Popular Culture and Social Change: The Hidden Work of Public Relations argues the complicated and contradictory relationship between public relations, popular culture and social change is a neglected theoretical project. Its diverse chapters identify ways in which public relations influences the production of popular culture and how alternative, often community-driven conceptualisations of public relations work can be harnessed for social change and in pursuit of social justice.
This book opens up critical scholarship on public relations in that it moves beyond corporate understandings and perspectives to explore alternative and eclectic communicative cultures, in part to consider a more optimistic conceptualisation of public relations as a resource for progressive social change. Fitch and Motion began with an interest in identifying the ways in which public relations both draws on and influences the production of popular culture by creating, promoting and amplifying particular narratives and images. The chapters in this book consider how public relations creates popular cultures that are deeply compromised and commercialised, but at the same time can be harnessed to advocate for social change in supporting, reproducing, challenging or resisting the status quo.
Drawing on critical and sociocultural perspectives, this book is an important resource for researchers, educators and students exploring public relations theory, strategic communication and promotional culture. It investigates the entanglement of public relations, popular culture and social change in different social, cultural and political contexts – from fashion and fortune telling to race activism and aesthetic labour – in order to better understand the (often subterranean) societal influence of public relations activity.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Popularity, popular culture and public relations
Chapter Two: Public relations in our everyday lives
Chapter Three: Trending… fortune tellers, dream weavers and charlatans
Chapter Four: Undead PR: Theorising public relations and popular culture
Chapter Five: ‘The PR girl’: Gender and embodiment in public relations
Chapter Six: Fashionable ephemera, political dressing and things that matter
Chapter Seven: Public relations, race and reconciliation
Chapter Eight: Environmental protest music and justice perspectives
Chapter Nine: Cassoloda: Communication, protest and the 2017 Catalan Indy Ref
Chapter Ten: Critical reflections
Kate Fitch is Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where she coordinates the public relations specialisation. She previously worked at Murdoch University, where she founded the public relations major and chaired the program for 10 years. Her book, Professionalizing Public Relations: History, Gender and Education, offered the first sociological history of Australian public relations in the twentieth century. Her research interests and publications span critical public relations perspectives on gender, history, promotional and contemporary culture.
Judy Motion is Professor of Communication in the Environmental Humanities group at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Judy’s most recent research focuses on public discourse, sense making and change in relation to environmental issues and controversies. Past research has included discourse and identity in organizational change, power and resistance in the implementation of new technologies and the influence of public relations on policy formation. Her latest book, Social Media and Public Relations: Fake Friends and Powerful Publics, co-authored with Robert L. Heath and Shirley Leitch, was awarded the Outstanding Book Award in 2016 by the National Communication Association, USA.
'Fitch and Motion have produced a creative and exciting volume, combining personal, scholarly and professional insights to offer a much needed critical account of the contemporary impact of public relations. Taking on such complex and diverse issues as social justice, gendered occupations, and political subjectivities, Motion and Fitch bring to light the many ways that public relations is a cultural force in our lives. Highly recommended for students and scholars of cultural studies, media theory, and organizational communication.' - Dr Melissa Aronczyk, Associate Professor, School of Communication & Information, Rutgers University, USA
'Fitch and Motion provide a fascinating journey through some of the most visible forms of contemporary cultural life, from fashion to political struggle, zombies to protest songs, and reveal the ways in which public relations permeates these worlds. In a hopeful narrative of potential change, they show the deep connections between the communicative power of mediated popular culture and the impact it has on the ways we understand the world. This is an important book that takes public relations scholarship further by seeking its presence in unexpected places, among unexpected people, and asking how and why it matters for our future.' - Dr Lee Edwards, Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
'Academics have not paid much attention to the role of PR in shaping popular culture. It is one of those territories that has not attracted researchers because it is surely frivolous or because of a pernicious organizational-centred perspective of public relations. However, thanks to this book we can go into this, until now, dark side of public relations and discover a fundamental dimension to better understanding the field and capturing a public relations reality, different from the dominant one we can find in the traditional literature. The holistic approach that the authors have given to the subject turns this book into a fundamental text of a new critical thinking of public relations, where the daily life of the social body is not at odds with scholarship. In sum, a must read for everybody interested in how public relations works beyond its corporate function.' - Dr Jordi Xifra, Professor, Department of Communication, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain
'This book is one of few to locate public relations under the lens of cultural studies, and its intersectional concerns. Fitch and Motion ask: ‘How would our lives differ if there were no public relations?’ The resulting discussion is both reflexive and nuanced, as the authors explore various international campaigns to promote identity, self-determination and social justice across cultural, political and environmental realms. ---The book will be of interest to a wide range of disciplines; including media and communications studies, cultural studies, gender studies, critical race studies, discourse studies; as well as advertising, marketing, public relations, and political communication.' - Dr Clea Bourne, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK