top of page

2nd Editions  Chapters

Chapter 1. Defining and Mapping the Field of Theory and Research on Political Public Relations
Jesper Strömbäck and Spiro Kiousis

Political public relations as practice dates back to an ancient role, but today, public relations strategies and tactics are probably more ubiquitous in political communication processes than ever. Still, there is only limited theory and research that focuses on political public relations which manages to bridge the gap between political communication, public relations, and political science theory and research. Against this background, this chapter reviews theory and research from different disciplines that are relevant to understand political public relations, maps the field of political public relations research, and offers a definition of political public relations. More specifically, political public relations is defined as the management process by which an actor for political purposes, through communication and action, seeks to influence and to establish, build, and maintain beneficial relationships and reputations with key publics and stakeholders to help support its mission and achieve its goals. The chapter ends by outlining the chapters in the book.

Chapter 2. Political Public Relations in History: Historical Roots and Scholarly Foundations

Diana Knott Martinelli


This chapter lays the foundation for understanding the history of political public relations scholarship by examining its roots in various countries and contexts. It also informs future scholarship by revisiting classic literature from the media effects, discourse, campaign, and relationship traditions of political and public relations research. Examples of contemporary literature from these research streams is also included, as is scholarship about activism and social change. The author challenges scholars to build upon current political public relations research that is derived from classic studies of the past, and to explore new directions applicable to Generation Z and today’s digital media landscape.

Chapter 3. Ethical Questions, Quandaries, and Quagmires in Political Communication and a Framework for Moral Analyses

Shannon Bowen & Yicheng Zhu 


Building on the existing knowledge of public relations ethics and following the Excellence Theory tradition, this chapter provides a systematic review of how ethics is studied in public relations, political communication, and political science. It supplements the field of political public relations with an integrative introduction to ethical models and applied ethics from utilitarian, deontological, and Confucian moral traditions, respectively. The chapter also details many differences between Western and Eastern political philosophies and uses cases for illustration from distinct periods in the historical development of political public relations. This chapter concludes by introducing a new and integrative analytical framework for ethical analyses, considerations, and elaborations for assisting in resolving moral dilemmas across varied socio-political settings.

Chapter 4. Digital Political Public Relations

Kaye D. Sweetser


Digital political public relations, as a strategic approach within political public relations, allows political entities opportunities to truly connect with citizens. As communication channels evolved and digital tools emerged, the growth of digital political public relations presented more efficient and tailored opportunities for the political system and its players to connect with the public. This chapter delves into the evolution, application, and theory associated with digital tools from the perspective of political campaigns and candidates, the public as stakeholder groups, government, and activism. In reviewing this literature, it appears digital political public relations scholarship to date focuses more on the tools as tactics than on using digital communication strategically. The chapter concludes by urging scholars to focus their efforts on the use and impact of digital tools in public relations strategically in campaigns, activism, government, and by the masses.

Chapter 5. Political Public Relations and Relationship Management: Foundations and Challenges

Trent Seltzer


For several decades, the relational perspective has served as an influential paradigm for the study and practice of public relations. Consequently, the potential benefits of applying a relational perspective in political public relations, as well, has been highlighted. Such an approach to political public relations should facilitate collaboration among political actors to achieve mutually beneficial political goals. Therefore, understanding the application of relationship management concepts and theory to the study and practice of political public relations is essential for both scholars and practitioners. To that end, this chapter reviews the key literature regarding relationship management and organization-public relationships; provides an overview of the extant research examining the relationships among politically situated actors, publics, and organizations; and charts the development of political organization-public relationship (POPR) models. The chapter also discusses the challenges that increased affective polarization, social sorting, and politicized media, could present for the effective implementation of authentic relationship management strategies within political contexts. The chapter concludes with an appeal to continue the exploration and application of relationship management within political public relations so that the benefits of the relational approach can be fully realized.

Chapter 6: The News Management Function of Political Public Relation

Philip Arceneaux, Jonathan Borden & Guy Golan


The emergent scholarship on political public relations is focused on the various relationship management functions between organizations and stakeholders. The current chapter builds upon this developing area of scholarship by exploring the news management function of political public relations. The central role of news organizations as mediators between political organizations and various key stakeholders requires a better understanding of news management research. This chapter outlines the theoretical underpinnings behind the news management function of the political public relations practitioner, as identified in mass communication scholarship. The chapter then addresses two emergent themes reflective of public relations practice in a contemporary media ecology, environmental scanning and media scanning. The concept of strategic narrative is then introduced as an interdisciplinary, identity-driven approach to strategic frame-building. Finally, the chapter concludes by addressing the evolution of the news management function to match a 21st-century information landscape, primarily the empowerment of public opinion as facilitated by the dominance of social media platforms.

