Yes, we care!

Study

It took about five years, but now my study on the relevance of media and communications studies for public relations professionals is finally complete. The results in a nutshell: While many practitioners tend to ignore the results of the subject or even refuse the discipline as a whole, there seems to be group of PR professionals with specific characteristics which deeply raise their interest in academia.

Two years ago, I have written my last post about this topic. Back then, I was hoping to present the results in 2013 – but my job kept me from finishing it. In early autumn last year, it all finally came to an end and I handed in my PhD thesis at Munich University. Now that all formalities are behind me, I am looking forward to the book publication of the study (in German) within the next months.

Whereas I do not aim to publish all results here in advance, I would like to shortly outline some of the key contents of the study:

Everybody dealing with the question of how relevant the academic discipline of media and communications is to PR professionals, will find his or her question to be connected to one of the core debates of this subject. Since the very beginning of media and communications studies in Germany, there had been a discussion about the value of this endeavor.

The discipline has always struggled between its mission to educate students for their later jobs (i.e. “to be relevant” outside university) and its aim to become a respected field of research within university. Hence, my research question is deeply rooted to the core of the discipline’s self-understanding.

After an introduction to media and communication studies in general and to PR research in particular, I took a look at the field of PR as a ‘profession’ (not in a strict sense, of course, since PR lacks the key characteristics of traditional professions) and presented the results of selected preceding studies on my research question. Then I developed my theoretical framework, based on the concept of the knowledge society, modeling the exchange processes between academia and industry as a market of information and knowledge.

I chose a qualitative research design, based on the analysis of 40 interviews with PR practitioners (by the way, since the term ‘PR’ is being more and more replaced by terms of communication management, you might of course also speak of communication professionals).

Many of the people I spoke to or whose interview transcripts I analysed, tended to ignore or refuse the discipline. Yet, I was able to identify a small group of PR professionals who had several characteristics in common which seemed to provide an explanation for the high interest in media and communications research by this group.

Linking the results back to the theoretical framework of knowledge society and the market model, one could say that this small group was truly on the active ‘demand-side’ for the results of media studies and PR research. Confronted with academia, they seemed to say: “Yes, we care!”

I will share the factors, which my study suggests to be responsible for this interest, as well as the concrete use cases for academic output in the PR sector by the time when the book will be published. Qualitative research may not provide statistic evidence but is still able to identify patterns which reach beyond the participants of the study itself.

You will find the link to the book here. After five years, all I can say is that I am looking forward to this day very much.


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  1. […] announced earlier, the book version of my PhD thesis is now finally out. You can order it at several places, for […]