You are here

Understanding Public Relations

Understanding Public Relations
Theory, Culture and Society

First Edition
  • Lee Edwards - London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

April 2018 | 288 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This book argues that public relations is not merely an organizational tool, but a powerful influence on social and political life. From carefully considered communication by multinational corporations, to government campaigns that manage public opinion, to the self-promotion of celebrities via social media, public relations is central to our individual and collective lives.

Understanding Public Relations introduces a socio-cultural approach to public relations as a way of analysing the growing importance of public relations in its social, cultural and political contexts. Encouraging a deeper and more critical understanding of its influence on society, Lee Edwards:

  • Explores public relations in relation to contemporary debates around promotional culture, discourse, globalisation, democracy and power
  • Considers how public relations frames vital discussions of race, gender, class and ethics
  • Brings theory to life with a range of case studies, including YouTube vlogging, the global fair trade movement and the 2016 EU referendum in the UK

Both accessible and provocative, this is an invaluable resource for students and researchers exploring public relations theory, critical public relations, strategic communication and promotional culture.

Chapter 1: Starting points: Defining socio-cultural research in public relations
Chapter 2: Public relations as promotion: The production and circulation of meaning
Chapter 3: Public relations, discourse and power
Chapter 4: A political economy of public relations
Chapter 5: Deliberative democracy and public relations
Chapter 6: Public relations and the public sphere
Chapter 7: Public Relations and globalisation
Chapter 8: Public relations as an occupational field: The professional project
Chapter 9: Race and Class in / and PR
Chapter 10: Feminist public relations: Performativity, Black feminism, postfeminism
Chapter 11: Ethics, Public Relations and Society
Chapter 12: Conclusion: Public relations beyond the organisation

Understanding Public Relations pushes the genre of the public relations text into new territory. Lee Edwards looks beyond organisational boundaries to vividly illustrate and explore the public relations occupation as a social and cultural practice.

Øyvind Ihlen
University of Oslo

A must-read for any serious PR student or scholar, Edwards’ socio-cultural approach presents an important and timely challenge to the dominance of functionalism in the field of public relations.

Dennis Mumby
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Edwards thinks deeply about the world we live in, delivering thoughtful, accessible prose on PR’s role in society. Ideal for PR students, scholars and practitioners.

Clea Bourne
Goldsmiths, University of London

Lee Edwards’ important book offers a crucial and unique perspective on public relations by emphasizing society and culture as a sense-making context for PR. With chapters exploring the dynamics of public relations within cultural contexts of race, class, feminism, political economy and ethics, Edwards rightly insists we think about the power relations that authorize contemporary forms of promotion. 

Sarah Banet-Weiser
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California

One of the most comprehensive and coherent explorations of the role of public relations in society to date. A must-read for anyone who is serious about understanding its power and its possibilities.

Anne Gregory
University of Huddersfield

This has been an excellent read. The book covers all areas of PR from a critical perspective and is hence very suitable for students to engage with wider ideas around PR in society, away from purely campaign ideas. The library did not order it yet, because of budget reasons, but I am strongly suggesting it.

Dr Antje Glück
School of Arts & Media, Teesside University
March 9, 2020

This is a wonderful book that teaches students the importance of practicing ethical public relations in society. Had been searching for such a text for a long time!

Dr Arshia Anwer
Communication Dept, Manhattan College
April 24, 2019

Very good and relevant book to see influencingf aspects not only on the organizational scale, but also on societal and political levels. A "must-read" for any student dealing with this topic. Also the book contains very relevant actual case studies to illustrate the topic.

Dr Meik Nowak
IEE, Ruhr-University Bochum
September 10, 2018

This book perfectly covers current issues and approches in PR theory and research.

Professor Melike Aktas
Faculty of Communication, Ankara Universitesi
July 29, 2019

For instructors

Please select a format:

Select a Purchasing Option

ISBN: 9781473913103

ISBN: 9781473913097

SAGE Knowledge is the premier social sciences platform for SAGE and CQ Press book, reference and video content.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.