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A continuing series of articles, published in practitioner journals, on communicators' role in the organization suggest that the public relations function is struggling with its identity.  There is general agreement that the role of communications as a contributor to strategy within organizations is or should be increasingly important.  Indeed, "strategic" use of the communications function is the common thread running through much of the public relations literature. Schwenk,  after looking at many different definitions of strategy, described strategic decisions as those that are ill-structured and non-routine, i.e., are unique and use complex decision rules, are especially important to the organization, and are generally very complex. Quinn  says that strategic decisions determine the overall direction of the organization and its ultimate ability to survive often in an environment characterized by the predictable, the unpredictable, and unknowable changes. The question remains, however, whether public relations managers are equipped to provide strategic counsel to top management in such an environment.
Part of the reason for the lack of closure in answering this question is related to the heavy use of the case study methodology in studying the strategic decision-making process. The dominance of this method has been criticized by Eisenhardt and Zbaracki,  who found in their review of strategic decision-making literature that 62% of the studies they surveyed used the case method. The remainder of the literature they examined used laboratory studies (9%), field studies (18%), and computer simulations (11%). Although case studies and other types of qualitative methodologies have been extremely valuable in studying the complex issue of strategic decision making, from a theory building point of view, they have been subject to criticism for their subjectivity and lack of generalizabiity.  Frederickson  believes the domination of qualitative methods has been based on the inability of researchers to conceptualize and operationalize strategy in a way that would allow empirical testing by using quantitative methods. Researchers believe that there is now a need for more theory testing and more consistent operationalization and measurement of research constructs within the field of strategic decision making. 
It is recognized that it is difficult to measure knowledge and beliefs and, as mentioned, some researchers believe the level of empirical studies is lacking.  To validate interpretive/qualitatively derived theory, more use of positivist/ quantitative methodologies has been advocated.  The purpose of this article is to present a positivist/quantitative approach to the study of the public relations manager's role in strategic decision making by using conjoint analysis. An outline of how conjoint analysis is operationalized in the study of public relations managers' actual and favored approaches to strategic crisis planning is presented.
Several types of perspectives have been outlined as possibilities for studying management decision making. Argyris and Schon  define "espoused theories" as those that managers publicly announce as the rationale or explanation for their decisions, while "theories-in-use" are those that managers actually use in their decision making. Mintzberg and Waters  make a similar distinction between "intended" and "realized" strategies, with the realized strategy resulting from the deviations from the manager's intended path caused by organizational or environmental constraints. The dangers in studying management decision making by using an interpretive approach such as a case study is that it may be difficult to know which type of theory or strategy you are actually getting from respondents. In response to these criticisms, several researchers have advocated positivist approaches as useful supplements to the many interpretive studies on management decision making. 
This suggests that two perspectives need to be accounted for in studying managerial decision making. The first is described as the textbook perspective, or espoused theory, or what existing theory would prescribe as the ideal approach guiding the organization's intended strategy. This perspective might also be described as the favored perspective. The second is the realized, or actual, perspective, or what sort of decision environment that the decision maker actually faced, i.e., theories-in-use.
For the purposes of theory validation, both perspectives should be measured and compared. If all perspectives are not accounted for, it may be difficult to determine whether the response from the decision-making informant is their favored perspective and not the actual environment in which they are operating. Assuming that both perspectives are measured, that the textbook theory is not realized by a large proportion of successful decision makers would possibly be invalidated in the context it is being tested. Although it is possible that the actual situation might be different, because of some impediments, such as organizational climate, a valid textbook theory, which represents the manager's ideal or wished-for environment, should optimally be as close as possible to the actual perspective. If the favored and actual perspectives vary greatly for a large portion of successful decision makers, further investigation to explaining the differences would be warranted. Additionally, if we assume that the textbook theory is the favored way to behave, and there are differences between actual and favored, it is possible to suggest actions to minimize the differences and to get individuals to move more toward the normative mode.
What is necessary is to find out how managers think, i.e., what their beliefs are when it comes to strategic decision making. In this article, we suggest a methodology that will not only allow researchers to map the strategic thinking of managers by finding out how they believe they should behave, but will also give them the capability to compare it with the managers' actual situations, i.e., testing espoused theory versus theory-in-use.
Quantitative Methods for Analyzing Strategic Judgments
Priem and Harrison  suggest that a number of different techniques can be used for uncovering and analyzing the strategic judgments of strategy makers. They describe two broad categories: decomposition and composition methods, both of which normally take judgments as inputs.  Decomposition methods separate a manager's judgments into a weighted linear or multi-linear equation that summarizes their judgment approach and begins with definitions of attributes that come from the theoretical framework being used or tested.  Composition methods elicit information from managers about the "components and timing of cognitive processes" that lead to the formation of strategic judgments and are most frequently used to build theory. 
Because the decomposition methods are based on existing theory, their operationalization requires a large body of current theory and evidence.  Various types of conjoint analysis represent the decomposition techniques most frequently used in an expanding variety of areas. Conjoint analysis is one of the most widely applied methodologies for measuring and analyzing consumer preferences  and has also been used in studying health care marketing,  insurance distribution systems,  water quality enhancements and degradations,  analysis of the Japanese salmon buyers,  and multi-media use and concept optimization in fast food restaurants. 
Each of these studies used one of the basic …