My first issue as editor – Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal

This year, 2016, is an interesting time to be taking over the editorship of an academic journal. The Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal is an open access on-line journal.

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It is not funded by any organisation specifically, with the host university (University of Newcastle) absorbing the cost of any labour and hosting involved in its production. Nor is it a journal charging authors a fee for publishing.

Such models are emerging increasingly and such author-charges are being called anything from ‘handling fees’ and are even used to pay peer reviewers in some instances. Is this a model that this journal should move to? I think not. It seems to somehow cheapen the work of academics if one has to pay someone to publish the work. However, is the current model economically sustainable?

When all academics are under increased pressure to do more teaching and more research with less resources, where does the wherewithal to edit and publish a quality journal come from? We also need to ask the question: is the academic peer reviewed journal the best way to share our research findings and contribute to the measurement of the impact of our work.

The MIT Media Lab has launched a new kind of academic journal that embodies its antidisciplinary ethos but also has a new approach to getting out research and ideas much more quickly to interested academic and industry audiences. Instead of double blind peer review, their new process involves a process that is anything but anonymous and is called ‘peer-to-peer’.

An article in Wired magazine explains more about this idea and links through to the journal. Is this somewhere that the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal should go? It is certainly food for thought.

In several countries across the world, the value of academic publishing as a measure of the worth of academic research is being questioned. In the 2016 Australian Research Council publication, “The Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper”, there have been calls for input into what defines impact and engagement with academic research.

It states that a narrow focus on limited engagement measures could create perverse outcomes where, for example, researchers and universities focus on boosting their reportable performance instead of pursuing genuine research engagement that translates into economic, social or other benefits. In addition, the use of a very limited range of metrics may not meet the parameters of the assessment—such as ensuring no discipline is disadvantaged by the assessment (p. 8).

The impact factor of many public relations academic journals is quite low. Does this mean that the research published in this journal since its inception has had no or little impact? How would we know? My article on the impact of new media on PR published in Issue 8 of this journal is my most cited to date, but what does that really mean in terms of impact and engagement? What would be a better way to present our research and assess its impact?

As editor I hope to see more work being submitted that examines these issues in our field, but to also have such mechanisms for increased engagement with the work published in this and other journals in our field.

One such such mechanism is the newly re-convened Asia Pacific Public Relations Research and Education Network headed by Dr Marianne Sison from RMIT University. Its uses may include calls for papers, chapter contributions, calls for research partners, conference announcements, suggestions or inquiries related to teaching materials and references and the like. I commend Marianne for this initiative and in our discussions we have agreed that this journal will work very closely with the Network.

Perhaps such a network could also evolve into a sharing of research impact or engagement news, for example, has some organization decided to give someone’s new model for crisis preparation a trial in practice? It would be fascinating to see some further ideas come forward for further utilizing this valuable network. I’ll certainly be using the network to share news about this journal, including future calls for papers and announcements of when our new issues are published.

That being said, I’d like to commend this issue’s articles to you as we again cover a wider range of territory both topically and geographically, as well as bringing you a book review of ‘The Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations’ (Routledge, 2016), edited by Jacquie L’Etang, David McKie, Nancy Snow and Jordi Xifra. The journal has an Asian Pacific focus but as always, welcomes and presents scholarly articles from across the globe.

Australian Research Council. (2016). The Engagement and Impact Assessment Consultation Paper.

University of Newcastle academic named Australia’s ‘PR Educator of the Year’

From the University of Newcastle Media Unit:

University of Newcastle teaching excellence is again in the spotlight with Communication Senior Lecturer, Dr Melanie James, named Australia’s “PR Educator of the Year” at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA) National Golden Target Awards held last night in Hobart. A short video was filmed by Dr James’ students and was shown on the awards night as Melanie took to the stage to accept her award – click to view in new window.


Image of "Melanie James" "Dr Melanie James"

Dr Melanie James, Senior Lecturer in Communication

Dr James, Deputy Head of the School of Design, Communication and IT said the result highlighted the caliber of the communication degree offered at the University of Newcastle (UON).

