Call for papers for the Eighth International Forum on Public Relations and Advertising (PRAD)

Conference theme: Strategic Communication in the Digital Age

25 - 28 January 2016,
Wellington, New Zealand

Programme Chair: Dr Jenny Hou

Is it possible to completely avoid the Internet nowadays? Is it possible to keep ourselves and our lives separate from new digital social media? Since mothers post ultrasound photos of their babies before giving birth, babies may be online even before they are born. It is hard not to leave a footprint in the digital world. The rapid proliferation and advancement of technologies have offered unprecedented opportunities for personal, organizational and social developments that our predecessors could only dream about. In light of this reality, the theme of the 2016 International Forum on Public Relations and Advertising (PRAD)– Strategic Communication in the Digital Age – invites delegates to explore, interrogate and reflect on the emerging field of strategic communication in light of big data, crowd-sourcing, social media and other burgeoning digital technologies that expand the information and expertise available to us. Strategic Communication in the Digital Age also points to fundamental questions about what it means to be “strategic” and what the ultimate value of strategic communication is in the digital age. 

Strategic communication continues to have issues of naming and identity, interchangeably called public relations, corporate communication, organizational communication and the like. From Hallahan, Holtzhausen, van Ruler, Vercic, and Sriramesh’s (2007) definition of strategic communication as “the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfil its mission” (p.3), Grunig’s (2009) strategic management approach to public relations, to Argenti, Howell and Beck’s (2005) assertion of aligning “with the company’s overall strategy” (p. 83), at the centre of strategic communication is to achieve the overarching goals and interests of a specific organization. More recently, Hotlzhausen and Zerfass (2013) have extended the definition to “the practice of deliberate and purposive communication a communication agent enacts in the public sphere on behalf of a communicative entity (e.g., for-profit and non-profits, governments, activists, sports/entertainment celebrities) to reach set goals” [emphasis added] (p. 284). The newly-developed digital networks open up a new public space where individuals, groups and organizations can communicate interactively without being filtered by media gatekeepers (Bustamante, 2004).

 Interdisciplinary and multi-faceted paradigms support strategic communication research from wide ranging perspectives and at various levels. At the macro-level, scholars appear interested in exploring the construction of legitimacy in the public sphere characterised by an expanding array of publics and new technologies (e.g., Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010; Feldner & Meisenbach, 2007; Holtzhausen, 2012). At the meso-level, the focus has been on the formulation, planning and implementation of strategies to co-align organizations’ competencies with opportunities and constraints in the digital environment and network (e.g., Eisenberg, Goodall, & Tretheway, 2007; Sloan, 2006). At the micro-level, scholarly attention has been paid to individual entities such as sports stars, entertainers, or politicians who employ strategic communication either to communicate in a crisis or to run for elected office (e.g., Christensen & Cornelissen, 2011; Zerfass, 2010).

The debate around strategic communication and digital technologies is ongoing. Questions raised include for instance: has the new digital technology revolutionized our practice of strategic communication, or do we use new technologies in the ways we used traditional media to maintain the core of strategic communication? Is it still possible for top management to prescribe and control strategic communication, or is there now a co-creational approach to engaging publics in decision-making? What are the macro aims of strategic communication in the digital age - continuing to serve organizational interests - or align with wider public and social interests? To what extent can strategic communication and digital media change our life world for the better?

These questions are only a few but one thing seems sure. We need to embrace today’s digital world strategically in communication – by going back to our roots, clarifying our vision and values, exploring and making smart use of new technologies for greatest benefit.

The theme Strategic Communication in the Digital Age is an invitation to think broadly and creatively about meaningful strategic communication problems and opportunities in the digital age. We encourage contributions from empirical research, industrial reports, theoretical and methodological papers, from a variety of disciplines and from a broad scope of epistemological perspectives. Insights into one or more of the following, indicative topics or sub-themes are especially welcome:

● Strategic communication and digital technologies

●Social media and public relations

● Communication ethics in the digital age

● Cross-cultural communication and globalization

● Digital communication competence

● Digital communication, politics and social change

 ● Advertising and marketing in new media environment

● Journalism and new media studies

The 2016 International PRAD Forum aspires to be a lively, thoughtful, exciting and unforgettable event; an agora of ideas, debates and creativity! We look forward to seeing you in Wellington!

Conference Convenor: Dr. Jenny Hou; Email:

2016 PRAD Academic Committee, CJM, Massey University


Argenti, P., Howell, R., & Beck, K. (2005). The strategic communication imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review, 46(3), 82-89.

Bentele, G., & Nothhaft, H. (2010). Strategic communication and the public sphere from a European perspective. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4(2), 93-116.

Bustamante, E. (2004). Cultural industries in the digital age: Some provisional conclusions. Media, Culture & Society, 26(6), 803-820.

Christensen, L.T., & Cornelissen, J. (2011). Bridging corporate and organizational communication: Review, development and a look to the future. Management Communication Quarterly, 25(3), 383-414.

Eisenberg, E., Goodall, H.L.J., & Tretheway, A. (2007). Organizational communication. Balancing creativity and constraint (5th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.

Feldner, S.B., & Meisenbach, R.J. (2007). and activist challenges: A Habermasian perspective on corporte legitimacy. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 1(4), 207-226.

Grunig, J.E. (2009). Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalization. PRism, 6(2). doi:

Hallahan, K., Holtzhausen, D., Ruler, B. van, Vercic, D., & Sriramesh, K. (2007). Defining strategic communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 1(1), 3-35.

Holtzhausen, D.R. (2012). Public relations as activism: Postmodern approaches to theory and practice. New York: Routledge.

Holtzhausen, D.R., & Zerfass, A. (2013). Strategic communication: Pillars and perspectives of an alternative paradigm. In K. Sriramesh, A. Zerfass & J. Kim (Eds.), Public relations and communication management: Current trends and emerging topics (pp. 283-302). New York and London: Routledge.

Sloan, J. (2006). Learning to think strategically. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

Zerfass, A. (2010). Corporate management and public relations: A theory of corporate communication and public relations (3rd ed.). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag fur Sozialwissenschaften.

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