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2017/18 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

COMM5215M Public Relations Theory

30 creditsClass Size: 32

Module manager: Dr Jairo Lugo-Ocando

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2017/18

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

In this module you will learn about the broad range of theoretical perspectives applied to public relations. The module situates the academic discipline of PR in the context of communications and cultural studies, to give you the context of subsequent discussions. Normative theories that underpin organisational understandings of PR will be considered to provide you with an effective idea of PR processes, practices and strategies in relation to the work of other communications functions such as advertising, branding and lobbying. Armed with this knowledge, you will then move on to consider alternative theoretical approaches to PR. Throughout the module, the theoretical discussions will be evaluated in terms of their relevance to PR practice, using case studies drawn from a range of organisations and in local, national and global contexts. The final lecture will draw together the discussions in the module and consider the strength and future of PR as a theoretical tradition.


1. To provide students with a detailed understanding of PR theory and its evolution in the broader scholarly context of communications and cultural studies;
2. To enable students to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different theoretical approaches to PR;
3. To develop students reflective abilities in terms of their capacity to critique PR practice at local, national and global level, drawing on a range of theoretical tools.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. demonstrate knowledge of the development of PR theory
2. articulate and critique competing theoretical approaches to PR
3. explain and analyse the value of PR theory in a global communications landscape
4. Link PR theory to broader theoretical traditions in sociology, cultural studies and communication
5. understand and evaluate PR campaigns using the different theoretical lenses covered in the module
6. Demonstrate the ability to present work to a high academic standard, to work collaboratively and to respond to demanding briefs within strict deadlines

Skills outcomes
Ability to understand and apply a range of theoretical lenses to PR practice

Ability to critically analyse the social situations in which PR is required, and assess the effects of communication in those contexts.


This module will cover topics such as:

- What is PR? Situating public relations in the theoretical landscape of communication and cultural studies:
- Normative PR theory: Systems theory and Excellence models
- Critiquing normative PR theory: organisations, institutions, PR and power
- Critical theory in PR scholarship - gender, race and class
- Globalisation and PR
- The socio-cultural turn in PR theory
- PR as a profession

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours270.50
Total Contact hours29.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Independent learning will consist of assigned readings complemented by additional library research. Additionally, students will research and evaluate case studies of PR projects using both print and online resources. They will deliver these analyses in seminar sessions designed to develop their analytical and critical capabilities through discussion and debate.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored by means of mid-term (assessed) essay and additional formative work through the semester including written summaries of case study research. Students will meet regularly with the instructor in informal tutorials.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000-4,500 word essay40.00
Project1 x 1,500 - 2,000 word reflective report30.00
Group Project1 x 4,000 word campaign plan30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The resit for the group project will consist of an analysis of the communications context for a particular campaign (1,750-2,000 words).

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/10/2016


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