Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Media and Communication


Dr Lee Edwards

Deputy Head of School; Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Public Relations

0113 343 7007

Clothworkers' Building North, 2.25

Office hours: Mondays 10:00-11:00; Tuesdays 10:00-11:00

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.

Research Interests

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)



  • Klein B, Moss G, Edwards L (2015) Understanding Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age. SAGE.

  • Edwards L (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 ...

  • Edwards LM; Hodges CEM (eds.) (2011) Public relations, society & culture: Theoretical and empirical explorations. London: Routledge.

Journal articles

  • Edwards L, Ramamurthy A (2016) “(In)credible India? A Critical Analysis ofIndia’s Nation Branding”, Communication, Culture and Critique.
    DOI: 10.1111/cccr.12152, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/99890/

    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.

  • Edwards L (2016) “The Role of Public Relations in Deliberative Systems”, Journal of Communication. 66.1: 60-81.
    DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12199, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/92701/

    © 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.

  • Heath RL, Coombs WT, Edwards L, Palenchar MJ, McKie D (2015) “Shaping the field: Bob Heath and the two volumes of the Encyclopedia of Public Relations”, Public Relations Review. 41.5: 703-713.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.11.024

    © 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.

  • Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss GS, Philip F (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.
    DOI: 10.1177/1461444813511402

  • Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, Philip F (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.

  • Mynster, A, Edwards LMS (2014) “Building Blocks of Individual Biography? Non-Governmental Organizational Communication in Reflexive Modernity”, Management Communication Quarterly. 28.3: 319-346.
    DOI: 10.1177/0893318914530673

    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.

  • Edwards LMS (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.
    DOI: 10.1177/0267323113519228

  • Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss GS, Philip F (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/

  • Edwards LMS, Pieczka M (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.

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Institutional racism in cultural production: The case of public relations”, Popular Communication. 11.3: 242-256.

  • Edwards LMS (2012) “Defining the ‘object’ of public relations research: A new starting point”, Public Relations Inquiry. 1.1: 7-30.

  • Bourne C, Edwards LMS (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.

  • Edwards LMS (2012) “Exploring the role of public relations as a cultural intermediary”, Cultural Sociology. 6.4: 438-454.

  • Munshi, D, Edwards LMS (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.

  • Edwards LMS (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.

  • Edwards LMS (2010) “Authenticity in organizational context: Fragmentation, contradiction and loss of control.”, Journal of Communication Management. 14.3: 192-205.

  • Henderson A, Edwards LMS (2010) “Guest Editorial: Authenticity”, Journal of Communication Management. 14.3: 184-185.

  • Edwards LMS (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.

  • Edwards LMS (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.

  • Edwards LMS (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.

  • Ah Chong LMS, Thomas DC (1997) “Leadership perceptions in cross-cultural context: Pakeha and Pacific Islanders in New Zealand”, The Leadership Quarterly. 8.3: 275-293.

  • Ah Chong LMS, Thomas DC (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.


  • Edwards LMS (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

  • Edwards LMS (2015) “An historical overview of the emergence of critical thinking in PR”, In: L’Etang J; McKie D; Snow N; Xifra J (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations. 16-27

  • Hodges CEM, Edwards LMS (2014) “Public Relations Practitioners”, In: Smith McGuire J; Matthews, J (eds.) The Cultural Intermediaries Reader. London / Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  • Edwards L, Klein B, Lee DJ, Moss G, Philip F (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)

  • Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, Philip F (2014) “Communicating copyright: Discourse and disagreement in the digital age”, In: The SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property. 300-314
    DOI: 10.4135/9781473910027.n17

  • Edwards LMS (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

  • Edwards LMS, L'Etang J (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

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Power, Symbolic”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 673-674

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Modernity and Late Modernity”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 573-575

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Diversity: Public relations profession”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 271-273

  • Edwards LMS (2013) Public relations origins: Definitions and history. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education.

  • Edwards LMS (2013) Public relations theories: An overview. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education.

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Critical discourse analysis”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 225-227

  • Edwards LMS (2013) “Bourdieu, Pierre, and public relations”, In: Encyclopedia of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 78-79

  • Edwards LMS (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

  • Edwards LMS (2012) “Critical race theory and public relations”, In: Culture, race and class in public relations: Perspectives and applications. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books. 57-78

  • Edwards LMS, Hodges CEM (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

  • Edwards LMS (2011) “Public Relations and Society: A Bourdieuvian Perspective”, In: Lee Edwards CEMH (eds.) Public Relations, Society & Culture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 61-74

  • Edwards LMS (2011) “Diversity in Public Relations”, In: Edwards L; Hodges CEM (eds.) Public Relations, Society & Culture. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 75-89

  • Edwards LMS (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

  • Edwards LMS (2010) “‘Race’ in Public Relations”, In: Heath RL (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 205-222

  • Edwards LMS (2009) “Public Relations for Information and Communications Technologies: Principles and Planning”, In: Tench R; Yeomans L (eds.) Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. 481-497

  • Edwards LMS (2009) “Public Relations Theories: An Overview”, In: Tench R; Yeomans L (eds.) Exploring Public Relations. Prentice Hall. 149-173

  • Edwards LMS (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 Appointments

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

Completed supervisions:

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.


PhD Thesis

Exploring Power in Public Relations: A Bourdieusian Perspective (Leeds Metropolitan University, 2007)

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