Call for Papers

The public relations professional project an academic conference to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the MSc in Public Relations at Stirling

11–12 September 2009
Stirling Media Research Institute
Department of Film, Media and Journalism
University of Stirling

Conference theme: The public relations professional project

Rationale: The public relations professional project is well underway in the UK. There are many dimension of interest to the professional body, academics and practitioners. Professionalism is of central importance to education and training, and raises a number of pedagogical issues. This conference takes the debate forward in a number of different ways that will add new knowledge and understanding of the occupation. While a number of themes are suggested, there is also room for original contributions on other topics. Work-in-progress and doctoral presentations are welcome. Abstracts will be peer reviewed. Abstracts and full papers will be bound into a conference booklet.

Full papers (3,000–5,000)
Short communications/working papers (1500–2,000)


  • Expression of interest (attendance/paper submission): 1 December 2008
  • Submission of abstracts: 1 April 2009
  • Submission of papers: 1 August 2009

The professional project

  • The politics of public relations education
  • Hierarchies of education• Regulation and control
  • Technologies of education
  • The public relations educational market
  • Translating professional practice into educational attainment: strengths and weaknesses of CPD
  • The limits of professionalism: barriers to professional status and social legitimacy

The occupation

  • Professional cultures and climates
  • Professional identities, lifestyles and lifeworlds
  • Diversity: class, gender and race
  • Ethics: power and persuasion
  • Political and economic contexts: PR as an elite practice
  • Social contexts: PR as a cultural practice
  • Global contexts: PR as international discourse
  • Public relations in practice: ethnographic engagements

Research and publication

  • Writing for public relations research
  • Research agendas
  • Doctoral research in public relations
  • Supervising PR dissertations and theses: key issues

Teaching and learning

  • Pedagogical dilemmas: instrumentalism and rationality versus critique?
  • Pedagogical creativity: best practice in the classroom
  • ‘Graduate-ness’: the added value of degrees
  • Translating education into practice: myths, utility and frustration

New and on-going research perspectives

  • Theory building
  • Critique
  • Interdisciplinary perspectives
  • Doctoral research

5 responses to “Call for Papers

  1. I’ve sent an expression of interest by email (but note that Jacquie L’Etang is currently on sabattical) – so thought I should leave a note here to say that I’m hoping to attend – and present a paper at – this conference.

  2. This conference looks very interesting and in light of Richard’s post I’m leaving a note too to say that I’m hoping to attend.

  3. Pingback: Media, Managers & Communication Consultants » Blog Archive » Intressanta länkar

  4. I am a student on your Msc Public Relations online course and need to attend this conference as part of the course requirements so I am looking forward to attending.

  5. This is a comment on Stefan Wehmeier’s presentation on Thursday in the 11.45 session.

    I agree with the first commentator who I think was hinting that: It is dangerous to equate Toth’s notion of “Cash Value” in public relations scholarship with this discipline’s incorporation into business faculties. It is dangerous to use the term “Cash Value” to imply the likelihood of public relations research and public relations academic jobs being focussed on enhancing business outcomes.

    I share Stefan’s concerns. However it confuses the matter to invoke Toth in this discussion. Below I quote Toth and then I quote William James from whom the notion of “Cash Value” in this context seems to arise. It is unfortunate that Toth does not cite James in the below article or explain her derivation of the phrase “Cash Value”. It is this lack of explanation or citing which I think has led to a bit of a muddle over this phrase and concept.

    The muddle can be unpicked by reading the salient passage from William James in “Pragmatism” (1907). In that essay he uses “Cash Value” merely as a metaphor to mean using words which have an actual effect – which contain meaning because they really refer to an experience which can be recognised. His use of “Cash Value” has nothing intrinsically to do with money or commercialism although one can see how this terminology can be enlisted in this way in our field which straddles both art and mammon.

    What I think Toth initially says in her 2002 Public Relations Review article is that in order for their work to have substance, postmodernists who theorise public relations need to be very well intellectually grounded. In this way she initially makes a theoretical point, not a commercial one.

    Later the article turns to a defence of practitioners who are not steeped in postmodern theory. This is where the notion that the article attacks intellectualism while championing the business application of public relations comes from.

    In my opinion Toth’s use of the term “Cash Value” as well as the continuing citation of this use obscures the two very distinct issues which are at play here:

    Issue 1. is the need for proper semiotic and pragmatic analysis when theorising public relations and related rhetorical processes.

    Issue 2. is the incorporation of what is clearly an extension of the the two and a half millennia ART of rhetoric – one of the trivium – one of the founding principles of Western culture – into the intellectually dead-end instrumentalism of propaganda and behavioural modification for commercial purposes.

    Below I include the salient passages from Toth and then from James:

    “Public Relations Review” 28 (2002) 243–250 “Postmodernism for modernist public relations: the cash value and application of critical research in public relations” Elizabeth L. Toth


    “This essay argues that postmodern theorists, while adding philosophical criticism of public relations practice, also must have a “cash value” for modern public relations professionals to use their ideas. The essay argues for a fuller domain definition of public relations than used by postmodernists. It defines modernism and postmodernism, using Mumby’s four categories. It suggests examples and criteria for how postmodernist thought could be added to practitioners’ theoretical checklists.

    …Critical research in public relations has provided another voice to our efforts to build the public relations body of knowledge. Postmodernism, an additional critical perspective adds yet another voice, tuned to the philosophy and values evident in every public relations choice. I have an affinity for postmodern thought. But, I would be uncomfortable if it didn’t help the field become more effective. There is a need for practicality in good theory. Another way of saying this is, to use Mumby’s phrase: postmodernism must have a “cash value” for modern public relations…”


    “What Pragmatism means” in “Pragmatism” William James (1907):

    “But if you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot look on any such word as closing your quest. You must bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less a solution, then, than as a program for more work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed.”

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