The article under review is the work of Edwards Exploring the Role of Public Relations as a Cultural Intermediary Occupation. Primarily, the article supports the position that placing greater sociological focus on public relations is critical in the formation of cultures and society. Towards achieving the objective, the author relies on empirical evidence based on the practice in public relations. Edwards begins addressing the topic using the Bourdieuian framework. Further, the author introduces the notion of cultural intermediation as well as the public relations sector before advancing arguments regarding the position of the discursive struggle presented in the work of Bourdieu. In addition, the writer borrows from other theorists in a bid to place language and discourse at the apex of the symbolic contest. The analysis enhances the significance of public relations as the object of sociological imagination. Based on the conception of practice, the reflection on Bourdieu is preceded by its application to public relations and is given before the presentation of case study findings. The main argument presented by Edwards is that recognizing public relations, as an aspect of cultural intermediary, has a scholarly value.
Importance of the Research
Research is systematic generation of knowledge. As a result, any study is expected to generate findings that are useful for informing the society. In the current case, the study focuses on PR as an intermediary factor that has significance for the scholarly community. Without a doubt, PR has grown to become a big sector globally. Almost every organization now appreciates the role that this unit plays in its operations. As a result, paying attention to a study that focuses on an expanding aspect of organizations is not only crucial, but also timely.
The reference to the article also lends support to the significance of the study. In the introduction of the article, Edwards highlights the importance of the public relations (PR) sector in the United Kingdom. The author reinforces the view by citing indicative statistics such as its employment of 50 000 people. In addition, the sector is useful across other industries that cut across both the public and the private spheres of life. In the author’s assessment, PR includes a range of activities that border on below-the-line communications tactics as well as strategies on media relations, internal and external company communications, lobbying and public engagement. According to Phillips, close associates include advertising, product promotions, marketing, and branding among others.
It is also important to note that no area of study has conclusive knowledge. For instance, despite high levels of sophistication, experts in different fields always explore better approaches to handling issues. PR is not an exception; as a result, such a study is desirable as it would contribute to the existing literature and help in clarifying some ambiguities on the topic.
The Research Question
A number of research questions can be discerned from the study. However, the main issue that concerns the researcher borders on the recognition of the role and the scholarly value of public relations in cultural intermediation. In this regard, the question to be answered is what scholarly value public relations have in cultural intermediation.
Method Used to Answer the Question
In addressing the research question, the researcher has begun by reviewing the background of the topic to identify the existing studies and the main principles they posit. Some of the studies referenced include Wright and Hinson; Davies; Davis; McChesney. The previous studies help the writer to explain the current perspective on the topic. Thereafter, the author reviews the history of the PR industry in the UK with the objective of establishing the role it has played in the country. The tracking of the history of the topic enables Edwards to reach the conclusion that PR serves as a cultural intermediary as it addresses sociocultural norms relating to specific activities and influences production and consumption practices. In order to reinforce the responses to the research question, the author also carries out a case study that focuses on Roule, a government franchise based in the northern part of England. In the case, the researcher reviews both the micro- and macrolevel cultural intermediation roles of PR.
Methods Used to Collect Data
Data collection methods are essential because they aid the researcher in collecting the information to address the research question appropriately. Both primary and secondary methods of data collection are applicable. In the present case, the researcher has relied on both approaches. Under the secondary approach, the existing researches inform a study Hansen and Machin. As a result, the use of secondary approaches to data collection is discerned. However, the author does not specify how he arrived at the sources used in the research. The researcher also employs the secondary approach to data collection by carrying out a case review of Roule, a company based in Northern England.
Regarding the collection of primary data, the reference is made to the methods used to collect data from Roule. Another method that the study has employed is participant observation. The approach involves a learner as part of the community that is under investigation. Thus, the observation of daily activities, meetings, interviews, telephone calls, and photo shoots was used in the data collection exercise. In addition, to collect additional data, interviews were conducted. Both the interviews and the observation targeted the corporate section team. Through the note-taking method, the researcher was able to collect data for the study. In the case of interviews, data transcription was adopted.
The study adopts an interpretivist approach in its analysis of the data. It is recalled that the study’s objective is recognizing public relations as a factor of scholarly value in cultural intermediary. The researcher reviews the existing studies and the case of Roule in particular by trying to identify the employment of PR as an intermediary that affects societal choices, perspectives, and consumption patterns. Although the interpretivist method has some setbacks such as a researcher’s bias, the reliance of multiple sources reduces the gravity of the concern. For instance, by cross-referencing the literature, the researcher is able to validate the interpretations.
Following successive positive performances, the agency faced problems emanating largely from the external environments such as the London terrorist bombings. In order to regain its treasured position, the company engaged in self-promotion to improve its legitimacy. Thus, the team publicized the awards won in the past.
