Activist communication: a critical reflection on an ethnographic research project
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Critical scholars have questioned the widespread assumption that public relations’ focus is solely on achieving corporate goals, arguing that this perspective does not only undermine the standing of public relations as a critical scholarly discipline in its own right, but furthermore limits the understanding and value of professional communication in general. This argument is highlighted in the discipline’s focus on activist communication, which has developed into one of the largest bodies of knowledge in public relations research. However, despite extensive scholarly interest, spanning over more than three decades, to date little emic research has been conducted to provide insight into activist communication. This paper has a methodological focus and consists of a review of and critical reflection on a postgraduate research project that set out to address this existing gap, by studying one of the currently most active activist groups in Australia: the WA anti nuclear movement. Using ethnographic techniques, the author conducted semi-structured interviews, undertook participant observation at a range of activist events and spent time at the movement’s umbrella organisation’s offices. This paper discusses challenges and benefits of the research experience so far, by engaging with ethnographic and social movement literature as well as by drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of reflexivity. The author concludes by suggesting that public relations as a discipline can be enriched by research that departs from a corporate perspective, to one that focuses on alternative voices and viewpoints.
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Wolf, Katharina (2011)Critical scholars have questioned the widespread assumption that public relations’ focus is solely on achieving corporate goals, arguing that this perspective does not only undermine the standing of public relations as a ...
Coming of age in the digital era: An exploratory transnational study into Australian and Singaporean PR consultants’ attitude towards digital communication.Archer, C.; Wolf, Katharina (2017)Digital and social media tools are no longer new and have become standard components of the public relations toolkit. However, they have undoubtedly changed and shaped the practice of public relations (PR) over the past ...
Wolf, Katharina (2018)This paper proposes an alternative approach to the scholarship of activist public relations, based on the ideas of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu; notably his understanding of activism in society. Although Bourdieu is ...