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Public relations and the free organizational publication: Practitioner perspectives on the brave new (media) world

Ian Somerville (University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK)
Emma Wood (Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, UK)
Mark Gillham (Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 31 July 2007




The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss the results of research conducted among Scottish communication professionals, which investigated their perception of and attitudes toward recent trends and future developments with respect to the free organisational publication.


The mainly qualitative data presented in this paper were gathered using an in‐depth self‐completion questionnaire.


The paper finds that first, there have been significant changes in purpose, content, design and distribution of free organisational publications in recent years, but for the foreseeable future communication professionals envisage important roles for both print and electronic organisational publications. Second, practitioners tend to adopt the rhetoric and language of “technological determinism” when discussing new media technologies. That is, they tend to see themselves as relatively powerless in the face of “technological advances” and see their role as simply adopting what is given to them. This article argues that viewing the technology/society relationship from a more “social shaping” perspective will allow practitioners to utilise new media technologies in ways which will benefit them and their stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides a more complete picture of the “value” of free organisational publications. Future research must necessarily investigate the viewpoint of the audiences.

Practical implications

The paper draws lessons for practitioners on how best to employ print and electronic publications and how they should respond to current claims made about new media technologies.


This paper investigates what is, in many ways, a quite different new media environment from that analysed by previously published UK research in this area. This study also theorises practitioner discourses in a more comprehensive way than many earlier studies by examining them in the context of the theoretical debates surrounding the relationship between technology and society.



Somerville, I., Wood, E. and Gillham, M. (2007), "Public relations and the free organizational publication: Practitioner perspectives on the brave new (media) world", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 198-211.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited