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Title: Emerging from the shadows? Perceptions, problems and potential consensus on the functional and civic roles of public affairs practice
Authors: Davidson, Scott V.
Rowe, O.
First Published: 2015
Citation: Public Relations Inquiry (Accepted, In press)
Abstract: In the context of public concern and negative media portrayals in regard to the civic impact of the public relations specialisms of public affairs and lobbying this paper seeks to expand upon normative theorising in academic PR and public affairs scholarship on practitioner roles in democracies alongside benchmarking the self-perception of sampled practitioners against those of opinion forming elites. The paper also explores how practitioners interpret their roles and locates a consensus in regard to their functional and civic contributions. A potential research agenda for testing the validity of these claims of a positive civic contribution is discussed. The paper analyses the results of quantitative surveys of a representative sample of British members of parliament, and 722 UK opinion formers, plus 260 interviews with opinion-formers in Washington DC. The results were complemented by a Delphi survey of UK public affairs practitioners that sought to identify and test areas of consensus in regard to both organisational and civic functions. The research finds that lobbying is perceived as legitimate by elites but there are concerns over the quality of the information subsidy that is provided. Practitioners share an understanding with the PR literature of their functional roles, and believe they make a social contribution by assisting policy-making, connecting society to politicians and as facilitators of participation and civic dialogue. This research will potentially be less applicable to the relationship between public affairs and society in other regions of the world, or in authoritarian states with low levels of interest group pluralism.
ISSN: 2046-147X
eISSN: 2046-1488
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © The Author(s) 2015. Reprints and permissions: Archived on acceptance with reference to the Publisher's self-archiving policy, available at
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Media and Communication

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