Dr Lee Edwards
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Public Relations
0113 343 7007
Clothworkers' Building North, 2.25
Office hours: None - Lee will be leaving the School on 31 August 2017
BSc (Surrey), MPhil (Auckland), PhD (LeedsMet)
I teach and research PR from a socio-cultural perspective. As a critical scholar, my primary focus is on the operation of power through PR both within the occupational field and in wider society. As well as making theoretical contributions to the understanding of PR, I have published empirical work on the exercise of power through PR as a cultural intermediary, and on diversity in PR. I am the author of Power, Diversity and Public Relations (Routledge, 2014); and Understanding Copyright (with Dr Bethany Klein and Dr Giles Moss, Sage, 2015). I am editor, with Dr Caroline Hodges, of Public Relations, Society and Culture: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations (Routledge, 2011).
I was the Secretary of the International Communication Association PR Division (2014-16). I am an Associate Editor for the Journal of Communication and a Co-Editor for Public Relations Inquiry. I am on the editorial board of the Journal of Public Relations Research, and have reviewed for a wide range of journals including Management Communication Quarterly; Consumption, Markets and Culture; Media, Culture and Society; and New Media and Society.
A critical scholar by nature, my research is driven by a desire to uncover the ways in which PR exercises power in society. I am interested in the ways in which the discourses it creates and perpetuates, the professional interests it reflects and the power interests it serves, affect the ways in which we understand and think about the world around us. Particular interests include:
- Public relations and deliberative democracy
- Public relations and inequalities (particularly race/ethnicity, gender and sexuality)
- The relationship between public relations and its socio-cultural context;
- Public relations practitioners as a cultural intermediaries;
- Diversity and ‘race’ in the PR industry;
- Public relations as an occupational field / professionalisation project.
I use a wide range of theory in my work, including deliberative democratic theory, Bourdieuvian field theory, the sociology of professions, postcolonial theory, critical race theory, feminist theory. The majority of my work is qualitative, with particular expertise in textual analysis, interviews and focus groups.
COMM2940 Introduction to Public Relations
Programme Leader, MA PR and Society (until January 2017)
(2015) Understanding Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age. SAGE.
(2014) Power, Diversity and Public Relations. London: Routledge.
Whilst the book is based on a UK research project, the theoretical and methodological approach can be applied in any country, to understand the ways in which PR constructs belonging and exclusion and valorises some practitioner identities ...
(2011) Public relations, society & culture: Theoretical and empirical explorations. London: Routledge.
(2017) “Consistency and Inconsistency in Organizations: A Dialectical Perspective”, Management Communication Quarterly. 31.3: 486-491.
DOI: 10.1177/0893318917700295, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/114641/
Much existing scholarship positions consistency and inconsistency as mutually exclusive opposites. Indeed, common-sense seems to imply that consistency and inconsistency are mutually exclusive: The words themselves are set in opposition to each other. However, this oppositional approach may lead us to neglect the fact that their existence must be understood in relational terms—that is, in terms that recognize the coexistence of consistency and inconsistency in discourse and practice, their connection to each other, and the power dynamics that characterize their interactions. For example, consistent communication, when deployed as a strategy to cope with complexity, might be interpreted as a reaction to inconsistent communication, a tool to combat inconsistent practices, or a unifying narrative designed to maintain stability in the face of uncertain environmental conditions (see, for example, Cornelissen, 2014). Inconsistent communication, on the contrary, may be understood as a contestation of “consistent” but inaccurate messages, as resistance to marginalization, or as an assertion of difference and complexity (see, for example, Christensen, Morsing, & Cheney, 2008). In this essay, I adopt a dialectical approach to analyze the connections between consistency and inconsistency in organizational communication, and thereby highlight the ways relational thinking might prompt new research directions.
(2017) “Forum: Inconsistency and Communication in Organizations”, Management Communication Quarterly. 31.3: 467-472.
DOI: 10.1177/0893318917699886, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/114640/
(2017) “(In)credible India? A Critical Analysis of India's Nation Branding”, Communication, Culture and Critique. 10.2: 322-343.
DOI: 10.1111/cccr.12152, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/99890/
© 2016 International Communication Association We offer a political-economic, postcolonial interrogation of nation branding based on the Incredible India campaign. We show how the discursive violence inherent in nation branding promotes internal hegemonies and external market interests at the expense of cosmopolitan ideas of belonging and community. In Incredible India, colonial identities are reinscribed, peripheralizing India in line with the demands of global markets, privileging Western desires and imagination. Internal political hegemonies promoting India as a Hindu nation are also reflected in the campaign, marginalizing minority groups. However, the attempt to construct a unitary nation simultaneously reveals the presence of the “other,” contesting the narrative's boundaries. The analysis confirms nation branding as a fundamentally political process, implicated in the production and perpetuation of inequalities.