“This award recognises the innovative teaching practices applied to the teaching of PR and Communication subjects at UON, and strong track record of producing talented and successful graduates,” said Dr James.

"Melanie James award"

Golden Target Award 2015 National Winner PR Educator of the Year

Dr James said her teaching style encouraged students to gain valuable real-world insights to prepare them for a successful working life.

“My teaching philosophy centres on the view that teaching is not about delivering content but is the act of designing experiences that encourage and enable student learning.

“My teaching has always focused on providing opportunities for students to construct contextual meaning rather than focusing on students being passive receivers of information that I impart to them – a constructivist approach to learning,” said Dr James.

With experience working in senior management roles in strategic communication, government communication and public relations across a number of sectors, Dr James brings extensive professional expertise to the classroom.

She has authored four books, numerous journal articles, book chapters and conference papers. Her most recent book, “Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication: A new approach to public relations research and practice” was published by Routledge in 2014.

An inaugural “Positioning Theory” Symposium

I was recently confirmed as being on the scientific committee responsible for organising the inaugural cross-disciplinary Positioning Theory Symposium that will be held 6-8th July, 2015 in Bruges, Belgium.

This was a great thrill for me as other members of the committee are two of the leading academics in fields that are applying Positioning Theory to research, Professor Prof. Dr. Luk van Langenhøve (United Nations University – CRIS) and Dr. Christine Redman, (University of Melbourne, MGSE).

I first came across Positioning Theory, as developed by Professor Rom Harré and others, in 2009. I’d been looking for a way to theorise public relations positioning as part of my PhD research. PR positioning is not like marketing positioning and Positioning Theory, with its focus on the moral right to position in one way or another and the use of discourse in positioning efforts was a great fit with my work. You can read more about Positioning Theory here.

The Symposium is being held on the premises of United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS). UNI-CRIS is a research and training institute of the United Nations University (UNU).

The key purpose of the research symposium is to develop a high quality, interactive event that contributes to the development and growth of Positioning Theory research communities globally.

The theme is: “Positioning Theory: state of play across disciplines. What have we learnt?”

The symposium is open to contributions from all disciplines and research areas, including for instance education, teaching methods, communication studies, health, nursing, psychology, management studies, international relations or conflict analysis as well as to contributions from social theory or philosophy of science. You can read the call for academic papers here.

This symposium is designed to:

  • present a sample of some of the leading positioning theoretical research in the world; and,
  • to facilitate a series of creative and critical dialogues about research, research development, and research challenges related to Positioning Theory.

The expectation is that these dialogues will be original, participatory, creative and collegial. The Positioning Theory Symposium is intended for active researchers and those with interests in connecting with research related to Positioning Theory.

The inaugural Positioning Theory Research Symposium has been designed to attract early-career to senior academics, higher degree students, community researchers, and practitioners who are interested in research, from across the world. For more information, including how to submit a paper or panel proposal, visit the Symposium website here.

It’s wonderful to be part of a wide-ranging global group of scholars exploring a new theoretical perspective in our individual disciplines. I am excited to be able to be  counted amongst the “positioning theorists”.

Image of Venue: United Nations University-CRIS, Bruges, Belgium

Venue: United Nations University-CRIS, Bruges, Belgium

Public Relations weekly links shout out

Karen Miller Russell (Associate Professor in Public Relations and Jim Kennedy New Media Professor at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, Athens, Georgia, USA) runs a fabulous blog called Teaching PR (

She has been running this for years and each week provides public relations scholars, students and practitioners with links to excellent content in our field. I highly recommend that you subscribe to her blog if you wish to stay abreast of what’s happening in PR and strategic communication.

Karen’s links have been invaluable in my teaching and research over the years. For example, this week she has shared the following:

Karen russell

Karen Miller Russell

The Week’s Best, 23 February 2015

Big data is also an challenge for public relations and this TED talk video “What Do We Do with All this Big Data?” by Susan Etlinger is excellent, thanks Karen for sharing this an for all the sharing over many years.Karen also recently posted the slides to her lecture on Google Analytics.

You can follow Karen Russell on Twitter:


The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to
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