Public Relations in a Postmodern World

by Christopher Caldiero (Author)
©2016 Textbook XI, 135 Pages


Christopher Caldiero examines new ways of thinking about public relations practice in today’s technological and postmodern world. His concept of «Neo-PR» and its thought-provoking principles re-examines and re-frames modernistic notions of public relations for today’s burgeoning PR practitioners. The book begins by looking at the historical development of the public relations field in the context of the modernism movement of the early twentieth century. Drawing parallels to this movement, Caldiero argues that public relations practice was inevitably shaped by modernistic thinking. Using a series of recent and prevalent public relations cases, he then shines new light on different ways public relations can and must be practiced in our different world. These cases and organizations include the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon crisis, Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, The Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University, and SeaWorld. Neo-PR: Public Relations in a Postmodern World re-conceptualizes public relations as we’ve come to know it, and helps to prepare today’s undergraduate and graduate public relations students for our postmodern world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: Modernism and Public Relations
  • Chapter 2: Postmodernism, Public Relations, and Neo-PR
  • Chapter 3: British Petroleum’s “Voices From the Gulf”
  • Chapter 4: Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood
  • Chapter 5: The Boy Scouts of America
  • Chapter 6: Penn State University
  • Chapter 7: SeaWorld and Blackfish
  • Afterword
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: Key Moments in the BP Oil Spill Timeline
  • Appendix B: BP Voices From the Gulf
  • Appendix C: Key Moments in the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood Timeline
  • Appendix D: Key Moments in the History of the Boy Scouts of America
  • Appendix E: Key Events in the Penn State Timeline
  • Appendix F: Key Moments in the SeaWorld/Blackfish Story
  • Appendix G: SeaWorld’s Response to Blackfish with Responses from the Filmmakers
  • References
  • Index


Protagoras: Truth is relative. It is only a matter of opinion.

Socrates: You mean that truth is mere subjective opinion?

Protagoras: Exactly. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Truth is subjective.

Socrates: Do you really mean that? That my opinion is true by virtue of its being my opinion?

Protagoras: Indeed I do.

Socrates: My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you, Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is my opinion, then you must grant that it is true according to your philosophy.

Protagoras: You are quite correct, Socrates.

Although Protagoras seems to be conceding to Socrates, is he? Some think so. At least, Sahakian and Sahakian (1966) seemed to think so when they wrote, “Hence, he (Protagoras) necessarily contradicts himself and implicitly admits that truth is objective, not relative” (p. 28). I disagree. I see Protagoras’ final response as an affirmation of his own truth. He simply affirms for Socrates that Socrates’ truth is also the truth…for Socrates. If this is the slightest bit confusing, do not lose heart. Where we are about to tread often belies traditional public relations thinking and, in some ways, encourages dissent and conflict.

I think it important to begin by describing what this book is and what it isn’t. This is not a textbook. It is not a simple collection of case studies. It is, in my view, a treatise on the philosophy of communication; specifically, a treatise on the philosophy of public relations. It is intended as a reader for undergraduate and graduate public relations students who seek not only to be informed about today’s practice but who desire to help create their own contribution to the meaning of what public relations can and should do for organizations and publics.

Now, you may rightfully ask, what does philosophy (especially moral and metaphysical philosophy) have to do with public relations? Unfortunately for those of us who seek to analyze and improve the practice of public relations, philosophical approaches have been few and far between. Further, there has always been an unspoken tension between those who see public relations as purely an organizational objective function (as much as marketing or sales might be) and those who seek to peel the layers back a bit and understand the reasons why certain strategies work, what motivates organizations to communicate the way they do, and how our practice can better help publics we serve. ← vii | viii →

The work presented here seeks to continue that peeling back and to go even deeper. The primary goal of Neo-PR is to understand meaning; the meanings of the messages, the meanings of the media (in the most “McLuhanesque” way), the meaning of truth, and most importantly, the meaning of choices made for both organizations and their respective publics. In our postmodern world (more on that in a moment), I argue that the way that organizations and publics create (and co-create) meaning is closely tied to new realities that organizations must face and address. These new realities, as we will see, both shape and are shaped by a combination of media and culture.

It is no great revelation to suggest that the practice of public relations has changed in the past, say, 10–15 years. Although it is true that the practice has continually evolved since the early 20th century, there has been a notable change with the advent of social media. I see many forms of social media as classic examples of media convergence, the phenomenon whereby new technology and media seem to be evolved forms of earlier technologies. And, importantly, these new forms inherently retain some of the characteristics (both physical and impactful) of their progenitors.

For example, television has been with us for many decades now. Subsequently, and understandably, the impact of television on our lives has been studied for almost as long as the medium itself has existed. This study has, to a lesser but no less important degree, been done in the context of postmodernistic thinking. If we can accept that the Internet and its own related “offspring” such as social media are themselves descendants (or least relatives) of television, then it is time to examine these forms for what they are—impactful, important meaning-shapers and facilitators for us today.

In light of this general declaration, a few more specific premises are presented; social media and other related technologies are part of our world in this early part of the 21st century. Organizations and publics use these technologies in ever-greater numbers. As such, this book is an attempt to analyze and understand the impact these technologies have on today’s public relations practice. Further, the impact of these technologies and the changing culture we are embedded within have, in many ways, helped to redefine what public relations is and how it should be done. This is Neo-PR.

A few caveats if I may. If you, faithful reader, have no belief in or conviction about postmodernism, you may very well find this treatise problematic. Wonderful! The real goal of this work is to start discussions and debates. Postmodernism (as we will see in Chapter 2) is inherently problematic to begin with. Therefore, some might argue it is a shaky foundation from which to begin any discussion, let alone one about public relations. I encourage you to challenge these ideas. Of course, I strongly believe in what I present here, but ← viii | ix → one of the very basic tenets of postmodernistic thinking is the idea of “multiple truths.” These multiple truths can all be real, can all be important and impactful, and do not have to conflict or contradict each other.


XI, 135
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
PR Boy scouts Public Relations
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XI, 135 pp.

Biographical notes

Christopher Caldiero (Author)

Christopher Caldiero (PhD., Rutgers University) is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University. His work has appeared in the Journal of Public Relations Research and the American Communication Journal. He is the winner of three top paper awards from the National Communication Association.


Title: Neo-PR
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