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Public Relations & Communication


This research group has a focus on the role of strategic communication, public relations and the media in contemporary society.  The group’s research focuses on two key strands:

  • Communication for social impact;
  • Communication in organisational strategy, behaviour and performance.

Research focus

Organisations face many challenges in today’s business environment attributable to the complexities of globalisation and rapidly developing technology, and which are influenced by efforts to meet ever-changing stakeholder needs. In many cases, these stakeholders have competing interests ranging from the difficulties of enhancing employees’ work-life balance, to consumer interests, as well as governmental interests in the work that organisations do.

Organisations must consistently represent themselves and fairly reflect stakeholder interests in their communication and engagement with these divergent groups. This is the vital role communication plays in an organisation’s success. However, in order to effectively communicate, organisations need first to understand their communities and needs of their stakeholders - and in this context organisations must understand the social, economic, and political debates fostered by competing stakeholders as well as the mainstream and social media. This leads to a core question for the group that drives much of the enquiry and studies being conducted: “How can strategic communication help organisations tackle the challenges associated with complexity and uncertainty?”

Examples of how researchers from the group are tackling the core question include studies into the communication responsibility of organisations, health communication, and specifically exploration of the role of communication in health messaging and in dealing with wicked problems such as obesity, the sugar tax and other contemporary challenges. Studies also explore how organisations manage their image and reputation, particularly during periods of turbulence and crisis. In addition, studies explore how corporate social responsibility is presented and negotiated in the media, and how organisations communicate in times of crisis. The group is also active in journalism and media research, tackling topics like media bias and journalism practice.

Research projects

Plus Icon January 2018 – January 2021 (Prime Research) - €90,000 (30,000) per year, awarded for three years

Professor Tench UK Project lead. ECM (European Communication Monitor) new private industry sponsor for longitudinal, trans-national quantitative research into professional practice across Europe, 2018-2021. See This project has been running annually since 2007.

Plus Icon October 2017 – present: European Commission, INTERREG Funding Scheme, COMPETE IN project.

Dr Martina Topic is working in a team lead by the Enterprise Office. The team is analysing the best practice and enabling factors for increasing competitiveness of SMEs in partner countries participating in the project (Italy, Poland, Sweden, Spain, UK).

Plus Icon October 2017 – present: HEFCE funding, Consumer Shopping Habits and Yellow Sticker Shopping

Dr Diers-Lawson and Dr Topić are conducting research with Ms Sarah Kelsey (SG Marketing) on consumer shopping habits and the importance and understanding of yellow sticker shopping.

Plus Icon July 2016 Public Health England (£1.2m) – Whole Systems Approach to obesity

Professor Tench representing the communication group part of transdisciplinary bid team.

Plus Icon October 2013-2016 – EU Knowledge Alliance, €600,000

Professor Tench Project Lead, with Dr Devins, SME-DE (Small Medium Enterprises Deliberative Engagement project)

Plus Icon October 2011 – Lifelong Learning Partnership (EU) €360,000

Professor Ralph Tench Project Lead. European Communication Professionals Skills & Innovation Programme (ECOPSI), LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAMME (Erasmus): Multilateral projects. Funding code: 517691-LLP-1-2011-1-UK-ERASMUS-ECUE. Three-year project.

Research outputs

Plus Icon Selected peer-reviewed journal articles & book chapters
    • Diers-Lawson, A.R. (2018, in press). Will They Like Us When They’re Angry? Antecedents and Indicators of Strong Emotional Reactions to Crises Among Stakeholders. In: Croucher, S.M., Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, B., & Wilson, P. eds. Approaches to conflict: Mediatized and group dynamics. Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 81-136.
    • Diers-Lawson, A.R., & Croucher, S. (2018). Sports, Culture, and Financial Crisis: A cross-cultural comparison of the social media responses of struggling sports associations in the United States and the United Kingdom. In: Austin, L.L., &  Jin, Y. eds. Social Media and Crisis Communication. Routledge.
    • Rohwer, L., & Topić, M. (2018). The Communication of Corporate-NGO Partnerships: Analysis of Sainsbury’s Collaboration with Comic Relief. Journal of Brand Management. Online First: at:  
    • Tench, R., Moreno, A., & Okay, A. (2017). Re-fuelling the Talent Tank. A Qualitative Study of Key Deficiencies, Future Needs, and life-long Learning Needs of Communication Management Professionals in Europe. Communication & Society, 30 (3), 109-127.
    • Tench, R.,  Moreno, A., & Topić, M. (2017). Male and Female Communication, Leadership Styles and the Position of Women in Public Relations. Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture 8(2-3), 231-248.
    • Tench, R., & Topić, M. (2017). Evaluating CSR, Sustainability and Sourcing within the UK Supermarket Industry: The Case of Waitrose/John Lewis Partnership. In: Eweje, G., & Bathurst, R. eds. CSR, Sustainability and Leadership. London: Routledge.
    • Tench, R., & Topić, M. (2017). One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? An Analysis of Public Relations Practitioners’ Views on the Position of Women in the PR Industry (2009-2015). Current Politics and Economics of Europe 28(1), 83-105.
    • Diers-Lawson, A.R. (2016). A State of Emergency in Crisis Communication: An Intercultural Crisis Communication Research Agenda. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research 46(1), 1-54.
    • Tench, R., & Amo Mensah, M. (2016). In the Club but Out of the Game – Evaluation of Ghana Club 100 CSR Communication. Tripodos, December.
    • Topić, M., & Tench, R. (2016). The Corporate Social Responsibility in Lidl’s Communication Campaigns in Croatia and the UK. The Qualitative Report 21(2), 351- 376.
    • Yeomans, L. (2016). Imagining the Lives of Others: Empathy in Public Relations. Public Relations Inquiry 5 (1) 71-92.
  • Plus Icon Selected research monographs/outputs
    • Yeomans, L. (2019). Public Relations as Emotional Labour [forthcoming]. Routledge New Directions in Public Relations and Communication Research Series.
    • Tench, R.; Vercic, D.; Zerfass, A.; Moreno, A., & Verhoeven, P. (2017). Communication Excellence: How to Develop, Manage and Lead Exceptional Communications. Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Tench, R.; Zerfass, A.; Verhoeven, P.; Vercic, A.; Moreno, A., & Okay, A. (2016). Communication Management Competencies for European Practitioners. Emerald.
    • Tench, R.; Devins, D.; Willis; Mitchell, C.; Brusati, L.; Frandsen, F.; Fadele, P.; Lacuzzi, S.; Ianniello, M.; Johansen, W.; Knudesen, G., & Dimitrova, T. (2016). Complexity Engagement: Stakeholders, Collaboration and Challenging Problems. Haftad.

    Plus other members of the communications subject group and wider School together with related doctoral research students.

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