Kristin Demetrious

Adverse Reactions: the negative effects of public relations in the public sphere

This paper sheds light on two specific ways unethical public relations acts as a form of social relations to oppress social movements. Public relations in this form can be described as narrowly constrained by teleological liberal pluralism and with a historical animosity to activism. However, this paper argues that, not only are these practices are socially divisive, antagonistic and politically offensive, but they are counter-productive within the conditions of late modernity.

Importantly, this paper draws on a Foucauldian framework to show the two distinct ways in which this form of public relations responds to suppress the emergence of other coherences and discursive formations. This is significant, because if businesses continue to apply simple approaches in their public relations when dealing with resistance from activist groups, they will not only contribute to significant social havoc through conflict and antagonism but they will waste the collective resources of the state and risk their long-term business viability. Identifying and understanding the specific ways in which unethical public relations is practiced opens up new research agendas in public communication practice and education which could address these negative effects.

Kristin Demetrious, Deakin University Australia

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