Constituting the rhetorical study of public relations
Stokes, Ashli Quesinberry
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Most studies of public relations (PR) are of an instrumental nature, with scholars seeking to explain how companies employ a given PR campaign to meet organizational image management goals. To complement this approach, PR should be studied rhetorically. By examining PR through a constitutive lens that seeks to understand how PR relations strategies help to create discursive norms, scholars gain an enriched understanding of this discourse’s discursive significance in contemporary culture. Through case studies of the PR battle between Metabolife International and 20/20 and an analysis of the pharmaceutical industry’s web-based PR campaigns, the use of a constitutive approach illustrates how PR encourages audiences to expect and incorporate discursive speed as well as participate in a rhetoric of corporate empowerment. Identifying how public relations creates these types of discursive norms shows how studies of corporate rhetoric can be pursued to engage disciplinary questions of identity, invention, and ethics.