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An exploration of PR Week UK’s framing of specialist PR identities (1985-2010)

An exploration of PR Week UK’s framing of specialist PR identities (1985-2010)

Garsten, Nicky, Cronin, Bruce ORCID: 0000-0002-3776-8924 and Howard, Jane (2024) An exploration of PR Week UK’s framing of specialist PR identities (1985-2010). Public Relations Review. ISSN 0363-8111 (Print), 1873-4537 (Online) (In Press)

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A trend of increased specialisation in public relations has been widely asserted but little substantiated. Specifically, there is no longitudinal study of the development of specialist coverage in the principal trade journal of the industry, PR Week. Neither has there been an exploration of the perspectives of PR Week UK’s senior managers on specialist-practitioner identities. This article seeks to fill these gaps. This examination of specialist coverage in PR Week 1985-2010 finds a punctuated process of constructing specialist practitioner identities within an institutional subsystem. We examine over 220 editions of PR Week, in the UK, over a 26-year period. We calculate that there was indeed a statistically significant trend of published regular specialist pages. We analysed editorial announcements about regular specialist pages and interviewed three former senior managers from PR Week. We considered page titles as both content and discourse. We also adapted Bucher et al.’s (2016) framing strategies. We revised one of Bucher et al.’s strategies, re-terming the ‘self-casting’ strategy as a media casting strategy in the context of a trade publication’s framing of a profession’s boundaries. Building on the scholarship of Edwards and Pieczka (2013), we suggest that the trade media play an institutional role in boundary setting. This role was not previously acknowledged by Abbott (1988) and Waisbord (2019). We newly find that when PR Week introduced specialist pages, the publication’s executive, actively sought to bring sector-specialist practitioners with waning identification with the profession, back into the PR fold. Like a sheepdog, PR Week played a proactive institutional role in the professional reframing of public relations around specialisms. Yet the boundaries that PR Week defended were fuzzy given that over 95% of the regular specialist pages titles did not include the name ‘PR’. We also argue, that in establishing the specialist pages PR Week executives not only championed PR’s legitimacy, but also sought to protect the magazine’s market and to enhance the title’s journalistic brand.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: trade publication; specialization; public relations; boundary; identity and framing
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 14:04

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