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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2021

13 Social advocacy and public relations: Building communitas in the public sphere

From the book Public Relations

  • Gareth T. Williams and Erich J. Sommerfeldt


Public relations as a field has long struggled to assert its role within organizational hierarchies and in clarifying the nature of its interactions with publics. Paramount goals in this pursuit have been to solidify its role as a management function and to identify what unique value public relations offers an organization. Some theorists have suggested social advocacy as a way in which public relations can offer unique benefits to an organization by strengthening connections between the organization, its constituent publics, and society. Many examples of social advocacy exist within the literature, but are accompanied by questions of what constitutes ethical advocacy - and what constitutes ethical public relations in general. However, extant literature approaches the topic from many diverse and even opposing points of view and theoretical bases. In addition, unaligned terminologies obfuscate the overall narrative about social advocacy and public relations. This chapter compiles influential and relevant literature and examines the concepts of social advocacy through the lens of communitas, or an orientation to serve the community, and the public sphere.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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