This special issue examines the growing social and political importance of promotional activities and public relations. For decades, promotional tools have been deployed to foster the aims of various societal agencies, be they corporations, political actors, public institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or citizen movements. In today’s turbulent political and media environments, promotional practices have become more inventive, coordinated and ubiquitous, crossing transnational borders and circulating across business, politics and social institutions. Public relations is an essential tool in the promotional mix and is increasingly a stand-alone strategy for organisations of all kinds to manage their visibility, legitimacy and relationships with stakeholders. However, its influence and power in the context of an increasingly promotional culture are under-researched. In this introduction, we set out the landscape of promotional culture in which public relations activity takes place and consider how existing research on promotional work may illuminate our knowledge of contemporary public relations work.
Public relations’ role in democracy is most often conceptualised as a distortion of public debate through the intrusion of vested interests in the public sphere. In this paper, an alternative view of public relations is proposed, grounded in the work of Silverstone, Couldry and Honneth, as a tool through which spaces of appearance may be constructed for individuals within deliberative systems. The results of a pilot study conducted with one UK charity are presented, to explore how the use of public relations by marginalised young people allowed them to express voice, receive recognition and engage with others as citizens. The paper concludes with a consideration of the limitations of the study and its implications for the role of public relations in democracy.
© 2016 International Communication Association. This article reframes public relations' contribution to democracy in light of the recent turn to deliberative systems in democratic theory. I consider the problematic that public relations poses to normative models of deliberative democracy, and how that problematic has been addressed in public relations theory thus far. I suggest that deliberative systems provide a more robust basis for theorizing public relations' role in deliberation and propose an analytical approach for understanding the complex and sometimes contradictory role of public relations in deliberative democracy. The framework provides a starting point for locating public relations' engagement in deliberative systems and evaluating its effects.
(2015) “Shaping the field: Bob Heath and the two volumes of the Encyclopedia of Public Relations”, Public Relations Review. 41.5: 703-713.
© 2013 Elsevier Inc. The five papers on this theme emerged from a plenary panel with the same title as the one above at the third Barcelona International PR Conference held on 2–3 July, 2013. They were stimulated by the then-forthcoming publication of the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Public Relations although they also address the first edition, the place of both in the public relations field, and links to issues surrounding encyclopedias in general. At the time of this submission, most of the authors had not seen the complete published copy that was released in late September, 2013. All five articles, albeit with some overlap as this was not a co-written project, are presented here as individual pieces with different titles and a variety of approaches.
(2015) “Isn’t It Just a Way to Protect Walt Disney’s Rights?’: Media User Perspectives on Copyright”, New Media & Society. 17.5: 691-707.
(2015) “Discourse, Justification, and Critique: Towards a Legitimate Digital Copyright Regime?”, International Journal of Cultural Policy. 60-77. 21.1: 60-77.
DOI: 10.1080/10286632.2013.874421, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/89899/
Digitization and the internet have posed an acute economic challenge to rights holders in the cultural industries. Faced with a threat to their form of capital accumulation from copyright infringement, rights holders have used discourse strategically in order to try and legitimate and strengthen their position in the digital copyright debate with governments and media users. In so doing, they have appealed to general justificatory principles – about what is good, right, and just – that provide some scope for opposition and critique, as other groups contest their interpretation of these principles and the evidence used to support them. In this article, we address the relative lack of academic attention paid to the role of discourse in copyright debates by analysing user-directed marketing campaigns and submissions to UK government policy consultations. We show how legitimacy claims are justified and critiqued, and conclude that amid these debates rests some hope of achieving a more legitimate policy resolution to the copyright wars – or at least the possibility of beginning a more constructive dialogue.
(2014) “Building Blocks of Individual Biography? Non-Governmental Organizational Communication in Reflexive Modernity”, Management Communication Quarterly. 28.3: 319-346.
