Communication Public Relations
by
María Len-Ríos
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0018

Introduction

The practice of public relations (PR) has been around for a long time, although the modern practice of public relations has become more sophisticated with its increased focus on research, which has been examined in the academic literature only since the 1980s. Public relations has been interpreted in many different ways, but is most commonly thought of as promotions and publicity, that is, garnering media attention for an organization or client. Practitioners and scholars in public relations recognize that the practice is much more complex and have traditionally defined it in the broadest sense as the management of communication between an organization or individual and all of its audiences (or “publics” in PR parlance). Using this broad definition allows for the inclusion of not only media relations but also government public affairs, labor relations-mediation, crisis communication, conflict management, investor and financial relations, corporate communication, internal/employee communication, fund-raising and donor relations, special events, health care and public health communication, public affairs and lobbying, as well as image and reputation management. Defining public relations as a management function is not without controversy, but has been thought to be important in maintaining the same professional rank and status as communication professionals in advertising and marketing. Not all academics or practitioners agree with this definition. Postmodernist critiques warn that this orientation privileges the dominant organizations and the most powerful individuals within them. What follows is an overview of PR textbooks and books (introductory, specialized, and cross-cultural), professional best practices, academic public relations journals, and the field’s dominant theoretical perspectives.

Textbooks

Textbooks have played an important role in not only public relations education but also its research. Much of the contemporary peer-reviewed research in public relations was spurred by ideas presented in introductory texts or in specialized books. There are many introductory textbooks and those used most often are listed here. The texts differ mainly in their depth, scope, level of research base, and frequency of updated examples and application. In addition to textbooks that offer overviews of the field, numerous others present specialized looks at subfields or research interest areas. Those are mentioned here under Specialized Textbooks. Furthermore, scholars have recently given more thought and attention to cultural issues and global communications, and these titles are presented under Cross-Cultural Texts.

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