Empirical research in contemporary social sciences relevant to public relations: Toward a network approach

Jan Kleinnijenhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The definition of public relations by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) as “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other” is an interesting one, although it may not provide much insight into what PR practitioners actually do to accomplish their task (van Ruler, 2000). The definition appears to legitimize PR through an association with the socially desirable goal of mutual adaptation, which is typical of a professional perspective in Rühl’s terminology (this volume). However, the definition enables also a scholarly perspective on public relations in the terminology of Rühl. The PRSA definition delineates which types of theory and which types of empirical evidence are relevant for reflecting on public relations. The focus on mutual adaptation stipulates that theories and empirical insights dealing with relationships between, on the one hand, an organization and its managers, and on the other, its stakeholders or “publics,” are potentially useful. “The key dependent variable is relationships,” according to J. E. Grunig (in this volume). Since relationships between social entities such as organizations and their stakeholders are central to network theory, the definition serves as a prelude to a network perspective to the study on public relations (as contrasted with research in public relations, or research that is directly useful for public relations, cf. J. Grunig in this volume). Other definitions of public relations, such as “the communicative expression of competing organizations and groups in pluralist states” (Moloney, 2005) locate public relations also as a communication activity in a network of organizations and groups, but the focus is on competition rather than adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Relations Metrics
Subtitle of host publicationResearch and Evaluation
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781135593278
ISBN (Print)9780805862737
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Empirical research in contemporary social sciences relevant to public relations: Toward a network approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this