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The role of public relations in shaping service ecosystems for social change

Julia A. Fehrer (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand) (Department of Marketing and Service Management, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)
Jonathan J. Baker (Adelaide Business School, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Craig E. Carroll (Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 22 March 2022

Issue publication date: 8 July 2022




Wicked problems require holistic and systemic thinking that accommodates interdisciplinary solutions and cross-sectoral collaborations between private and public sectors. This paper explores how public relations (PR) – as a boundary-spanning function at the nexus of corporate and political discourse – can support societies to tackle wicked problems.


This conceptual paper synthesizes literature on PR with a service ecosystem perspective. The authors use the service ecosystem design framework to structure the PR literature and develop a model of service ecosystem shaping for social change, which highlights the important role that PR can play in shaping processes.


The authors explicate how PR can (1) facilitate value cocreation processes between broad sets of stakeholders that drive positive social change, (2) shape institutional arrangements in general and public discourse in particular, (3) provide a platform for recursive feedback loops of reflexivity and (re)formation that enables discourse to ripple through nested service ecosystems and (4) guide collective shaping efforts by bringing stakeholder concerns and beliefs into the open, which provides a foundation for collective sense-making of wicked problems and their solutions.


This paper explains the complexity of shaping service ecosystems for positive social change. Specifically, it highlights how solving wicked problems and driving social change requires reconfiguration of the institutional arrangements that guide various nested service ecosystems. The authors discuss in detail how PR can contribute to the shaping of service ecosystems for social change and present a future research agenda for both service and PR scholars to consider.



Fehrer, J.A., Baker, J.J. and Carroll, C.E. (2022), "The role of public relations in shaping service ecosystems for social change", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 33 No. 4/5, pp. 614-633.



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