Engagement in public relations discipline: Themes, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches



Jelen-Sanchez A (2017) Engagement in public relations discipline: Themes, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches. Public Relations Review, 43 (5), pp. 934-944.

Several practitioners and experts in the field of public relations have emphasized the importance of public engagement in the context of new technological and social developments and the impact this has on reshaping and reconceptualising public relations. While the practice is embracing new trends, the questions of understanding, explaining and managing engagement of different publics appear to be largely unexplored in public relations discipline. The purpose of this study is to examine the state of public engagement studies in public relations scholarship in terms of themes, contexts, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches. The study conducted content analysis of 59 journal articles on public engagement published in the last decade in Journal of Communication Management, Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Inquiry and Public Relations Review. The results indicate that scarce studies on public engagement tend to be mostly concerned with social media and online engagement, studied from management/functional and relational perspectives, focussed on organizations, anchored in western traditions and dominated by quantitative methodology. This indicates that public engagement tends to be conceptualized as a phenomenon that organizations need to “manage” to advance their interests rather than to understand in terms of dynamics, connectedness, participation, dialogue, and interactions with publics. It is strongly influenced by post-positivism with some encouraging evidence of paradigmatic turn towards socio-cultural and critical approaches.

Engagement; Public relations discipline; Functionalism; Socio-cultural turn; Scholarly themes; Methodology

Public Relations Review: Volume 43, Issue 5

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online13/05/2017
Date accepted by journal09/04/2017

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Dr Alenka Jelen

Dr Alenka Jelen

Associate Professor, Communications, Media and Culture