Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication: A new approach to public relations research and practice, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication

A new approach to public relations research and practice, 1st Edition

By Melanie James


228 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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In public relations, people talk about positioning an idea, a persona, a political ideal, an ideology – but what are they talking about? Why do some positions taken by organizations crystallize in the minds of audiences, while others fail? 

Whilst positioning is not something new in public relations, this book is the first to explicate what it involves, how it works and how to do it. This is the first in-depth exploration of the possibilities of Positioning Theory for the public relations field and it adds a new perspective to the growing body of multidisciplinary work in this rich theoretical area, moving the discussion away from the traditional communication plans of previous decades, which fail to accommodate the changing media and opinion landscapes. The author pulls together various strands of socio-cultural theory into an analytical framework, providing readers with a tool to analyse the organizational implications of public relations decisions, guiding strategic decision making through realistic scenario planning.

This thought-provoking book provides an alternative path to studying communication in increasingly complex environments and as such, will be vital reading for researchers and educators, advanced communication and public relations students, and for senior public relations practitioners.


'This book offers nothing less than an innovative way of thinking about Public Relations. By drawing upon Positioning Theory it brings to the field the idea of rights and duties and offers the Public Relation practitioners a framework to design PR strategies. At the same time, the book offers to social scientists from different disciplines new insights in how to analyze data from a Positioning Theory angle. Melanie James’ book is a wonderful illustration of the saying that there is nothing as practical as a good theory.'

Luk van Langenhove, Professor and Director of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), Representative of the Rector at UNESCO in Paris, and co-author with Prof Rom Harré of the book, "Positioning Theory - Moral Contexts of Intentional Action" (1999).

'Positioning is something that public relations people talk about, yet no one has adequately described or theorized – until now. Melanie James makes an important contribution to both theory and practice by describing, analyzing and applying positioning theory, thereby explaining how public relations contributes to the social construction of reality.'

Karen Miller Russell, Associate Professor, University of Georgia, USA.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Public Relations and Positioning Theory 1. Positioning in Public Relations 2. Rights, Duties and Power in Positioning 3. A Framework for Intentional Positioning in Public Relations Part 2: The Positioning Triangle and Public Relations 4. Determining the Position in Public Relations: The first vertex of the positioning triangle 5. Enacting the Position in Public Relations: The second vertex of the positioning triangle 6. Supporting the Positioning in Public Relations: Storyline, the third vertex of the positioning triangle Part 3: Applying Positioning Theory to Public Relations Research and Practice 7. Analyzing Positioning Strategies in Public Relations 8. A Detailed Study of a Positioning Strategy: Indonesia, ‘good friend’ of Australia 9. Utilizing the Framework for Intentional Positioning in Designing Public Relations Strategies: Positioning extreme poverty 10. Future Directions for Positioning Theory in Public Relations

About the Author

Melanie James is senior lecturer in communication at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is a national award-winning practitioner, having held senior roles in public relations and marketing communication. She has published in public relations journals and authored Australia’s first public relations careers book.

About the Series

Routledge New Directions in PR & Communication Research

Current academic thinking about public relations (PR) and related communication is a lively, expanding marketplace of ideas and many scholars believe that it’s time for its radical approach to be deepened. Routledge New Directions in PR & Communication Research is the forum of choice for this new thinking. Its key strength is its remit, publishing critical and challenging responses to continuities and fractures in contemporary PR thinking and practice, tracking its spread into new geographies and political economies. It questions its contested role in market-orientated, capitalist, liberal democracies around the world, and examines its invasion of all media spaces, old, new, and as yet unenvisaged.

The New Directions series has already published and commissioned diverse original work on topics such as:

  • PR’s influence on Israeli and Palestinian nation-building
  • PR's origins in the history of ideas
  • a Jungian approach to PR ethics and professionalism
  • global perspectives on PR professional practice;
  • PR as an everyday language for everyone
  • PR as emotional labour
  • PR as communication in conflicted societies, and
  • PR's relationships to cooperation, justice and paradox.

We actively invite new contributions and offer academics a welcoming place for the publication of their analyses of a universal, persuasive mindset that lives comfortably in old and new media around the world.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Marketing / General
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Public Relations