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Pt I

In my recent keynote speech to Euprera Annual Congress at the Universidad de Navarra I argued that

a) the global culture has become pathologically performative, emphasising outward aspects of life over inner

b) that public relations has benefitted from and contributed to this culture, and that

c) the culture is exploitative, discriminatory, narcissistic, illusory, hyperactive and killing the planet.

The sociologist Harmut Rosa calls it a ‘frenetic standstill’. I suggest the term ‘masquerade’ to reflect the performances that drive individuals and institutions in contemporary western culture.

Covid-19 pressed pause. Do we just rewind or imagine something different? More stuff or more future?

If we choose different, I argue we have to go inward. In the talk I referenced Carl Jung, Harmut Rosa, Hannah Arendt and the novelist Marilynne Robinson, all of whom urge a turn inward to reconnect with the human, especially in times of darkness and confusion (references below)/

I also drew on several talks and courses organised by St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace which introduced me to sustainability professor Jem Bendell, Nigerian storyteller Bayo Akolomafe, and Bruna Kadletz, a Brazilian dentist turned activist working with the world’s refugees..

Pt II

Depth Public Relations is built on the following foundations (full workings will be revealed in forthcoming book).

1) Slowing Down

‘The times are urgent: let us slow down’ says Bayo Akolomafe. Slow food, slow journalism slow science (see also Dorling, 2020).

Social media demand instant responses and constant presence; private and public spheres are fused and spinning faster all the time. PR needs strategies to create space for reflection.

However, like Rosa, I prefer the inner/outer axis to the faster/slower. Slow bullshit is still BS.

2) Shadow Work

Going in means facing up to things the masquerade is designed to distract us from.

Carl Jung calls it shadow work, the purpose of which is wholeness. It means breaking old patterns without knowing what comes next. Living in the liminal.

Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition (1958) says: It is [necessary to] walk in the discomfort that sometimes accompanies reflection, (p70).

The key shadow for PR, I reckon, is the part the industry has played in denying climate change: it’s role in the construction and maintenance of the ‘denial machine’ is fully documented in Almiron and Xifra’s (2020) excellent book. It is not possible to read this and insist that PR is a force for social good, as so many scholars and practitioners do. Maturity requires contemplation of harm done.

3) Finding what’s real

In a world of illusion and fakery, how to connect to the real? A common question in these times, of course. Global movements are seeking meaning amid the meaningless. Many start with the body: the wonder and simplicity of breath; kinship with the non-human world; our common transience. How might such connections change PR?

4) Develop Resilience

Connecting with our collective fragility, witnessing the loss of species. the suffering already here and still to come, requires resilience. The Deep Adaptation Network brings together professional groups facing global change – there is space here for PR to mitigate some of the harm done.

5) Connect

Depth PR is about digging deep in order to connect at depth, not to isolate or withdraw. Jung says we have to connect with ourselves to connect to others. Not shouting but listening (real listening, not the tick box ‘consultations’). Young people are building communities that communicate in very different ways to those dominant in PR theory and practice, including learning from indigenous peoples’. Listening may require not-fixing, a challenge for PR, perhaps?

6) Change

Practice is responding to growing pressure for change. Agencies are branding themselves as actors for change; ESG is a growing force in organisations. But without depth much of this will still be too close to green washing or purpose washing – a continuation of the masquerade, just with different costumes. Depth PR requires different conversations.

The academy is still teaching old tunes, reflecting the embedded nature of PR within business schools. Pressures on universities preclude the kind of creativity required for this moment. Academe should, of course, be the home of reflection – perhaps it is time to remember that role?

Change will come – PR can participate in that change or just watch, but either way, change is coming.

What do you think? Still writing the final chapter – all feedback to these ideas welcome.

REFERENCES

ALMIRON, N. & JORDI, X. 2020. Climate change denial and public relations: strategic communication and interest groups in climate interaction, London, New York, Routledge.

ARENDT, H. 1958. The human condition, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Dorling, D. (2020). Slowdown : The end of the great acceleration–and why it’s good for the planet, the economy, and our lives. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Robinson, M. (2010). Absence of mind : the dispelling of inwardness from the modern myth of the self. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Rosa, H. (2019). Resonance : a sociology of the relationship to the world (J. C. Wagner, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Polity.

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Very nice interview by Richard Bailey for the excellent 50over50 series.

Full text in link below.

JF interview

PRPlaceJF

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Some recent reflections from Pamplona

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I’m starting a new blog to track the creation of my next book on appearance, deception, fast and slow communication. It’s provisionally titled Public Relations and Depth Communication: Behind the Mask (for the Routledge New Directions in Public Relations and Communications Research series). Will have thoughts, reviews, links. Followers, suggestions & contributions cordially invited here: Mask bookmask

  • with thanks to Padraig Macnamara for beautiful logo

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Just discovered my book on public relations and professional ethics is now in paperback. Always wanted it to be more accessible – do hope some of you will buy or borrow it .

PR and ethics book

 

Public Relations Ethics Fawkes

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I have two (!) papers in the latest edition of Public Relations Review (one has been online since 2014 but now gets full publication) and two online chapters to share.

Fawkes, J. (2015a) A Jungian Conscience: self-awareness for PR practice, Public Relations Review,  Vol 41, pp 726–733. Doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.06.005

PRR Jungian conscience

PRR1

 

Fawkes, J. (2015b) Performance and Persona: Goffman and Jung’s approaches to professional identity applied to public relations. Public Relations Review,  Vol  41, pp 675–680. Doi: 0.1016/j.pubrev.2014.02.011

Persona performance, PR ID

PRR2

My chapter on PR ethics for practitioners, in the pioneering #FuturePRoof book is available here (the rest of the book is also well worth reading):

PR ethics for professionals

futureproof

Finally, delighted that my chapter has been included in the free selection from the excellent Routledge New Directions in Public Relations Research series

 

Routledge1Routledge2

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Delighted one of the chapters from my book is included in the 85-page booklet showcasing work from Routledge’s New Directions in Public Relations Research series, edited by the redoubtable Kevin Moloney.

Full text here: PR booklet

http://b2l.bz/2TwlLl

 

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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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Lovely gathering of friends, colleagues and students today at St James Ethics centre in Sydney CBD. The centre’s director, Dr Simon Longstaff, talked about the importance of ethics in helping us understand and negotiate complex relationships in contemporary society, including the bond between professions and social values. Professor Andy Vann, Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University, was generous in his comments about the book, including the autobiographical approach. I particularly liked his explanation that CSU’s mission to be a university of (and for)  the professions requires that we educate students to lead and develop their fields, not merely reproduce current practice. Both agreed the book is timely and welcomed a new approach to these issues, given the inadequacies of the old ones. But going back further, and deeper, Andy referred to the Wiradjiri notion of ‘yindyamarra winhanga-nha’ (‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’). This requires humility and self-awareness, the notions I see as central to depth ethics.

Writing a book, as I said at the do, involves long periods of isolation, boredom, despair and exhaustion, so it was really moving to celebrate its release into the world with fellow dreamers and writers as well as academics and students. As well as the kind introduction by the VC, I was delighted that Prof Jim McNamara from UTS, Julian Kenney from the PRIA, and the Australian Council’s new Chair of Literature, Charlotte Wood, could attend. Colleagues, doctoral students and friends came from Brisbane, Wollongong, Bathurst, Katoomba and Sydney for the event – so grateful that they made the effort to share this moment.

Dr Simon Longstaff, JO Fawkes, Prof. Andy  Vann

Dr Simon Longstaff, Jo Fawkes, Prof. Andy Vann

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