Chapter 7. Political Public Relations and Strategic Framing: Underlying Mechanisms, Success Factors, and Impact

Viorela Dan, Øyvind Ihlen & Ketil Raknes


Frames advance coherent interpretations of issues that suggest specific problem definitions, causes, moral evaluations and courses of action. As such, frames highlight certain aspects of an issue, and downplay or ignore others. While the use of frames is inevitable—i.e., the act of framing—actors do use frames strategically in their attempts to define issues in a way favorable to them and in their efforts to influence the course of action on issues. This is especially the case in the political realm. Thus, strategic framing is crucial to political public relations. This chapter offers a brief introduction to framing theory before shedding light on the specific ways in which political actors use frames strategically and to what effect.

Chapter 8. Government Communication and Political Public Relations

Karen Sanders


The dynamic operating environments in which public servants work characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, demand new skillsets and approaches. Social media literacy, knowledge about stakeholder engagement and data analytical skills are now key competences needed by government communicators. Extreme connectivity and the exponential increase in data and information drive citizens’ expectations which, in turn, produce greater demands for transparency, participation and responsiveness. Yet, at the same time, governments are faced by the challenges of getting the attention of stakeholders and gaining a reputation for reliable and truthful communication in a context of clickbaits and so-called “fake news” and “alternative facts”. This chapter defines government communication and explores the main areas of development of 21st century government communication and points to the state of play in key fields such as the use of digital and social media and behavioral insights, approaches to listening, response, measuring communication impact, professionalization and professionalism.  The chapter concludes by suggesting that effective government communication will be value-led, resting on values that characterize conversations including the principle of cooperation, distribution of speakers’ rights, the practice of listening and courtesy and the application of trust-building practices.

Chapter 9. Political Public Relations and Election Campaigning

Darren Lilleker


Election campaigns are highly febrile environments necessitating extensive strategic communication. This chapter explains how campaigns are orchestrated and executed drawing on the public relations function’s schematic. Aligning functions with the objectives of political parties allows a deeper understanding of how political parties approach campaign design and how strategies are developed to meet specific, contextual goals. The chapter moves on to discuss the relationship between traditional public relations theories of publics as well as the professionalization thesis which dominates political communication approaches to understand electioneering. These discussions form the basis for evaluating the challenges to democratic culture posed by trends in campaign tactics. The impact of personalization, a core feature of populist political projects, as well as the use of negative messaging have earned significant attention in recent years. The negative impact of these trends suggest that a more reflective and theoretically informed public relations strategy is required from political parties, one that balances strategic objectives with maintaining the health of democratic culture.

Chapter 10. Political Public Relations and Crisis Communication

W. Timothy Coombs 


This chapter examines the similarities and differences in how political and corporate public relations approach crises and crisis communication.  The chapter centers on the similarities between political and corporate crisis communication for two reasons.  First, the similarities are the reasons people often assume the advice for crisis communication is interchangeable between the two domains.  Second, the similarities provide an opportunity to identify the key differences which preclude crisis communication advice from being completely interchangeable between the two domains.  The five areas of similarity are the rhetorical roots, use of framing, preaching to the choir, negative affect from crises, and scandals.  Each similarity is explored then differences are identified.  The differences are then translated into propositions that could guide future research intended to compare political and corporate crisis communication.  Suggestions also are given for how the crisis communication research in the two domains might inform one another.

Chapter 11. Presidential Public Relations in the United States

Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha


Public relations is vital to political power, and in no other political institution are public relations more pronounced than in the American presidency.  This chapter seeks to accomplish three primary goals.  First, it identifies the key ways presidents engage in public relations.  Second, it explores the success of presidents’ public relations strategies.  Third, it considers the impact that supporting institutions, especially the Office of Communications, have on the president’s public relations successes.  The chapter adds a preliminary exploration into the Trump presidency, particularly its use of Twitter and other social media to engage in public relations.  It concludes by connecting a primary theme of the chapter to the Trump presidency.  New communications technologies simultaneously provide opportunities yet complications for successful public relations and do not necessarily lead to enhance successes as the White House communications offices learn how to use these new mediums effectively.

