We seldom challenge ourselves as public relations researchers and/or practitioners. We prefer to stay inside our academic comfort zone. We travel to the same conferences, we analyze the same kind of data, and we apply the same kind concepts and models? These are the kuhnian routines of ‘normal science’. One way to get us out of this comfort zone is by producing Big Ideas.

We hereby invite you to join us at the EUPRERA 2018 Annual Congress in Aarhus, Denmark. The congress theme is Big Ideas - Challenging Public Relations Research and Practice.

Big Ideas can do many things. Big Ideas are transformative, they can change the way we work and communicate in organizations and societies. They might even change what we understand by public relations. Big Ideas are dynamic, they can cross borders, not only in our minds but also between disciplines. Big Ideas can create new relationships between people, organizations and nation states.

Why Big Ideas? Because we sometimes are too obsessed with details. What we need is more ‘big picture thinking’, more theory-building, more cross-disciplinarity, more innovation in practice – in short,  new ideas that are bigger and better and that will make us look up.


Approaches to theory-building in public relations

Theory-building is one of the roads that lead to big ideas. Theory-building is a cognitive process guided by welknown principles such as criticism and construction, explication and emendation, evaluation and extension. Challenge (1): Can we find new approaches to theory-building? Are we ‘inventing’ to many or too few ideas?

Cross-disciplinary excursions: searching for big ideas outside of public relations

Sometimes it is easier to generate big ideas when we leave our discpline and visit other disciplines? Recently, management and organization scholars have caught interest in rhetoric, text, discourse, and communication. The new umbrella term is communicative institutionalism. At the same time, a large number of public relations researchers seem to forget about the role of communication in public relations. Challenge (3): Are we selling out of our core ideas? Are there big ideas that we can import from other disciplines?

Rethinking the old ideas of public relations

Big ideas are often new ideas. However, rethinking old ideas remains a possibility. Among the old ideas that would benefit from rethinking we find, for example, the ideas of publics and relation (and public relations?). Our understanding of management and organization would also benefit from rethinking. Challenge (4): How can we rethink the conceptual heritage of public relations research and practice?

The practitioners’ big ideas

Big ideas are not only invented by academics. Communication managers and communication consultants, working in and for private and public organizations, also produce their share of big ideas. Often big ideas developnwhen the two worlds collide in fruitful ways. Challenge (4): How can we facilitate and strenghten the interaction and the exchange of big ideas between the world of research and practice?

Public relations in a post-factual society

Some big ideas – such as Big Data, Disruption, and Hypermodernity - have already occupied both the academic agenda and the political agenda. The idea of a ‘post-factual society’, a society fuelled by ‘alternative facts’, for example, is of particular interest for public relations researchers and practitioners. Challenge (5): Will the idea of the post-factual society (elected Word of the Year in Germany in 2016) influence the image of our discipline?

Current public relations research

In order to open up EUPRERA 2018 to the most recent and thought-provoking research, we also invite high-quality papers that present empirical studies of other aspects of corporate and organizational communication.