Book Chapter

Experiencing public relations as an academic discipline: What do scholarly views and published research tell us?



Jelen-Sanchez A (2018) Experiencing public relations as an academic discipline: What do scholarly views and published research tell us?. In: Bridgen E & Verčič D (eds.) Experiencing Public Relations: International Voices. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 6-25.

Public relations has matured as a discipline with a distinct literature and multi-paradigmatic approaches, yet still struggles with credibility and recognition in academia, practice and society. The field has been dominated by excellence study, which was central to establishing public relations as an independent discipline. However, several academics, particularly from socio-cultural and critical school, have critiqued its dominance and ethnocentricity of the field, resulting in reproduction rather than production of knowledge and hindering (alternative) theory development. My previous study (Jelen, 2008) on scholarly endeavours concluded that public relations is indeed characterised by insularity; topical concentration on professional practice studied from functional/management perspective anchored in western scholarship and research dominated by quantitative methods. Building on this study, the chapter aims to investigate academic endeavours and evaluate progress of the discipline ten years later. Based on content analysis of academic articles published in four most prominent public relations journals and interviews with public relations academics from different scholarly and cultural traditions, the chapter outlines theoretical perspectives, topics and methodological approaches as well as academic experiences, evaluations and opinions of public relations discipline. While encouraging trends towards growth and diversification are observed, there is a general agreement amongst scholars that more should have been done. The discipline was criticised for weak theory building with published scholarship demonstrating fragmentation of theoretical approaches, ethnocentricity, organisation-centric topics and insular, quantitatively-oriented research methods. There is a notable lack of creativity and innovation in the field, particularly when compared to our neighbouring disciplines. Public relations has fallen short in solid theoretical development, global and paradigmatic inclusiveness, interdisciplinary collaborations, emphasis on publics/stakeholders, socio-cultural implications of public relations and “big themes” in society; the challenges that need to be addressed if the field is to gain greater credibility and respectability.

public relations; theory; research; academic discpline

Publication date31/12/2018
Publisher URL…ok/9781138632448
Place of publicationLondon and New York

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Dr Alenka Jelen

Dr Alenka Jelen

Associate Professor, Communications, Media and Culture