UN communications at 75: Incremental change or innovative transformation?

Bora Yoon, Kisuk Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the age of globalization, the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) is expected to play an active role in communicating with citizens the world over. This study explores the DPI’s evolution over the last 75 years, tackling the nature of organizational change in what is too often dismissed as a hidebound and conservative institution. The authors use textual analysis of UN documents combined with Grunig and Hunt’s four public relations (PR) models to track the DPI’s transformation from an organization that favoured the one-way dissemination of objective information to an institution ready to embrace two-way symmetric public relations. Though useful, these models were unable to explain the driving forces behind the DPI’s transition from one model to another or detailed changes within models at a micro level. To remedy this, the authors incorporate Harry Nyström’s basic model of organizational innovation illuminating incremental changes within the DPI between 1946 and 1989, as well as the transformative changes that were driven by the end of the Cold War, new communications technologies, and Kofi Annan’s leadership in the 1990s and 2000s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-198
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • communications
  • Department of Public Information (DPI)
  • four public relations models
  • historical evolution
  • organizational innovation
  • United Nations (UN)


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