Public Relations Theory

Public Relations Theory

Public Relations Theory

Public Relations Theory


Beginning with the basic premise that public relations can best be understood as a specialized type of communication, the contributors to this volume establish public relations as a vital and viable realm for communication research and theory development. Through the application of communication theories, they attempt to explain and predict public relations practices and then use these practices to develop communication theories. Their discussions fall into three distinct categories: metatheory, theory, and examples of applications of theories. An ideal volume for professionals and students in communication, journalism, and related fields.


This book evolved out of the belief that public relations can be best understood as a specialized kind of communication. If this assumption is true, we reasoned, it should be possible to study public relations as an instance of applied communication. We should be able to apply communication theory to explain and to predict public relations practice, and use public relations practice as a site for the development of communication theory.

In the spring of 1987 a conference on communication theory and public relations was held at Illinois State University. The authors wish to express their appreciation to Illinois State for support for this conference. Participants were selected for the conference on the basis of a competitive blind review of papers that addressed the topic of communication theory and public relations. Based on a desire to test the limits as well as the core of this approach to public relations, a broad definition of communication theory was used, allowing room for related social science theories to be included.

The participants met in a workshop format for 3 days using prepared papers as the basis for discussions that ranged across a wide spectrum of theoretical issues. These discussions fell into three categories: those addressing issues of metatheory, those addressing issues of theory, and those addressing issues or examples of application of theories. These three categories were later used to organize this book, although the chapters are substantially different from the original papers discussed at the conference. These changes, in part the result of conference discussion and in part the result of the editing process, have had the overall effect of putting the focus of the book even more clearly on communication theory.

Carl H. Botan Vincent Hazleton, Jr.

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