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Power and Public Relations

Jeffrey L. Courtright and Peter M. Smudde


The concept of power is related to the process and institutions of → public relations (PR) in several dimensions. Yet power is a problematic concept in PR research and practice, as it is in communication quite generally (→ Power and Discourse ). It carries with it semantic baggage – largely negative or even tragic – that can easily lead to misunderstandings. A commonsense view of the term often brings to mind typical ideas of control, domination, and influence but also, for example, rank, authority, responsibility, accountability, gender, race, social position, money, resources, or persuasiveness. Power covers more than any combination of these ideas. This entry describes the current lines of inquiry scholars have pursued regarding the role of power in PR and then explores extensions of, and alternatives, to these lines of research. Initially, research on power in PR concentrated on the role of PR professionals in the workplace , particularly women. Although PR as a field increasingly has attracted more women than men to its professional ranks, organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America have documented ongoing problems with the placement of women in positions of authority and with differential pay, thus reflecting a general societal problem. Although progress has taken place that has prevented the occupation becoming a “pink-collar ghetto,” academic journals ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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