Archive for August, 2008

Published papers

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: Papers | Tags: , , |

Pdf versions of papers can be found under Blogroll heading on main page – click on ‘papers’ for links

Public Relations Models and Persuasion Ethics: a new approach

This is a paper published in 2007, based on conference papers delivered at ICA, San Francisco (May 2007) and Alan Rawel/CIPR conferences (July 2007). It predates the PhD work but outlines some of the thinking that led to it, as does the Ethical Space article from 2006 (below)

Can ethics save public relations from the charge of propaganda?

Recent paper (Fall, 2008) by Johanna Fawkes and Kevin Moloney in Public Relations Review on PR & Propaganda (pl note copyright restrictions)

Does the European Union (EU) need a propaganda watchdog like the US Institute of Propaganda Analysis to strengthen its democratic civil society and free markets?

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Conferenced out – pt 1

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: Conference reports |

There are little windows in the university teaching cycle – one after marking/exam boards but before everyone flees the country and another after their return and before the hoards descend – and in these interstices the year’s academic conferences flourish.

Hence I spent Sunday to Tuesday at the end of June/early July at the first Radical PR conference in Stirling University, Scotland before taking the not-very-much sleeper to London so I could catch the last two days of the PARN/Intercape conference on professional ethics at Kingston University. Not used to this business-model of travel and meetings, I wimped out of the third leg, the ICE meeting in Lincoln. But it isn’t just guilt at broken promises that prompts me to write this – I had such a fascinating week of tremendous variety and promise, it’s worth sharing.

The Radical PR conference grew out of conversations between leading PR academics like Jacquie L’Etang of Stirling, David McKie at Waikoto, NZ, Jesper Falkheimer from Lund, Sweden, Magda Pieczka from QMUC, Edinburgh and Jordi Xifra from Girona University, Spain. They recognised that a group of dissident scholars has emerged in recent years who are challenging and expanding the rather narrow systems-based approach which dominates the debate on the PR field. The effects of critical theory, social theory, post modernism, chaos theory, critiques of propaganda and changes in methodology as well as research topics have been explored by a growing number of PR academics. While we often cite each other’s work and embrace at conferences, we had not become an Entity. Importantly, this was an international conference, with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, US, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Columbia amongst other countries. The text books in the field create a kind of ‘Planet US’ orthodoxy in which PR history starts with PT Barnum (as Rob Brown, from Salem University pointed out); but other countries have their own histories, as UK and other European scholars have shown.

So it was exciting to all be in one room, realising that there was enough critical mass to become Something. Needless to say we spent half the time discussing What exactly we might be and do and – most importantly – what we should call ourselves. Some unease at the 70s’ connotations of ‘radical’ led to more heat than light and we seem to have ended up where we started – but taking the pretty route to get there. A concrete result is the establishment of a strong website ( which will form an important nexus for all our divergent ideas and activities, as well as creating possibilities for joint research projects and information exchange. A less concrete outcome is the desire from the participants not just to swap stuff but to make a difference, to contribute to change. The Panglossian view taken by many texts misses the complexity and contradiction of PR’s role in the world, not only of communication but also economics, ideas and social change.

As well as admiring our navels (sorry, practicing reflexivity) we heard a lively range of views, demonstrating precisely the range of issues with which PR scholars are engaged – such as Christine Daymon’s (Curtin University, Australia) plea for more reflexivity and humanity in PR research methodologies to explore how the human dimensions of PR production and consumption, Rob Brown’s (Salem, Mass) splendid revisionist ‘meta-theoretical’ overview of PR history, embracing complexity, dramaturgy, and the liminal possibilities between the sacred and the profane; Oyvind Ihlen’s (Oslo University, Norway) call for reclamation of rhetorical theory into PR discourse; and Paul Elmer’s (University of Central Lancashire, UK) personal and sociological exploration of the role of body image in constructing norms in PR work. These were the papers which most spoke to me and my interests, but other important contributions included papers on the language used to manage Mattel’s 2007 Product Recall crisis and the scapegoating of Chinese manufacturers; CSR policies in Columbia; the occupational culture of PR in Mexico; private/public PR debates in cocoa production in Ghana and Nigeria; a deconstruction of concepts of community as deployed by developers in Australia; an analysis of activist-corporate partnerships and an exploration of the language used by PR practitioners to describe their own experience at work.

