IPPRC – Speed-dating PR research

Posted on: March 16, 2007

Picture a sushi bar with small packages of food moving around on a circular conveyor or a tapas bar (without alcohol) with bowls of olives, plates of meat and cheese to graze on and you have an idea of the style of the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) held recently in Miami. Some also refer to it as “speed-dating for public relations research”. Starting at 8am and continuing apart for coffee breaks and a 90 minute lunch break till 4.30pm for three days, IPRRC moves at a cracking pace of five speakers per hour, each allotted 15 minutes to present their paper and engage in a short discussion. No PowerPoints are allowed. Delegates choose four sessions to attend per hour and “rotate” every 15 minutes from speaker to speaker. By the end of the hour, the speaker will have presented four times to round-table audiences and collected a wallet or bag full of business cards and requests for the paper. 

The first morning to the uninitiated delegate passes in a blur of concepts, issues, research methods and types of presenters. But you gather speed and get to enjoy the rapid engagement with new and old ideas, especially from those who get to the heart of their argument quickly and allow time (5 to 7 minutes) for discussion.  The array of papers is bewildering. Broadly the topics covered were public relations theory, internet, blogging and new media, ethics, corporate social responsibility, evaluation, issues management, corporate communication, lobbying, media analysis and research methodology.  Some of the big names in US academic public relations were there including Carl Botan, David Dozier, Vince Hazleton, Dean Kruckeberg, Douglas Ann Newsom, Don Stacks and Judy Turk. As well, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh came in from
Singapore, although he is a former PhD student of Jim Grunig at

University of
Maryland. But there were also doctoral students pitching early stages of their research, academic staff members and practitioners presenting solely or with academics colleagues.  The key presentations came from: 

·        Dean Kruckeberg and colleagues on an ‘organic theory’ as a social theory of public relations. This rejects segmentation and reinstates the concept of the “general public” as exemplifying society as a whole. It seems that US PR academics have discovered Habermas and the “public sphere” rather late as this was a concept that arose on other occasions, too. ·        Brad Rawlins on measuring the relationship between organisational transparency and trust, which is moving the Hon & Grunig work of measurement of relations between organisations and publics into a more sophisticated area. After some years delay, this is developing as new area of research especially as the Brunning & Ledingham paradigm of public relations as relationship management is moving from a comfortable homily to being tested in practice. 

There was a wide range of research into the impact of blogs and wikis in communication, which included a paper from Donald Wright and Michelle Hinson on their impact on traditional mass communications models, which they expect to be profound, and from Bill Sledzik on how blogs are expanding the role of public relations practitioners. Overall, IPRRC is a valuable survey of public relations research from a North American perspective. It’s also an event at which everyone is welcomed and discussion goes on for many hours into the evening. 


1 Response to "IPPRC – Speed-dating PR research"

Tom, welcome to the blogosphere! I’d be interested to hear more about the developments in measurement of relationships..sounds interesting.

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Tom Watson

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