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Public Relations in a Postmodern World

Christopher Caldiero

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.
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Chapter 1: Modernism and Public Relations



Modernism and Public Relations

What is postmodernism? How does it compare to modernism? What does public relations have to do with all of this? These are seemingly simple questions but with complex answers. This book does not attempt to fully answer the first two questions, but we will examine all three and put our efforts towards attempting to answer the third. Public relations as a profession and a practice has, without question, been shaped and continues to be shaped by changes in our culture and society. These changes include, but are not limited to, dynamic changes in technology and media, the public’s expectations with regard to organizational communication, and new realities concerning public relations tactics and strategies. Concurrently, changes in public relations practice are shaping larger societal and cultural forces. As such, I argue that our postmodern world both shapes, and is shaped by, new and different ways that organizations (and publics) “do” public relations.

Almost every discussion of postmodernism begins with a caveat. The caveat is that postmodernism cannot be defined (or at least easily defined). Instead of using that traditional opening, perhaps it is best to briefly examine the broad concept of modernism—the core set of ideas that postmodernism seeks to critique and, in some ways, replace.

Modernism, like postmodernism, is subject to wide-ranging interpretation and application. Perhaps Habermas (1983a) defined it most succinctly when he said that modernism aims to “develop objective science, universal morality and...

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