Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II

Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II

Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II

Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II


This volume illustrates the application of rhetorical theory and critical perspectives to explain public relations practices. It provides a systematic and coherent statement of the crucial guidelines and philosophical underpinnings of public relations. Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II addresses the rhetorical/critical tradition's contribution to the definition of public relations and PR practice; explores the role of PR in creating shared meaning in support of publicity and promotional organizational efforts; considers the tradition's contributions to risk, crisis, and issues dimensions of public relations; and highlights ethics, character, and responsible advocacy. It uses a rhetorical lens to provide practitioners with a sense of how their PR campaigns make a contribution to the organizational bottom line.


Robert L. Heath University of Houston

When the first volume of Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations was published, compliments emphasized one point: We in public relations and organizational rhetoric were slowly initiating the dawn of an era when meaning and the ethical judgment that accompanied it had arrived with enthusiasm and commitment. Most discussions of public relations prior to that time had focused on social scientific constructs and theory building that emphasized the processes of communication and relationships building. Many were saying, “but public relations is also about meaning.” Many said, “perhaps public relations is primarily about meaning.” That point is emphasized in spades in classic works such as Unseen Power by Scott Cutlip (1994).

Even today, especially in U.S. based journals that attend to academic discussions of public relations, most of the research features process in terms of variable analytic discussions rather than judgments of meaning and the ways it is formed. That trend is much less the case in such journals based outside of the United States. Also, some of the U.S. based publications that have recently emerged are emphasizing more of a meaning approach using variously the assumptions and principles of the rhetorical heritage, social constructionism, discourse analysis, and critical theory. Other journals that do not include “public relations” in their titles provide insightful discussions relevant to the practice and teaching of public relations as being vital to the collective making of meaning that defines commercial transactions and relationships between organizations, between them and individuals, society, and their physical and social environments. Some of these address the role that meaning plays in society and the way that organizational spokespersons work constructively as well as unreflectively or self-interestedly to discuss the ways that meaning is shaped which in turn influences marketplace activities and public policy decisions. Some critiques suggest that organizations assume individuals targeted in their campaigns are delusional and naively willing to accept corporate interpretations of very important matters.

Scope of our Study

For the wholeness, its total role in society, of public relations to be understood, appreciated, and evaluatively guided and corrected, academics and practitioners need constant and insightful discussions of the way meaning is socially constructed . . .

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