Public Relations, Activism, and Social Change: Speaking Up
Winner of the 2014 NCA PRIDE Book Award
Why are some voices louder in public debates than others? And why can’t all voices be equally heard? This book draws significant new meaning to the inter-relationships of public relations and social change through a number of activist case studies, and rebuilds knowledge around alternative communicative practices that are ethical, sustainable, and effective. Demetrious offers a powerful critical description of the dominant model of public relations used in the twentieth century, showing that ‘PR’ was arrogant, unethical and politically offensive in ways that have severely weakened democratic process and its public standing and professional credibility. The book argues that change within the field of public relations is imminent and urgent—for us all. As the effects of climate change intensify, and are magnified by high carbon dioxide emitting industries, vigorous public debate is vital in the exploration of new ideas and action and if alternative futures are to be imagined. In these conditions, articulate and persistent publics will appear in the form of grassroots activists, asking contentious questions about risks and tabling them for public discussion in bold, inventive, and effective ways. Yet the entrenched power relations in and through public relations in contemporary industrialized society provide no certainty these voices will be heard. Following this path, Demetrious theorises an alternative set of social relations to those used in the twentieth century: public communication. Constructed from communicative practices of grassroots activists and synthesis of diverse theoretical positions, public communication is a principled approach that avoids the deep contradictions and flawed coherences of essentialist public relations and instead represents an important ethical reorientation in the communicative fields. Lastly, she brings original new perspectives to understand current and emergent developments in activism and public relations brought about through the proliferation of Internet and digital cultures.
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