SAM Seminar: Documentary Movies and Public Relations

When:10 May 2016, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Cinema 327, Robert Webster Building
Who:Jordi Xifra, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona)
SAM Seminar

The use of cinema as a tool in public relations and propaganda was addressed in the final chapter of Bernays’ Propaganda. More specifically, the use of documentary form has also garnered attention from PR scholars. L’Etang, for instance, mentions advertiser Charles Higham, who was “an enthusiast for film as a technique for government propaganda, community education, and the dissemination of ideas to educate the populace in a range of topics”.

The role of documentary as public relations technique was also supported by the leader of the British Film Documentary Movement, John Grierson, a public relations practitioner who coined the term “documentary film”. The main focus of his thinking on documentary and public relations could be described as “social or democratic education, the role of propaganda, and social responsibility, and it is echoes of these that can be detected in public relations discourse” (L’Etang).

With this scholarship and historical background, there is a link between public relations and documentary films; it is a link that has not been sufficiently explored. Beyond the common roles argued by Grierson, we try to show how public relations audio-visual discourse is almost ontologically documentary. For this purpose, we will focus on the origins of cinema and the films of Lumière brothers and how they were used as (corporate or not) public relations tools.

Jordi Xifra is Professor of Public Relations at the Department of Communication, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain. His research areas include the history of public relations, public relations sociology, public relations in sport, history of propaganda, public affairs and the role of film in the formation of public relations discourses. He has also led a research group on the communication management of think tanks. He has published more than 15 books on public relations and public affairs in Spain, and his articles have been published in Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Research, and American Behavioral Scientist, among others.

Finding us
Robert Webster Building is located mid-way off the UNSW main walkway. Map Reference G14. Cinema 327 is located on the third floor. 

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