On successful completion of the unit you should be able to:
1. Critically evaluate the relationship between culture and public relations, and between globalisation and public relations
2. Recognise the links between socio-cultural contexts and public relations practice
3. Understand the need for intercultural competence in public relations practice
4. Demonstrate awareness of specific cultural contexts in relation to public relations practice.
Definitions of popular culture
The term popular culture is generally recognized as the vernacular or culture of people that is predominant in a society, at a particular point of time. Popular culture includes various aspects of social life involving general public. It is also informed to us by the mass media. There are various examples of popular culture comes from wide ranges of genres, that includes popular music, cyber culture, entertainment, leisure even advertising and television (Wimmer, Roger and Joseph 2013). Television is the most arguable of widely consumed forms of popular culture, and it also represents a strong staying power. The reason behind this staying power is that people spend hours after hours watching television every day. It has become such a prevalent aspect that it made imagining life without television difficult (Hutton, James and Mak 2014).
Public relation being a significant industry, its work encompasses a wide range of strategies related to communication and certain tactics like public affairs, media relations and lobbying. It has a close relation with advertising, media industries and marketing activities promoting products, services, brands in order to make changes in the behavior and attitude of the audiences (Davis 2013). As in case of advertising, a combination of images and words is used are combined to portray a particular message, although the written and spoken word (in various forms like press releases, interviews and communication that is web based), similarly when television and movies elements of popular culture are concerned public relation plays a huge role.
Joe Saltzman, a professor of University of Southern California performed the largest research on near about 327 films in English language and TV programs from 1901 to 2011 (Saltzman 2018). The negative image of PR professionals has largely changed to much more varied images. Up to 2011, it was observed that women PR practitioners were far better in television performance, the count being 60 women characters opposed to 68 male characters which increased compared to 189 male characters against 44 women characters during the period of 1920-1990 (Saltzman 2018). ) Press secretaries, political aids, and police information officers are found to be the diversified PR professionals in movies and television. However PR practitioners may play the role of a hero who raises the voices against any unethical practices and will quit the job even but will refrain from doing anything immoral. They often get portrayed as anguished people who only performs jobs with high standards. One important part of this image is that it has a positive image created in the mind of public when portrayed in televisions and films. Negative images may include men and women preferring to do anything for their clients and specially PR women using their charms to win over clients for getting ahead in profession to villains who lie or cheat and even do murder to save own reputations. Thus, Public relation may affect society by portraying negative images of PR professionals through popular culture elements like television and media and help the PR professionals in gaining fame by positive image of PR professionals.
Popular culture and its connection with public relations
Globalization in past was defined as a strategy that has the capability of lifting all boats both in poor and rich countries that is raising the standard to a same level (Collins 2018). To some globalization has positive effects such as free trade helps in reducing various barriers like tax which help in economic growth, creates opportunities for jobs. They argue that globalization has potential in making this world, a better place to live in. On the other side some people have views like globalization have made richer more rich and the poorer to remain poor. Even they are of the opinion that, multinational corporations have been accused of unfair working conditions like slave labor wages and also reported of little concern for environment & ecological damage (Burlacu et al. 2018).
However globalization has also affected public relations. The term global public relation can be used as it has an intersection of public relation and globalization. This global public relation in a theoretical framework is proposed to have five environmental variables like, culture, activism, political system, media system and lastly the economic system (Sriramesh and Krishnamurthy 2008). In political system variable it is expected that a global public relation practitioner needs to have the ability to contextualize the variable political environments such as monarchy, theocracy and communitarism. In economic system, the economic development of any country has a crucial role to play in public relation. In this era of globalization, the concentration is on shift of economic power to a new one from the traditional players or power. These changes resulted in public relations to take newer challenges in newer markets. The public relations infrastructure has improved in many regions that is out of the traditional public relations power centers boundary in USA and few countries of Western Europe (Sriramesh and Krishnamurthy 2008).
Public relation itself is portrayed as a culture where public relations practitioners can be identified by one as having an own professional culture that is different from other professionals who are communication oriented in journalism advertising and others. Public relations scholarship needs to integrate culture into the knowledge body. Naturally it is lagging behind and is preparing the field of challenges for globalization (Sriramesh and Krishnamurthy 2008). In media systems variable exists an assumption that public relations is only related to maintain relationships with the journalists on behalf of organization – termed as media relations. This assumption comes from the fact that mass media is frequently used by public relations practitioners for communicating messages. Present practitioners have to maintain a balance between new and traditional media which contains information and communication technology (Sriramesh and Krishnamurthy 2008). Activism says that in a global picture, the complexities that arise while dealing with activists group, domestically and internationally creates increasing challenge for the organization as well as the public relations practitioners globally(Sriramesh and Krishnamurthy 2008).