In this article, we present a rhetorical analysis of organizational communication by a non-profit, social movement organization, Amnesty International Denmark (AID), to illustrate how communication by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) simultaneously serves organizational self-interest and provides a set of symbolic tools for individuals to use in the process of constructing biographical certainty. Our analysis shows how AID’s member communication constructs a view of the world centered on moral binaries and invites members to identify with the moral position that AID represents. This idealistic morality not only offers members a sense of collective identity, certainty, and order in their own lives but also serves AID by preserving the moral high ground for the organization and creating a broad basis for support.
(2014) “Discourse, credentialism and occupational closure in the communications industries : The case of public relations in the UK”, European Journal of Communication. 29.3: 319-334.
(2013) “Framing the Consumer: Copyright Regulation and the Public”, Convergence: the journal of research into new media technologies. 19.1: 9-24.
Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/76877/
(2013) “Public Relations and ‘its’ Media: Exploring the Role of Trade Media in the Enactment of Public Relations’ Professional Project”, Public Relations Inquiry. 2.1: 5-25.
(2013) “Institutional racism in cultural production: The case of public relations”, Popular Communication. 11.3: 242-256.
(2012) “Defining the ‘object’ of public relations research: A new starting point”, Public Relations Inquiry. 1.1: 7-30.
(2012) “Producing trust, knowledge and expertise in financial markets: The global hedge fund industry ‘re-presents’ itself”, Culture and Organisation. 18.2: 107-122.
The global financial crisis increased critique toward hedge funds, raising the possibility of unprecedented global regulation which threatened to put some hedge funds out of business. In the face of threats to operational freedom and market advantage, hedge funds responded by engaging in a debate about their future. This study explores discursive strategies employed by AIMA, the global hedge fund trade body, to produce trust in the hedge fund industry and its institutions. A set of defined and overlapping trust practices are introduced as a means of analyzing power and trust production in the ongoing discursive shifts of global systems.
(2012) “Exploring the role of public relations as a cultural intermediary”, Cultural Sociology. 6.4: 438-454.
(2011) “Understanding ‘Race’ in/and public relations: Where do we start from and where should we go?”, Journal of Public Relations Research. 23.4: 349-367.
(2011) “Questions of self-interest, agency and the rhetor.”, Management Communication Quarterly.. 25.3: 531-540.
This article accepts the virtue of the rhetorical ideal and offers insights that can lead discourse from bias, distortion, and partisanship to come closer to that ideal in the service of society. Without self-interest and disagreement, rhetoric would not be needed, but can it achieve collaborative outcomes without the distortion of serving various interests set against one another in dysfunctional ways? As means for finding shared meaning, or pressing agreement that advances one interest against another, rhetoric can empower external communicators. The quality of discourse reflects on the character of those who speak for each organization among multiple voices and interests.
(2010) “Authenticity in organizational context: Fragmentation, contradiction and loss of control.”, Journal of Communication Management. 14.3: 192-205.
(2010) “Guest Editorial: Authenticity”, Journal of Communication Management. 14.3: 184-185.
(2009) “Symbolic power and public relations practice: Locating individual practitioners in their social context”, Journal of Public Relations Research. 21.3: 251-272.
This article applies Pierre Bourdieu's understandings of capital and symbolic power to the public relations environment, to establish a link between the practice of public relations and the social effects of the profession. A three-month case study in the corporate affairs team of a UK passenger transport operator revealed the manner in which the pursuit and maintenance of power is potentially present in all public relations activities. Bourdieu's framework connects individual practice with the social effects of public relations and gives practitioners and academics a new starting point for understanding the nature of power in public relations practice.
(2008) “PR practitioners’ cultural capital: An initial study and implications for research and practice”, Public Relations Review. 34.4: 367-372.
This paper presents exploratory research into the patterns and volume of cultural capital belonging to 178 PR practitioners in the UK. A survey was conducted among members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations to establish the levels and types of embodied, institutionalized and objectified forms of cultural capital that the practitioners possessed. The findings differed from the national frequencies and corresponded to results for members of dominant social groups in the UK. The implications for PR research and practice are discussed.
(2006) “Rethinking power in public relations”, Public Relations Review. 32.3: 229-231.
In the United Kingdom, popular sceptism about the merits of public relations has prompted self-reflection among practitioners and industry bodies. At the root of the public debate is the assumption that public relations wields unjustified social influence on behalf of already privileged organizational interests. The core concern of this discussion, therefore, is the power that a public relations has in democratic societies. This paper proposes that adopting a relational view of public relations as a profession defined by its relationships will help explicate the nature of power more effectively. Using Pierre Bourdieu's framework of fields, structures, habitus and capital, a more comprehensive picture of how power operates in public relations can be developed, which will give us a new starting point for addressing public concerns.
