European Public Relations History Network (EPRHN)
The history of public relations academic field is relatively new. Although Prof Dr Günter Bentele of Leipzig University pioneered a conference on PR history in the late 1990s, it was not until 2010 that a regular academic conference, the International History of Public Relations Conference (IHPRC), was launched at Bournemouth University in England. There has been increasing interest in the conference and in PR historical research in Europe over the past 3-4 years but it has largely focused on national histories or phenomena. Collaborative research, across national boundaries, has yet to emerge. There is also little shared knowledge of archival resources, where they exist or where they could be created.
The aim of this network is to develop cross-border projects and to explore the distinctive characteristics of public relations history across the continent. It will also identify and exploit (for research purposes) archives of public relations organisations, phenomena and personalities, as have been developed in North America.
Goals of the network
This network will focus on the development and production of information about the history and historiography of public relations in Europe.
This could include the formation and identification of archives and resources, the preparation of joint research, the submission of Europe-wide research bids and production of publications in print and online formats.
The field being investigated includes public relations, strategic communication, communication management and organisational/corporate communication. Appropriate links to governmental communication and propaganda that is relevant to public relations history will also be explored.
It will be an inter-disciplinary approach that brings together the knowledge of specialist historical researchers with the developing skills and sector knowledge of public relations academics who have moved into this field in the past decade. The Network will seek alliances with other cross-border and cross-disciplinary groups in the media and communications history field.
The goals of EPRHN were expanded at a meeting of its management group on June 26, 2013.
The network has 47 members from 19 European countries. Many are from EUPRERA member institutions. Membership – Country (number of members): Belgium (1); Estonia (1); Finland (1); France (1); Germany (3); Ireland (2); Italy (3); Latvia (1); Netherlands (1); Norway (1); Poland (2); Portugal (1); Romania (1); Russia (2); Spain (4); Sweden (1); Switzerland (1); Turkey (6); United Kingdom (14).
Prof Tom Watson is the project leader, assisted by Dr Tasos Theofilou. Both are at The Media School at Bournemouth University in England.
The network has formed a committee of experienced PR history researchers which comprises Prof Watson and Dr Theofilou (UK), Prof Dr Günter Bentele (Germany), Prof Serra Gorpe (Turkey), Prof Jacquie L’Etang (UK), Toni Muzi Falconi (Italy) and Prof Jordi Xifra (Spain).
The proposal for the network was tested in early 2012 and drew interest from 33 academics and practitioners in 11 countries. It gained EUPRERA’s endorsement in September 2012 the date from which, for project purposes, the network commenced. It will continue for an initial three years.
Results until now
EPRHN members have taken a very active role in contributing chapters on their national histories of PR to three volumes of the National Perspectives in the Development of Public Relations: Other Voices series that is being collated and edited by Professor Tom Watson for Palgrave Macmillan. The second book, Eastern European Perspectives, was published in autumn 2014. The fifth book, Western European Perspectives, and sixth book, Historiographical and Theoretical Perspectives, will be published in Spring this year. Although not a direct action of EPRHN, this ambitious book project has benefitted from the network’s existence and the collaboration of its members.
Milestones for the next six months
The network has started and actions undertaken to (a) map public relations archives across Europe and (b) to identify EU-wide research funding opportunities. The action of seeking Europe-wide funding is in abeyance as there has been little interest in pursuing Horizon 2020 which does not offer networking building opportunities which were evident in the previous COST scheme.
The first edition of a record of European public relations archives was published as a PDF in January 2013 and covers seven countries. Further editions will follow. The second edition, with additional contributions from Finland, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey was published in March 2014 and can be found here. A third edition is being considered.
A planning meeting was held in Bournemouth after the International History of Public Relations Conference 2013 at Bournemouth University on June 26, 2013. The first formal meeting of EPRHN was at EUPRERA in Barcelona in October and a panel on “Developing the History of European Public Relations” was presented at the Barcelona Congress. An EPRHN launch meeting was held attracted new members. A panel of three speakers was held at the EUPRERA Congress 2014 on Friday, September, followed by a group meeting, at which members were (a) asked to find a ‘historian buddy’ in order to building connections between PR history and other fields of historical research and (b) to consider ideas for projects that could bring members together.
However, since last year's conference, EPRHN has been inactive. there has been extensive PR historical research within Europe but it has not been linked to the Network Papers and chapters from European academics are appearing more frequently, but there has been no development of cross-bordeer research collaboration as envisaged when EPRHN was formed.
The Network will operate on a nil-cost basis until such time as project proposals are developed and submitted to funding authorities, which will enable budgets to be exercised for networking contact and capacity-building. Symposia and other meetings will largely be self-funded. Social media, Skype and video conferencing will be used to facilitate contact at low cost.
Can Euprera members still join the network?
Membership is open to academics and practitioners with an active interest in developing archival resources, research and scholarship in the field of European public relations history.
The network is operating virtually but it is progressing into the organisation of symposia, the preparation of collaborative research bids and the sharing of access to archival resources.