Positioning public relations as an academic discipline in Australia

Hatherell, William & Bartlett, Jennifer L. (2006) Positioning public relations as an academic discipline in Australia. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 6(2), pp. 1-13.

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Academic public relations in Australia appears to be entering a new phase in its relatively short history. The early model, in which tertiary courses were confined to teaching – focused institutions and conducted largely by teacher-practitioners, is being supplanted by one in which the discipline is now offered in most Australian universities, is increasingly embracing research, and is being taught by staff following more traditional academic career paths. Despite the formal association with the communication discipline through Australian and New Zealand Communication Association, public relations academics have increasingly asserted the independence of their discipline and in reality have very little dialogue with the other strands of the communication discipline. These developments call into question the most appropriate knowledge base for public relations as an academic discipline in Australia and its proper relation to the profession (and the Public Relations Institute of Australia as the professional body).

One danger associated with the assertion of disciplinary independence lies in the risk of excessive reliance on a relatively narrow body of work emanating from the more established United States public relations academy, in the process ignoring much richer work in surrounding disciplines such as social theory, rhetoric, organisation communication, and business and society. The emphasis on disciplinary demarcation also seems curious during a time of growing ‘interdisciplinarity’ in the humanities and the social sciences. This paper critically reviews the construction of public relations as an academic discipline in Australia, drawing on some of the literature on academic disciplinarity to propose a repositioning of the discipline, one that is less focused on asserting difference than on finding connections with other bodies of knowledge while maintaining close links with professional practice.

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ID Code: 32515
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: The contents of this journal can be freely accessed via the journal website (see Official URL)
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Public Relations, Profession, HERN
ISSN: 1440-4389
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > MARKETING (150500)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Division of International and Development
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 07 Jun 2010 00:27
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2014 04:59

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