Therefore, it can be said that sensitivity to culture, media system, political system, economic system and activism is not needed only in the context of globalizing, rather, it is rudimentary to all enterprises of public relations.
The portrayal of public relations in popular culture
Public relations had its root many years ago and is not any recent invention. One of the first Public Relation specialist, according to some is Ivy Lee, while others argue Edward Bernays to be the father of public relations (Sheehan 2007). The birth of public relations can be vestige to Ancient Greece. Philosophers like Aristotle and Plato have written on rhetoric art to assist the public speakers in persuading people. Public relation evidence can also be found in the later part of 17th century, when in the British abolitionist movement, leaflets were distributed and lectures were given to influence the opinions of public towards the abolition of trading slaves on a global basis (Watson 2015).
Historical analysis and historical explanation will be called frequently if the confusing present is to be understood by the practitioners of public relations (Wehmeier 2015). Studying the history of public relations and the historians related to it, it can be argued that there exists no one privileged past related to public relation (Ver?i?, Dejan and Elizabeth 2017).
Ivy Lee being one of the two real Public relation practitioners initiated public relation as a professional practice (Fitch 2016). He started his career being a journalist and reported for numerous newspaper that were New York based, just like many modern public relation practitioner does in beginning of their career. It was during this time of his career that Ivy gave advice in 1903 to John D Rockefeller Jr. an eminent industrialist of America, for his own company named Standard oil, which is thought by many to have given birth of viewing public relation in the form of a profession. The Standard Oil Company was experiencing a bad public image because of facing a lot of strikes in the mines. Lee was the person who advised Rockefeller to go for a visit to the mines and have a face to face interaction with the miners of the mines. This advisory act helped Lee in gaining a positive reputation among the miners. It also helped in improving the public image as well as the perception regarding Standard Oil among public.
Edward Bernays, another real public relation practitioner of the two s, who is thought by many to be the only father of public relations and not Ivy lee is the initiator of public relation as a profession (Davison 2016). Born in Austria and being a nephew of Sigmund Freud, an eminent psychoanalyst, it was his uncle Sigmund Freud’s behavioral psychology theories that reflected many of Edward’s strategies related to public relations(Davison 2016). Edward is the most notable one who portrayed public relations as a science. He also united Freud’s psychoanalysis theories with other theories related to psychology for building his foundation of methods related to public relation. He developed the early theory based on public relations, as the book, titled as Crystalizing Public Opinion in 1923.
Thus, it can be concluded from the above paragraphs that history of public relations stemmed in Greece from the time of Plato or Aristotle and during the time of the great admirations Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays, the public relation industry got shaped as a profession with which we are acquainted today. The remarkable history of the PR historians is certainly something that any emerging public relation professional must get familiarized.
Burlacu, Sorin, Corneliu Gutu, and Florin Octavian Matei. "GLOBALIZATION–PROS AND CONS." Calitatea 19, no. S1 (2018): 122-125.
Collins, Mike. 2018. Forbes.Com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikecollins/2015/05/06/the-pros-and-cons-of-globalization/#48541496ccce.
Davis, Aeron. Promotional cultures: The rise and spread of advertising, public relations, marketing and branding. Polity, 2013.
Davison, Alexis. "Shaping the Public Mind: Edward Bernays and the Rise of Public Relations." (2016).
Fitch, Kate. "The Professionalization of Public Relations." In Professionalizing Public Relations, pp. 1-28. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2016.
Hutton, James G., and A. K. Y. Mak. "Is a picture worth a thousand words? Using films and television shows to teach public relations." Public Relations Review 40, no. 3 (2014): 585-594.
Saltzman, Joe. 2018. "Saltzman". Ijpc.Uscannenberg.Org. https://ijpc.uscannenberg.org/journal/index.php/ijpcjournal/article/view/25/50.
Sheehan, Mark. "Australian public relations campaigns: A select historical perspective 1899–1950." Australian Media Traditions: Distance and Diversity (2007).
Sriramesh, Krishnamurthy. "Globalization and public relations." In Public relations research, pp. 409-425. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008.
Ver?i?, Dejan, and Elizabeth Bridgen. "Introduction: experiencing public relations." In Experiencing Public Relations, pp. 15-19. Routledge, 2017.
Watson, Tom. "Time marches on, and so does the history of public relations." (2015): 193-195.
Wehmeier, Stefan. "Historiography (and theory) of public relations history." In Perspectives on Public Relations Historiography and Historical Theorization, pp. 85-114. Palgrave Pivot, London, 2015.
Wimmer, Roger D., and Joseph R. Dominick. Mass media research. Cengage learning, 2013.
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