Q & A


Question: Why is the name of this initiative The Requisite Variety?

Answer: Picture it-Tampa, Florida; August 2000. I am a fresh graduate student in Bulls Country. I am the only black face in my graduate cohort, and I’m beginning to wonder if this is the right place for me, if public relations welcomed people like me.

It’s hurricane season, and we are all waiting to see when the next one will hit. I’m taking a PR Management and Theory class which knocks my socks off each day because I am learning that there was something beneath the tactics I loved and that there was something more to these theories I despised. As we are waiting on this hurricane to hit, my prof explains that diversity is important in public relations. And then she pulls out this concept of requisite variety.

The Excellence theory’s concept of diversity is based on Weick’s (1979) principle of requisite variety. As the 2 wise men and 1 wise woman (James Grunig, David Dozier, and Larissa Grunig) explained in 2001, requisite variety is the notion that organizations should have as much difference and variety internally as exists in the organization’s external environment and among their stakeholders. Dozier, Grunig, and Grunig wrote, “The variety within provides a basis for building mutually beneficial relationships with diverse people and groups outside the organization. Without such requisite variety, …misunderstandings occur” (p. 4).

Critical scholar bell hooks once said that in theory, she found a home. I understand that statement. In this idea of requisite variety, I felt at home. I finally believed that public relations practice and discipline had a comfortable spot for me.

Is requisite variety perfect? No. It has faults that several authors have stated its limitations (most notably this book chapter which decrided the lack of intersectionality in the Excellence theory’s conception of requisite variety and in the diversity PR research).

But requisite variety is a starting point. It’s my home, and I welcome you into my home.

Question: Why are you doing this?

Answer: At my grandmother’s Baptist church, we always closed Sunday school with this saying: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” It’s one of things about my childhood that sticks out. The adage has become a personal litmus test for me on my journey as a graduate student, a junior faculty member, a member of several organizations, and a human interacting with other creatures.

I’ve had the idea for this initiative for years.

Question: Are you going to blog about diversity in media industries?

I will. Check out the blog page.