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Public relations and neoinstitutional theory

Journal article
Authors Magnus Fredriksson
Josef Pallas
Stefan Wehmeier
Published in Puublic Relations Inquiry
Volume 2
Issue 2
Pages 183-203
ISSN 2046-147X
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Pages 183-203
Language en
Keywords neo-institutional theory, public relations
Subject categories Business Administration, Media and Communications


The article introduces a special section on public relations and neo-institutional theory where we seek to enrich research on public relations by using neo-institutional theory to describe, explain and understand the activities, processes and dynamics of the practice. By this we open up for a wider understanding of public relations, its preconditions, its performances and its consequences for shaping the social. The article starts with a discussion on earlier work in the tradition of neo-institutional theory where a lot of attention was paid to the governing mechanisms of institutions and how they control the behavior of actors. A perspective leading to some fundamental challenges where the primary objection was the over-determinism neo-institutional researchers ascribed to institutions. Taking these objectives seriously we follow more recent developments and present three streams of research – institutional logics, translation and institutional work – where agency is given a more profound role. We argue for how an employment of the logic can help us gain a more insightful understanding of public relations and communication as an institutional practice; how public relations functions as a carrier and translator of institutions; and how public relations is used to challenge and re-shape the foundations on which social actors interact with each other. We argue that public relations could be analyzed as an institutionalized practice with certain set of governing mechanisms including taken-for-granted activities, rules, norms and ideas. One argument for a neo-institutional perspective is the importance it gives communication in the understanding of organizations, institutions and society. Another argument is recent developments where public relations and other forms of organizational communication have been examined as a major dimension of organizing in some of the more profound works among neo-institutional theorists.

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