37 percent of communications managers in the dominant coalition at these top companies come from backgrounds significantly different from those of the executive elite. Practical implications: The paper supports the organizational theory of the importance of informal power as a prerequisite to be in the dominant coalition - particularly friendship and "being included." Communications managers who are in the dominant coalition are in a better position to institute ethical and excellent (symmetrical) communication practices. The findings of this study have implications for the likely success (or lack thereof) of managers with diverse backgrounds of being included in the dominant coalition. Originality/value: The paper provides quantitative, generalizable results based on a representative sample where many previous studies have relied on qualitative data alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-156
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Communication management
  • Corporate communications
  • Dominant coalition
  • Organizational culture
  • Power
  • Public relations


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