Revisiting social psychological contributions to Public Relations theory, research and practice: from managerial persuasion to societal dialogue

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Apart from some notable exemptions (e.g. Van Ruler & Vercic, 2005; White, 2000), social psychological influences on Public Relations have been often considered only a collection of loosely connected tactics grounded in theories of persuasion, communication and relationship building. Individual level of analysis and popularity of mid-twenty century psychological theories took it stamp on the psychological element, often implicating a non-dialogic, information-based and non-societal level approach to understanding publics’ influenced by PR activities and programs (see Ihlen, Van Ruler & Fredrikson 2009 for a review of key social theoretical approaches.) At the same time, Jacquie L’Etang’s realisation that “Public Relations needs more public relations to increase public understanding of its role in the society” (1992, p.34) has not, regrettably, stopped resonating 25 years after its formulation. Still, as Weaver, Motion and Roper (2006) argue, Public Relations is being too frequently and dismissively equated with spin and propaganda. The goal of this papers is to offer a contemporary social psychological outlook on Public Relations, grounding in the social cognitive approach and goal-directed theories of behaviour. In an argument that will follow I will also demonstrate that recent advancements in social psychology enable consistent framework for understanding meaning construction process of members of publics, dialogical communication building based on knowledge formation processes of individuals and societal-level analysis of influences of public communication. Secondary, additional benefits of adopting social psychological perspective will also help address misconceptions about Public Relations, as well as better understand how to build symmetrical relationships between organisation and individuals – members of the publics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Public Relations Education and Research Association Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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