The whole event was splendidly organised and catered (and chauffered) by Jacquie L’Etang and her husband Deek, who ensured lively social space as well as serious exchanges. There is a real change taking place in the discourse around pubic relations – and Radical PR is likely to play a major role in leading this change.

Spent a somewhat sleepless night on the train to London (mixture of excitement at the glamour of the idea (very 39 Steps), if not the reality, and waking every time my bed changed speed. Arriving in Euston in pyjamas is … odd.

To Be Continued…..

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Jung & PR – the starting point

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: main themes | Tags: |

The more I wrote about contested versions of public relations:the more it seemed that something deeper than a difference of opinion underlay the division.  The first, and most familiar from teaching, was that promoted in core text books as PR ‘servicing society’ ‘in the interests of democracy’ ‘the ethical guardian of corprorations’ etc; the second involved the vilification of the business by writers like Stauber and Rampton, Ewen, Miller & others. Where PR books saw nobility and equality of engagement between organisations and publics, the critics saw sleaze, corruption and propaganda.

I was also writing a lot about propaganda and PR and became increasingly aware that the involvement of key PR players in 20th Century war propaganda was being marginalised or ignored altogether – as highlighted by other writers like Moloney & L’Etang. Not only was historical propaganda involvement edited out, accusations of involvement in contemporary corporate propaganda were often dismissed by leading academics as well as PR organisations.

On the other hand the most virulent critics seemed uable to envisage any kind of legitimate PR – as if the need of organisations – including charities, unions, NGOs  – to articulate their case professionaly was meaningless.

So: angels or daemons? I referred to this dynamic in a couple of papers (see links for relevant papers) as the rejection of Shadow material, using a generalised knowledge of Jung’s concept of Persona and Shadow and his insistence that one must confront and accept one’s own Shadow to become whole and fulfill personal and creative potential.

In the process of delivering said papers (eg one on persuasion ethics at the ICA conference in San Francisco, 2007) I realised that it was the tension in the denial and accusation that intrigued me: I couldn’t see how PR could claim to be ethical when its version of itself was so partial. This led to the basic premise of the PhD: that integrity is a precondition for  ethics, both personal and professional;  and that Jung’s ideas of integration could offer insights into how this might be achieved by professions in general and PR in particular.

To make a start on this I have spent the past year reading a great deal of Jung – often contradictory, elusive, allusive, weird, exciting, humble, arrogant, mystical and mystifying  – and have found enough material to support the idea that ethics stem from wholeness not ‘goodness’.

I have also made forays into modern & post-modern ethical thinking, particularly virtue ethics (MacIntyre), Bauman, some feminist ethics, theological ethics and professional ethics generally – as well some reading around the sociology of professionalism.

Most recent reading is Neitzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil – had no idea he was so funny – will write responses shortly.

Early summer was dominated by conferences – subject of next two posts.

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getting started

Posted on August 7, 2008. Filed under: main themes |

Ok, complete novice here, forgive technical/etiquette errors please.

Plan is to share ideas, insights, experiences concerning the work of Carl Jung, the construction of a Jungian ethics and its relevance to professional ethics in general and public relations ethics in particular – the subject of my PhD.

Said PhD now in second year – full time – so I will summarise main discoveries in next few posts. This is just the intro. I don’t just want to share intellectual content, but also the ups and downs of the PhD process itself (I notice there are a few PhD diaries out there, so this must be a common desire). The point is to encourage reflexivity, asking questions about my own assumptions, blind spots, fears, progress and inviting others to join in if you so wish.

Because I have chosen rather vast topic areas – Jung wrote over 20 volumes; ethics has a 2000+ year history and my own field – public relations – fills bookshelves and teems with multiple perspectives and changing ideas – I am feeling my way into the links between these elements and would be very interested in any response from those with more experience of a particular aspect of the whole picture.

My main thesis is that professional ethics tends to be based on ideas of goodness – the ideal-typical (Larson, 1977) version of the professional  – and stresses excellence and best practice, with codes to clarify and, in theory, police this best practice. Any deviance should be punished but is often ignored or blamed on ‘bad apples’.

Jung’s idea of individuation suggests that this approach emphasises the ‘persona’ or public face at the expense of the shadow, hidden self. Jung’s Shadow is not just the negative aspects of the person (or group) but may contain unlived elements including creativity, spontaneity etc. The point is that maturity requires recognition and acceptance of that which has been denied – the integration of the Shadow is the prerequisite for the whole individual. And I can’t see how you can base an ethics on anything less.

Later, I’ll talk about Pr and its divided professional Self…………………

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