Chapter 12. Political Public Relations, Corporate Citizenship, and Corporate Issues Management 

Robert L. Heath & Damion Waymer


Cities across the globe are experiencing massive blockages in their sewer systems resulting in the equivalent of multi-million dollars in repair costs. These cities cite consumers using and flushing non-disposable wipes—labeled and sold by corporations as "flushable"—down toilets as the cause of sewer blockages. This chapter begins with discussion of Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s lawsuit against the city of Washington, D.C. The city passed legislation stating that the company's wipes must be labeled as "non-flushable." In response, Kimberly-Clark Corporation sued, claiming that such legislation violated its First Amendment freedom of speech rights—for the company believed its products to be "flushable" and not the cause of sewer blockages, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. Using this issue as a case for analysis, this chapter firmly connects marketing and political communication as the essential responsibility of corporate citizenship. By dissecting the varied perspectives of this issue, we provide readers with a clear, theoretically informed exemplar of corporate issues management and political public relations that reflects differences in issues management globally. We highlight the complexity of how societies pragmatically deal with abstract constructs such as corporate personhood, (protected) corporate speech, consumer rights, and regulatory (over)reach and the related issues that emerge with each.

Chapter 13. Political Public Relations and Lobbying: It’s About Shaping Public Discourse

Kati Tusinski Berg & Sarah Bonewits Feldner


This chapter tackles the blurred lines between political communication and political public relations while also discussing the ways in which thinking about lobbying must change to adapt to the changing communication environment in which public relations professionals operate. Traditionally, the focus on lobbying has been on direct appeals by corporations to legislators in which corporations and other interest groups hire lobbyists to represent, educate, and advocate on their behalf. Lobbyists traditionally worked behind the scenes to influence public policy but given the changing communication environment coupled with higher expectations of the public, this chapter argues that lobbying also takes place in a more public space. As corporations now exist in a world of increased calls for transparency, greater stakeholder scrutiny and faster means of communication, the spaces in which issues management and lobbying occur have expanded. The relationship between political communication, public relations, and political public relations is examined to illustrate that lobbying lies at this intersection and might be productively understood through the lens of communicative constitution of organizations (CCO). In making this shift, lobbying should take on a broader perspective that examines how corporate lobbying efforts include appeals to legitimize issues and change public opinion/social discourse about issues.

Chapter 14. Public Relations and Public Diplomacy at a Crossroads: In Search of a Social Network Perspective

Jian Wang & Aimei Yang


This chapter seeks to further the exploration of the conceptual and practical connections between the fields of political public relations and public diplomacy. It explores this subject matter against the backdrop of the disruptive and influential changes under way in the wider society that are upending the practices of public relations and public diplomacy, and by extension political public relations. The first section of the chapter captures the thematic orientations and analytical threads that delve into the relationship and dynamics between the two fields. It next examines some of the fundamental shifts in social forces that are disrupting the two practices. Finally, it puts forth a networked-approach as a theoretical construct as well as an instrument of analysis for bridging the two areas of study and practice.

Chapter 15. Political Public Relations and Activist Network Strategies: The Influence of Framing and Institutionalization on Activist Issues Management

Erich J. Sommerfeldt & Aimei Yang


This chapter discusses the activist relationship network strategies framework, which posits that opportunities for advancing a political issue can be catalyzed by building and maintaining appropriate relationship network structures. Additionally, the chapter articulates how network relationships and the constitution of networked organizations are influenced by changing frames and institutional pressures in an issue network. The framework contributes to the political public relations literature by drawing a theoretical link between issues management practice and the networks required by activists to catalytically maneuver an issue through its lifecycle.

Chapter 16. Political Public Relations and Underrepresented Groups

Elizabeth Toth


This chapter gathers research that has theorized the place of underrepresented groups in the political environment. Underrepresented groups are defined as the powerless, the constrained, and the marginalized. The chapter synthesizes the social movements, activist groups, and latent groups literatures pertaining to how underrepresented groups use their political public relations to build mutually beneficial relationships. It identifies the public relations management theories focused on prioritizing political public relationships with groups that are the greatest potential threats to organizations achieving their political goals. The chapter concludes with implications on how political public relations as a field of study should consider underrepresented groups in order to advance best practices.

Chapter 17. New Challenges for Political Public Relations Professionals in the Era of Social Media

Kara Alaimo


This chapter discusses new and heightened challenges that have emerged for political public relations professionals since the first edition of this book was published in 2011. These challenges include: the evolution of social media as a campaigning tool; the White House’s dominance of news headlines through the continual creation of public spectacles; attacks on the media; fake news; fake social media accounts; foreign efforts to meddle in domestic politics via the Internet and social media; heightened political polarization, and the use of populist appeals by politicians. It also discusses new political challenges that have emerged for corporate public relations practitioners, including increased expectations that businesses will articulate opinions on political issues and public attacks for such stances from not just customers, but also employees and endorsers. Finally, the chapter offers strategies for how public relations professionals can effectively respond to some of these new challenges, including fake news and social media attacks by high-level politicians. It also discusses how corporations should decide whether to take public positions on political issues and how they can effectively address criticism for such stances.

Chapter 18. Political Public Relations: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Spiro Kiousis, Jesper Strömbäck, and Pamala Proverbs

bottom of page