The team, which was tasked with the exercise of repackaging the firm by using PR, achieved positive results. For instance, the company teams efforts were working on microlevel cultural intermediation. In particular, the team invoked symbolic violence by manipulating perceptions about the companys reputation. Relying on the organizational habitus, as a decision point of reference, the team managed to provide symbolic capital, which proved useful in reinforcing the perceptions about its expertise. Through the team’s concerted efforts, the Corporate Affairs role was inculcated into the entitys organizational habitus.
In the same case of Roule, the researcher answers the research question based on the influence of cultural intermediation at the macrolevel. The researcher refers to the reinterpretation of Rail Travel to underscore the connection between the variables.
By way of summary, cultural intermediation at the macrolevel entailed efforts to demonstrate symbolic violence against external audiences such as the government, customers, and partners. The approach was deemed necessary to highlight the companys fundamentals in operations as being routine and legitimate business approaches. Thus, the process involved reshaping of social and cultural perspectives on rail transport, the position of passengers, rail operators, and journeys. In doing so, the company portrayed a privileged identity and responsiveness to peoples needs and tastes. The employment of discourses targeting the media alongside key stakeholders worked in a complementary manner as they were designed to generate symbolic significance for the company.
Citing the work of Bourdieu, Edwards observes that cultural intermediaries are definable based on the role they play in shaping tastes and consumer beliefs/ perceptions. Further reliance on the same sociologist, Edwards indicates that PR has the capacity to create a habitus distinguished by such categories as rock music fans, consumers, and citizens among others. For the industry to achieve the objective, it presents certain practices alongside supporting assumptions. As a result, the various groups prefer the given choices based on logic, superiority, and other perceptions as inculcated by the PR influence on organizations.
The conclusions of the author address the research questions. For instance, at the end, the author of the article argues that PR plays an instrumental role as a cultural intermediary occupation. In addition, Edwards indicates that the importance of PR in cultural intermediation is symbolically violent, what is predicated on the poor recognition of interests targeted at legitimising information with the objective of manipulating attitudes, behaviours, perceptions, and values across the sociocultural environment.
Using the case of Roule, Edwards addresses a number of questions bordering on how and for whom PR practitioners apply discourse with the intention of securing symbolic power. Within the Corporate Affairs section in the rail company, departmental interests took a centre stage. At the microlevel, the teams interests dominated the decisions as the messages bordered on uniting the organization for the benefit of the top leadership. At the macrolevel, however, the misrecognition of sectarian interests meant better outcomes for the company. The team’s working towards satisfying external stakeholders led to positive results. At the end, the author justifies the need for additional studies on the topic. For instance, Edwards observes that the empirical and theoretical nature attributable to symbolically violent cultural intermediation deserves further scholarly consideration, especially across dissimilar contexts.
Other Researchers and their Conclusions
A number of researchers cited by Edwards, support the observation that cultural effects attributable to sectors such as PR should be recognized. Mato, McFall, and Negus are some of the scholars whose findings are in agreement with those of Edwards on the impact of PR on commerce. Other researchers, such as McFall, Smith, Breakenridge, and Nixon, also lend credence to the observations of Edwards due to their results concerning the cultural effect on advertising. However, according to Edwards, the effects of PR on preferences and dispositions are mediated but not direct. As a result, the claim of its being a cultural intermediary is less clear-cut.
The study by Edwards indicates that in the recent times, traditional media has come under pressure owing to the increase in the availability of cheaper alternative sources of communication. The position is supported by Wright and Hinson, who found out that the state of affairs has allowed for the embracement of more interactive methods as observed. Besides, the studies by Davies, Davis, and McChesney prove that resource-poor organization forces journalists to accept PR materials even as unedited versions. Thus, PR is setting the agenda unlike the one in the past. In other words, the observation by Edwards that PR has an intermediary role in influencing the public is supported. It is now evident that PR influences both the cultural and social space; thus, it has the potential to interfere with tastes and preferences in a more subtle and direct manner than it did in the past. Therefore, the observation made by Edwards in relation to the topic’s warranting scholarly attention cannot be ignored since its position is supported by many authors.
Opportunities for Future Research
The research contributes to opening new realms for further studies on cultural intermediation by highlighting the significance of public relations. In addition, the paper presents the formulation of cultural intermediation based on the symbolic violence perspective as opposed to being viewed as a value-free transfer of preferences. Relying on the case of Roule, Edwards manages to illuminate the topic. However, to investigate the issue further, additional studies based on different contexts are required. It would also be useful for future researchers to explore the interaction between PR practitioners and journalists, advertisers, or other cultural intermediary experts. In addition, it would be worthwhile to explore the issue further to explain the evolution of symbolic power resulting from the above interactions.