Archive for December, 2015

Reflecting on two days’ discussion of PR/Strat Comms as a research field, I observe a profound tension between

a) scholars who wish to constrain the research objects to something manageable, measurable and scientific which will help define the field for reserchers and enhance understanding of practice – theories which are observable in the material world. The strength of this desire is the search for core concepts/models through rigorous scientific method; the weakness is that it tries to put vagaries of human communication into boxes too small to contain them; and

b) scholars who embrace multi perspective/interdisciplinary approaches and consider pursuit of Truth as futile or phantastical – they have a more playful sense of research which undermines the foundational claims commonly made in PR/SC research. Their strength is the richness of ideas and imagination they bring to traditionally rather applied research; the weakness is that as perspectives multiply, the field itself could easily scatter beyond recognition or identification.

I belong to group b – with its roots in critical thinking and engagement with postmodern theory – but am aware that this has dangers.

My book proposal illustrates this: I presented ideas for a volume that combines social theory, PR theory, cultural studies, psychologies of persuasion, Jungian concepts and current PR practice. There is a central argument that weaves these strands together which, phew, was comprehensible to those present who gave the ideas a very warm welcome. So the weakness could be that the macro-level discussion of PR’s impact on society becomes too abstract; the strength lies in my experience of practice and ability to ground wilder theories in the everyday.

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to test these ideas and their relevance to the question of where PR research is going – it may have taken a lot of airmiles and a massive drop in Centigrade to get there, but I reckon one hour’s discussion has saved me 6 months’ solitary head banging. So, thanks to Howard Nothhaft and Sara von Platen from Lund University and Jens Seifert from U of Vienna for organising this event.fdf_ss24522








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Privileged to have been invited to participate in this small research symposium concerning the future research directions of PR/strategic communication. The emphasis on sharing developing ideas & emerging thoughts not just presenting finished work was irresistible. I am bringing half-formed ideas for my next book to this gathering and look forward to their feedback later this morning.

We are a small, select group, mainly from German and Scandinavian universities – and an unusually youthful gathering. It is exciting to see a new generation of researchers coming through with a completely different academic and practice background from my generation. They may not have the grounding in practice common to my lot but they bring a new agenda informed by contemporary research in sociology, applied science and philosophy.

So, yesterday’s highpoint was a passionate conversation between those who embrace a post structural world of unknowable uncertainties and those who want to know that the plane will fly. I observed that these are not entirely incompatible in that science agrees that time cannot be linear but I still need to be at the airport tonight. The bridge is our reliance on stories to manage the complexities of the quantum universe.  Which brings us back to PR/strat comms.

Much of the discussion centred on – what stories do we tell in our conceptualisation of the field, in our teaching, in our selection of methods?? Are we just telling ourselves comforting lies or can we embrace something more robust. Is progress as illusory as linear time?

I was v taken by Peter Winkler’s (U of Vienna) presentation of competing paradigms in social thought and PR, highlighting the tropes and fallacies of each before identifying new combinations which might frame emerging researching directions – we plan to return to this at the end of the symposium this pm.

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