Public Relations: State of the Field



Public relations is both a professional practice and a subfield of communication with its own research and theory base. Public relations is relatively young as an academic field, however, having developed identifiable theory in only about the last 50 years. The field of public relations is developing into a theoretically based area of applied communication that has the potential to inform several areas of communication/mass communication and to offer theoretic and conceptual tools useful in health, risk, and political communication, among others. Because many readers are unfamiliar with public relations theory and research, this article first reviews and summarizes theory-related scholarship in public relations, then categorizes and explains the theoretic trends in the field. The article concludes by demonstrating how one of public relations' theoretic/conceptual tools, issues management, can apply across all areas of applied communication.