Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: An oral history of public relations in a conflict and divided society (Northern Ireland 1960-98)
Author: Purcell, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 6267
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Purpose: To produce a history of public relations (PR) in Northern Ireland from 1960-1998 with specific analysis of public relations practice in a conflict and divided society. Methodology: The study sourced opinion from 27 practitioners in public relations consultancies, charities, corporations, trusts and civil service departments with the use of the researcher's PR archive (PRA) as a supplementary dataset. Those interviewed represent a significant majority of those practising in the 4 decades at "elite" level. Findings: The research value is in its fact-orientated approach - PR names, events, campaigns and dates have provided a foundation of detail that would have been forgotten without the study. The PR practitioners of 1960 to 1998 have now been given a place in PR history, as have a small selection of the thousands of PR campaigns that were implemented during the "Troubles" - the study has produced a new historical model of development over a 40-year period of birth, destruction, adjustment and growth. Significantly, emerging from the research is the fact that Northern Ireland PR history had a unique framework of stimuli. What is different to other accounts of stimuli is the length of the list and its complexity in terms of the stimuli also being issues of challenge. The detailed history contributes to an emerging international portfolio of national PR histories (L'Etang, 2004; Toledano and McKie, 2013; Watson, 2014). This study adds to what Daymon and Holloway (2011, p195) call the "cumulative theory-building" of PR history practice with the analysis of "value" PR, as opposed to the researcher's previous publications on the "power" PR practice of the protagonists (Somerville and Purcell, 2011; Somerville, Purcell and Morrison, 2012). A 3 context model of practice emerges. The "personal" model is an analysis of the "human cost" of the "Troubles" adding to social and professional studies of the period (Cairns, 1980; Bairner, 1996; Hancock, 1998; Bloomfield, 1998; 0' Farrell, 1998; Niens et ai, 2004; Graham and Orr, 2014; McGarr, 2015). This is a study of how PR practitioners, their families and associates dealt with death, death threats, bombs, killings, experiences and management of sectarianism and bigotry. The emerging personal models of practice show the importance of interpersonal relationships and dialogue to survival and exploitation in conflict societies (Pearson, .1989; Grunig, 2001; Taylor, 2000; Taylor and Kent, 2014). Analysis of the organisational model of PR practice shows that from sustained conflict came a very media and strategically savvy generation of practitioners. The data adds value to this cultural experience of "functional" and "critical" PR literature and issues of "challenges", good practice, media relationships, dominant coalitions and truth-telling (Cutlip et ai, 2000; Wilcox et ai, 2003; Moloney, 2006; L'Etang and Pieczka, 2006; Hitchins, 2008). The third model highlights the significance of PR practitioners to civil society - this societal, rather than organisational or political, role, had an impact on the development of the voluntary sector, the promotion of Brand Northern Ireland and achievement of peace in 1998. The research shows that through sustained campaigning, relationship building and dialogue that PR has a modest but significant role to play when the correct "balance zone" is in place (Flynn, 2006). The study reveals an evolution of PR practice that fits well with functional positivism of Grunig and Hunt (1984) and others (Kitchen, 1997; Seital, 2004). However, there needs to be caution in reaching such a generalised conclusion of evolutionary evidence. It is a general conclusion, an overview, a recognition of a maturing industry. The outcome of the typology analysis during the Troubles suggests 5 parallel types, three associated with shades of propaganda, one of publicity and the evolving typology of the Integrated Communication Strategist - the role of the practitioner as an integrated communication strategist with rhetoric, relationships, internal communications and diplomacy was similar to L'Etang's (2004) British historical typologies. As well as the existence of multiple PR typologies, there is also evidence of multiple dialogical typologies that contribute to Taylor and Kent (2014) sliding scale of PR dialogue - 7 types of dialogue practised during the "Troubles" are presented. The emerging PR typologies and dialogue types from the "Troubles" highlight the difficulties in defining public relations - the conclusion from this Northern Ireland study concurs with opinion that PR needs to come to terms with its multi-definitional state (Ihlen and Verhoeven, 2012; Edwards, 2012). The definition of public relations depends on the specific time studied (Lamme and Miller, 2010), the need in society (Baskin and Aronoff, 1997) and the historical and cultural context in which it is practised (Hodges, 2006; Sriramesh and Vercic 2009; Vos, 2011). Limitations: The scope of the research is limited to a public relations history from 1960-98 thus excluding examples of PR activity before and after that period. Furthermore, it focusses on those PR practitioners who were interviewed; the history and analysis is based on their accounts, and as such, it is a study of how those Northern Ireland PR practitioners remembered their history and how they understood and articulated a theory of their own PR practice. Limitations were also the lack of primary data on the public relations industry and the constraints of oral history itself. Originality: The originality is as the first history of PR in Northern Ireland and detailed analysis of PR practice in a deeply divided and conflict democratic society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available