Public Relations Theories + Cultural and Social Studies = Progress!

As part of my Master’s course at London College of Communication, we had a section called “Cultural Studies”. Now, in a class full of practically orientated aspiring communications professionals, the course flew over our head. It was just a Thursday afternoon spent in a freezing lecture with little purpose and minute use for our future profession. Most of us failed to understand why an understanding of culture and society is such an important part of working with communication, no matter in what field you are active. We all wanted to focus on media relations, event management, issues management, strategic planning and all of the other components of public relations practice and theory. We wanted to learn all the tips and tricks of the business and go out there and conquer.

What we failed to realise, in spite being a class of many different cultures and educational background trying to communicate with each other, was how culture and societal structure completely rules how you should and in fact are communicating. However, surprisingly little research has been done taking these components into account within the field of public relations and strategic communication. The field within public relations that is most concerned with culture is internal communication, where organisational culture is a factor well known in theories. But what about external communication? Even with Grunig’s systems theory at hand, few scholars have looked more closely on how communication and culture interact. How are they related and what effect do they have on each other? If we live in a society of different systems interacting with each other, developing alongside each other in an evolution not far from Darwinism, why are we not more keen on knowing more about it?

With this question in mind, I am slowly building further on my own dissertation. I really want to try to add more to the issue of communication (or public relations) in relation to its surroundings and what kind of effect they have on each other. My dissertation will leap off from the light of reflexive modernity as a basis of where we might be today and where communication fits in. Now more than ever is there a need for communication professionals to try to understand the society and culture in which it is meant to function. With more movement, less institutionalism, more volatility among voters and a media landscape that makes mass communication possible in ways never experienced before, we truly need to have an understanding of how everything is connected and how they effect each other. My dissertation will not answer all questions, far from it, but hopefully it will spark an interest for knowing more.

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