(1997) “Leadership perceptions in cross-cultural context: Pakeha and Pacific Islanders in New Zealand”, The Leadership Quarterly. 8.3: 275-293.
(1995) “Cross-cultural research in New Zealand organisations: what we know and what needs to be addressed”, Journal of the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management. 1.2: 14-32.
(2016) An historical overview of the emergence of critical thinking in PR. 16-27
(2015) “Understanding public relations as a cultural industry”, In: Oakley K; O'Connor J (eds.) The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries.. London: Routledge. 371-381
(2014) “Public Relations Practitioners”, In: Smith McGuire J; Matthews, J (eds.) The Cultural Intermediaries Reader. London / Thousand Oaks: Sage.
(2014) “Communicating copyright: Discourse and disagreement in the digital age”, In: The SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property. 300-314
(2014) “Communicating Copyright: Discourse and Disagreement in the Digital Age”, In: David M; Halbert D (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property. London: Sage. 300-314 (Accepted)
(2013) “Mit Bourdieu Public Relations verstehen”, In: Wiedemann T (eds.) Pierre Bourdieu und die Kommunikationswissenschaft: Internationale Perspektiven. Koeln, Germany: Herbert von Halem Verlag. 49-73
This chapter provides an interpretation into how Bourdieu's theoretical framework can be applied to PR
(2013) “Invisible and visible identities and sexualities in public relations”, In: Tindall NJ; Waters RD (eds.) Coming out of the closet: Exploring LGBT Issues in strategic communication with theory and research. New York: Peter Lang. 41-56
(2013) “Power, Symbolic”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 673-674
(2013) “Diversity: Public relations profession”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 271-273
(2013) Public relations origins: Definitions and history. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education.
(2013) Public relations theories: An overview. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education.
(2013) “Modernity and Late Modernity”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 573-575
(2013) “Critical discourse analysis”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 225-227
(2013) “Bourdieu, Pierre, and public relations”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 78-79
(2012) “Public relations’ occupational culture: Habitus, exclusion and resistance in the UK context”, In: Sriramesh K; Vercic D (eds.) Culture and Public Relations: Links and Implications. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 142-162
(2012) “Critical race theory and public relations”, In: Culture, race and class in public relations: Perspectives and applications. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books. 57-78
(2011) “Introduction: Implications of a (Radical) Socio-Cultural ‘Turn’ in Public Relations Scholarship”, In: Edwards L; Hodges CEM (eds.) Public relations, society & culture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 1-14
(2011) “Public Relations and Society: A Bourdieuvian Perspective”, In: Lee Edwards CEMH (eds.) Public Relations, Society & Culture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 61-74
(2011) “Diversity in Public Relations”, In: Edwards L; Hodges CEM (eds.) Public Relations, Society & Culture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 75-89
(2010) “Critical Perspectives in Global Public Relations: Theorizing Power”, In: Bardhan N; Weaver CK (eds.) Public relations in global cultural contexts. New York: Routledge. 29-49
(2010) “‘Race’ in Public Relations”, In: Heath RL (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 205-222
(2009) “Public Relations for Information and Communications Technologies: Principles and Planning”, In: Tench R; Yeomans L (eds.) Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. 481-497
(2009) “Public Relations Theories: An Overview”, In: Tench R; Yeomans L (eds.) Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. 149-173
(2009) “Public Relations Origins: Definitions and History”, In: Tench R; Yeomans L (eds.) Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. 3-18
Research Projects & Grants
ESRC RES 000-22-3143: The experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic practitioners in the UK PR industry: An exploratory study (Jan 2009-Jan 2010)
ESRC RES 062-23-3027: Communicating Copyright: An Exploration of Copyright Discourses in the Digital Age with Dr Bethany Klein, Dr David Lee and Dr Giles Moss (June 2011-December 2012).
Research Centres & Groups
Member of the Media Industries Research Centre.
External Examiner, University of Leicester (MA Media and Public Relations) and Goldsmiths College, University of London (MA Promotional Industries)
PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision
Current doctoral students:
Runze Ding; Manuel Hernandez Toro; Yi Liu; Wang Ke; Ganzi Ishaharaza
Clea Bourne (Goldsmiths): The battle for trust in financial services: a public relations perspective on trust/mistrust production at the global centre and periphery. Completed 2011.
Exploring Power in Public Relations: A Bourdieusian Perspective (Leeds Metropolitan University, 2007)