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PR Journal


Special Issue: Political Public Relations

Guest Editors: Spiro Kiousis, Ph.D., APR and Jesper Strömbäck, Ph.D.

Editors' Remarks
Public Relations Journal editor Donald K. Wright, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, and co-editors of this special issue, Spiro Kiousis, Ph.D., APR and Jesper Strömbäck, Ph.D.

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Introduction: Political Public Relations: Old Practice, New Theory-Building

Authors: Jesper Strömbäck, Ph.D., Mid Sweden University and Spiro Kiousis, Ph.D., APR, University of Florida

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Title: Sources of Citizens’ Experiential and Reputational Relationships with Political Parties

Authors: Trent Seltzer, Ph.D., Department of Public Relations, Texas Tech University, Weiwu Zhang, Ph.D., Department of Public Relations, Texas Tech University, Sherice Gearhart, Ph.D., School of Communication, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Lexie Conduff, College of Media & Communication, Texas Tech University.

Abstract: Strömbäck and Kiousis’s (2011) definition of political public relations stresses that both reputation and relationship management are important to the practice of public relations within a political context. Acknowledging this proposition, we sought to integrate concepts related to reputational relationship management into Seltzer and Zhang’s (2011a, 2011b; Zhang & Seltzer, 2010) model of political organization-public relationships (POPR). Using a national marketing panel, we conducted a survey of US citizens 18 and older balanced to US Census data (n=451). Respondents were asked about possible sources of information regarding political parties including indirect experience via second-hand reports and direct experience via exposure to the strategic communication efforts of the two major political parties. Perceptions of reputation and of POPR with both parties were also assessed. For both parties, strategic communication emerged as the primary influence on perceptions of POPR while indirect experience had little to no influence on POPR or reputation. The findings strengthen the POPR model by including concepts related to experiential and reputational relationships suggested by Grunig and Hung (2002) and provide an empirical test of the proposed reputation-relationship continuum within political public relations.

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Keywords: political public relations, political organization-public relationships, reputation, political parties

Title: Government Public Relations and Social Media

Authors: Missy Graham, M.A., Department of Mass Communications, Oklahoma City University, and Elizabeth Johnson Avery, Ph.D., School of Advertising and Public Relations University of Tennessee.

Abstract: Using survey data collected from 463 local government officials from municipalities across the United States, this study examines the use of social media tools by local governments and their perceptions of social media use by their citizenry. It specifically addresses how social media are used as public relations functions to serve democratic, participatory, and transparency models across a range of government contexts. Results indicate that social media are somewhat underutilized by local governments, with about a 70% overall use rate. Perceived importance of social media predicted actual use; however, it was disappointing to find that these officials’ perceptions of whether or not their citizens expected them to use social media did not predict use. Facebook and Twitter were the most commonly used tools; the vast majority of posts and tweets they write are about special events. Well over one-third used at least one research or conferencing social meia tool. Implications and importance of findings are discussed.

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Keywords: social media, public relations, government, transparency, e-democracy

Title: Political Public Relations on the Net: A Relationship Management Perspective

Authors: Michael Karlsson, Ph.D., Christer Clerwall, Ph.D. and Ulf Buskqvist, Ph.D., Karlstad University.

Abstract: Research on relationship management in digital political public relations is scarce. Departing from a relationship management perspective, then, this study seeks to contribute to the field of political public relations by investigating whether political parties take advantage of what digital media platforms offer in terms of long-term commitment and reciprocity utilizing the Swedish national election in 2010 as a case study. The results show that the political parties utilized social media outlets primarily during and just before the time of the election and that interaction between parties and constituents were scarce and shallow. All parties shared the same pattern of activity, although there were some differences in the frequencies of use. Additionally, although user commitment increased over time, there were relatively few users who chose to follow/friend the political parties, suggesting that the large majority of the voters could not easily be reached through these platforms. In essence, the results indicate that social media as a political public relations tool is, so far, dwarfed by more traditional and analogue approaches.

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Keywords: digital political public relations, relationship management, web 2.0, social media, Sweden

Title: Political Public Relations in Advocacy: Building Online Influence and Social Capital

Authors: Adam J. Saffer, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma, Maureen Taylor, Ph.D., Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma, and Aimei Yang, Ph.D., Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California.

Abstract: This article explores how political public relations activities support advocacy efforts and allow organizations to communicate and partner with other organizations and individuals to affect change. Our study examined the organizational relationships that engaged in political advocacy to defeat the 2012 Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). We argue that networked social capital provides a theoretical framework for broadening the study of relationships from a dyadic approach to one that encompasses the multitude of relationships necessary to bring about change. Structural hole theory was used to identify influential organizations based on their network position. Two methods including a hyperlink network analysis of organizational websites involved in the Internet Blackout and a semantic network analysis of the SOPA legislation media coverage revealed three findings: 1) diverse ties enhance political advocacy, 2) political public relations can enhance network positions of organizations, and 3) evidence shows that social media can be used strategically to capitalize on political activism.

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Title: Political Public Relations in the European Union: EU Reputation and Relationship Management Under Scrutiny

Author: Chiara Valentini, Ph.D., School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University.

Abstract: This article examines the state of political public relations in the European Union by specifically focusing on reputation management and relationship management. Its arguments are based on a theoretical review of the literature of political public relations, reputation and relationship management, and EU communication. The article suggests an in-depth examination of the nature of some of the EU’s major problems in political public relations, and contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the possibilities and limitations of applying reputation and relationship management constructs to a political context. The nature of the analysis is exploratory rather than definitive, and specific investigations are needed to thoroughly explore and better theorize political reputation and relationship management in various political contexts.

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Keywords: Political public relations, reputation, relationship, management, publics, European Union

Title: Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: Conceptual and Practical Connections

Authors: Kathy Fitzpatrick, J.D., School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Florida International University, Jami Fullerton, Ph.D., School of Media and Strategic Communications, Oklahoma State University, and Alice Kendrick, Ph.D., Temerlin Advertising Institute, Southern Methodist University.

Abstract: Conceptual and practical connections between public relations and public diplomacy, or the process by which governments communicate and build relationships with foreign publics in pursuit of political objectives, have been observed by scholars in both fields. Yet, there is little empirical evidence demonstrating similarities and/or differences in the two disciplines. This study helped to fill that gap through comparative analyses of the knowledge and skills considered important for success in each profession and in effective practices. Although some differences were revealed, the data provided evidence that perceived conceptual and practical links between public relations and public diplomacy are real. The research indicated significant potential for public relations concepts and practices to inform thinking and practices in public diplomacy, particularly in the area of research and evaluation. At the same time, insights gained by public diplomats working in international environments could be valuable to global public relations practitioners.

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