The purpose of this paper is to respond to Coombs and Holladay’s (2012a) concern that textbooks have had a powerful and negative influence on public relations’ curricula because they have positioned public relations as a function of business, rather than as a field of knowledge and practice that plays an emancipatory role in society.
The paper is a diachronic, thematic analysis of public relations textbooks dating from 1981 to 2017. This methodology is valid because textbooks not only disseminate the knowledge base associated with a community of practice, but they are also influential legitimisers of curricula and bodies of knowledge.
The findings show that public relations textbooks are slowly evolving to include activist studies as a content area from both a strategic business perspective and a critical perspective.
The sample size is small but sufficient to indicate the beginnings of a trend. While the influence of textbooks on curricula is waning as students look beyond prescribed texts to a wider array of readings, they remain the most influential educational medium worldwide (Fuchs and Bock, 2018).
The paper calls for a greater inclusion of activist studies in contemporary public relations curricula to prepare practitioners for changes to the communications environment, as well as an opportunity for public relations to reposition itself as an emancipatory field of knowledge and practice.
Activism studies, as a curriculum field, provide a foundation for positioning public relations as an emancipatory practice.
The paper proposes that incorporating activism studies into public relations curricula is a way for public relations to reframe itself as a field of knowledge and practice that plays an emancipatory role in society.
Mules, P. (2019), "Changing representations of activists and activism in public relations textbooks", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 18-30. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-09-2018-0092Download as .RIS
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