Public Relations & Participatory Culture: The People’s Revolution


Participatory culture and citizen audiences are only furthering the Public Relations Industry by refining messages and furthering campaigns due to the fact that there is now instant communication toward targeted audiences. The introduction of Web 2.0 created a new medium to receive instant feedback and therefore to produce and refine campaigns depending on the target publics’ needs. While this idea of instant feedback can be daunting toward some practitioners, in truth it can only be seen as a positive as it creates further opportunities for higher quality work and expectations.

The introduction of Web 2.0 has revolutionised Public Relations, resulting in positive changes for the industry as a whole. Before the introduction of Web 2.0, the Internet was a one-way system designed to simply broadcast information with little to no feedback (Kelleher, 2009). Web 2.0 is defined by Terry Flew as a movement in Internet software that developed from content based, limited connectability and interactivity to a platform that involves participation and collaboration among internet users to generate content with instant feedback. This results in limited control and a greater platform for users to express themselves (Flew, 2011, pg. 35). With this revolution came a new approach to Public Relations, with practitioners having to use other channels that were previously limited in Web 1.0 to gain feedback. Another factor that has further revolutionised Public Relations is Participatory Culture, which is defined by Henry Jenkins as,

“a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).” (Jenkins, 2006, pg.3).

Participatory culture plays a huge part in the new format of the Public Relations Industry, with this phenomenon creating a new, innovative approach to the industry as a whole. Before it’s introduction, practitioners were in danger of becoming too reliant and stuck in old habits that were damaging to the industry, as there was no reliable, instant feedback regarding the needs of the target publics, only educated assumptions (Johnson, 2014). Tom Kelleher, a leading scholar in the field of Public Relations highlights the value of Web 2.0 and Participatory Culture by arguing that the introduction of Participatory Media only improves the relationship between publics and organisations by strengthening four core foundations in the industry; trust, satisfaction, commitment, and control mutuality (Kelleher, 2009, pg. 173). In this video, Kelleher goes into more detail in an interview with the Oxford University, highlighting how important Participatory Culture and Web 2.0 are:

While Web 2.0 can be seen as a positive for up and coming public relations practitioners, it must be noted as highlighted by Tom Kelleher in the previous video, that there are still skills and knowledge needed to really enhance the PR industry (Kelleher, 2009). While the publics may be getting on board with input and ideas, to be a successful practitioner in the digital age, targeted PR knowledge as well as digital skill is needed to really create and become a successful practitioner (Breakenridge & Solis, 2009). With all of these elements, practitioners become skilled in the language of Participatory Media and culture, being able to fully immerse themselves in the digital age and use this instant feedback to their advantage. All of these aspects only build more successful practitioners and therefore campaigns that are now becoming more and more specific due to the nature of Participatory culture. The idea of a ‘trust revolution’ is created and creates a more exciting and fulfilling situation for target publics as well as practitioners, as highlighted in this video by Publically Related, an online industry media tool that helps develop future practitioners hoping to break into the industry:

There is no question that Participatory Culture and the introduction of Web 2.0 has greatly improved the Public Relations industry but increasing interactivity with target publics, as well as improving campaigns due to instant feedback and connectivity. While the introduction of media and these new platforms may intimidate some practitioners, it is only proven to help and refine campaigns and tactics, resulting in more knowledgeable and skilful practitioners for the industries future, making it an exciting time to be involved in the Public Relations Industry.




Breakenridge, D. & Solis, B. (2009) Putting the Public Back into Public Relations. New Jersey: Pearson Education

Bree Goldstein (2013, April 12). Social Media Public Relations: Publically Related[Video file]. Retrieved from:

Flew, T. (2011). New Media: An Introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, The MacArthur Foundation, Accessed 01/03/2016 from

Johnson, J. & Sheehan, M. (2014). Public Relations: Theory and Practice, 4th ed. New South Wales: Allen & Unwin

Kelleher, T. (2009) Conversational Voice, Communicated Commitment, and Public Relations Outcomes in Interactive Online Communication. Journal of Communication, 59, pp. 172-188.

Oxford Academic (2015, November 5). Tom Kelleher discusses the future of Public Relations [Video file]. Retrieved from:



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