Jesper Strömbäck sent me his latest book project Political Public Relations. I know him from when I was studying at the Strategic PR Program at Mid Sweden University. Thank you, Jesper!

The book is edited by him and Sprio Kiousis, University of Florida. Thirteen contributors gives their perspective on the subject of political public relations and as with anything related to Jesper Strömbäck, the reference section after each chapter is just as long and just as valuable as the main content. What I love about this compilation is that it’s heavily rooted in the latest research from the most prominent names in the PR research industry. You can find it here.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • In the preface, Strömbäck and Kiousis plunges into a lovely discussion of how to define public relations and aslo political public relations. My default in discussions like these are to disagree, but they take the route via the controversial “father of public relations” Bernays, then via White and Dozier, then via Hunt and Grunig and then back to Harlow who synthesized some 500+ definitions(!). From there they move on to really dig deep; I recognize namess like Iyengar, Coombs, Cutlip, Holladay, Laswell and of course Lippmann. I also love that they use “publics” continuously.  Speaking of publics, the only name I might be missing is Dewey who I think contributed indirectly to this discourse.
  • I enjoyed Martinelli’s historical context very much and especially the discussion between the rhetorical and persuasive discourse and then makes a beautiful connection to a subject field close to social media right now, influencers. She also highlights the Uses and Gratifications Theory framework, Here I think it would’ve been interesting with a spin-off chapter on Gamification and Political Public Relations. I know this aspect would interest Strömbäck who has argued that media has a tendency to describe politics as a game, a logic which might result in disrespect for the importance of politics, but more importantly also to a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  • Lieber and Golan’s discussion on news management basically aligned with a lot of thoughts I’ve been having since I studied PR at the university, I’m still to this day fascinated by the interaction between PR and nes media. I was introduced to Agenda Indexing, something I will make sure to learn more about. I would love to read something about how digital impacts news indexing.
  • When it comes to Tedesco’s chapter on Agenda Building, it’s focus on the US and top ranking political officers were more of an overview as I interpreted it and it left me with more questions than answers. Should politicians use the agenda to further their political programs or should they set the agenda? Does it really matter as long as they get their message across? And is getting messages across (push) the end-game in this day and age?
  • Apparently US president’s are giving more and more non-major speeches, according to Eshbaugh-Soha. This gives me ideas on the benefits also for executives to use online video more often. In ancient times we recognized the power of public speaking, but maybe we’ve become too heavily reliant on text-based communication in today´s society? As communication staffing for the White House goes, there’s been a significant increase, which implies that strategic professionals are pulling their weight in politics. But what role did the digital landscape contribute to this?
  • Baines showed me something extremely interesting by highlighting positive and negative persuasiveness. It’s basically what we in digital PR would call sentiment analysis. As I interpret the UK findings, the political game in a political campaign is mostly about making fewer mistakes than your competitors! This implies that you have more to gain from pushing your opponents to making mistakes rather than trying to push your own agenda. Maybe this is why we still to this day see so much negative campaigning?
  • Heath, Mr Issues Management himself, teams up with Waymer to discuss issues management. What made me most excited here was the use of “priming” as a complement to framing. When I studied, I argued that “priming” would be a good word in this context, but I remember some of my classmates thinking that it was a stupid word to use. Ha!
  • Lillecker and Jackson’s chapter on political marketing could’ve used some thoughts on how to drive influence not only through “push” visibility, since we today have more of a “pull” kind of world.
  • Hallahan writes about strategic framing. But I can’t help thinking about how his PR Links was a resource when I studied—and I found that the site still exists! Classic. And mostly why I’ve stuck with publishing PR links myself for quite some time now.
  • I loooved the table with Denial, Evading, Reduciing, Corrective Action and Mortification in regards to Political Crisis Communications in Coombs chapter! I will use it.
  • Relationship management must be said to be at the core of public relations, however, there’s such a heavy focus on publics and the media. So this is an inspiring field of research bridging to social psychology which has interesting touch points with social media as well. Ledingham provides a brief overview, but I want to know more about the the theories discussed, especially the Social Exchange and Effects theories.
  • Sanders makes me think about how to extend the knowledge of PR researchers to those who are operative professionals. I agree that the public (as in publics) should be put in center of political communications research. I think the responsibility falls heavily on the academics themselves; they need to present and convey their findings in more engaging and innovative ways.
  • Public Diplomacy is an entirely new field to me. To be honest I had a hard time getting through Molleda’s chapter, since diplomacy is such a difficult topic for me to get my head around. Reading up on Anti-Americanism was interesting, but also cynical. Dealings with such tendencies must start with listening rather than managing and even placing relatively mild critique on the same scale as antiglobalism and anticapitalism and deep hatred isn’t going to help US international relations; the US need to respond to critique with transparency and global collaboration instead of comprhensive labeling of opposite interests.
  • I could elaborate to quite some extent on Sweetser’s take on digital political public relations, but the focus on campaign site’s places the focus on channels, which must be regarded as an outdated perspective on digital public relations pretty common in the US. Mobiles might be the next horizon for information technology, but not for public relations. We need to discuss the field of digital public relations from a situational/psychological perspectives rather than how information is consumed. From a technology standpoint, the interesting perspective is the use of data mining PR strategies!
I can really recommend this book to strategic PR professionals and I hope it will reach an audience outside the academic world. I sure found reading it to be time well spent!
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PR Blogger:

As the author of Doctor Spin, Jerry's passionate about PR and strategic communications. He runs the agency Spin Factory and hosts online courses at Spin Academy. Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, television news anchor and journalist, and their two-year-old son, Jack. Click here to subscribe to Jerry's posts!

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