Shaking it up with social theory

With social theory in mind, public relations practitioners can disrupt thinking about their work and its societal role, recognising their work’s positive and negative impact.


It is difficult to chastise public relations practitioners for keeping their noses to the ground and not taking a broader social theoretical perspective. There is, however, a payoff for those willing to think in broader terms, looking beyond what is immediately useful for an organisation. Social theory can help provide a basic understanding of the societal role of public relations and its ethical and political consequences. There is a growing body of literature that focuses on such aspects. This literature provides us with a new compass, a context focus and useful concepts. It also directs our attention to certain concerns about the profession.

Oyvind Ihlen

Øyvind Ihlen is a professor at the University of Oslo and has published over 60 journal articles and book chapters, and written or edited eight books, including Public Relations and Social Theory: Key Figures and Concepts (2009) and the award winning Handbook of Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility (2011). He is president elect of The European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA).

Piet Verhoeven

Piet Verhoeven is an associate professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research of the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Prior to becoming an academic in 2002, he worked in several positions ion public relations and communication, including for the Schiphol Group.