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Public Relations and Communications

Public relations and communications research in FBL is valued highly for its contribution to international academic theory and for enhancing organisational practice and business development.

Leaders are increasingly turning to both public relations and marketing professionals for advice on how to develop their personal and organisational competences and how to develop sustainable businesses. In particular, PR and communications at Leeds Beckett University is acknowledged through past RAE exercises as an internationally leading area of research. Similarly, the marketing group is acknowledged for its contribution to businesses’ development.

Research outputs within the school are based on academic staff’s many years of pioneering education, training and research of their discipline. This includes work with health organisations, government, small and large enterprises, European-funded projects and providing consultancy for regional businesses. Moreover, we have a range of international collaborations that are enabling us to map and influence the professional development of communicators in Europe and also support their sustainable development. In addition, we are engaging in Business Enhancement and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

Our research covers areas such as Public Relations, communications, ethics, social responsibility and education as well as strategic marketing, sustainable marketing, social media, branding, retailing and enterprise development. One of the core strengths of the school is effective dissemination of knowledge and research. Therefore, we offer a range of workshops for corporate clients, charities and communities, to improve their communication skills, understand their marketing mix and freshen up their understanding of consumer behaviour.

Research activities

The Centre for Public Relations Studies have secured a 500,000 EURO research contract from the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme. The Centre will be responsible for leading a team of nine partners from seven countries in an initiative designed to assist business intermediary organisations, such as professional associations and chambers of commerce, to better engage with SMEs on sustainability issues. The team will use innovative deliberative engagement processes and techniques to help secure the participation of key stakeholders. Key outcomes will include a portfolio of education and business support tools, plus a range of academic outputs.

ECOPSI (European Communication Professionals Skills and Innovation Programme) is the largest European funded project in public relations and aims to map and evaluate the current and future communication management skills of practitioners across Europe. Professor Ralph Tench is heading a partnership of six leading European universities in communication research and education aimed at mapping and understanding the actions and activities of communicators. The ECOPSI team are continuing to spread news on how communication professionals can be stars in their roles at academic and practitioner conferences around Europe. Members of the ECOPSI team have presented at conferences in Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and the UK. The project has produced an innovative practitioner p4ace self-diagnosis tool available from the programme p4ace Portal. Based on the project Professor Tench wrote a paper which was awarded the Top Paper award at the Barcelona EUPRERA Congress in October 2013.

Dr Vish Maheshwari was invited to facilitate Research Conversation sessions at this year's Annual BAM conference which was held in Liverpool, 9-12 September 2013. These research conversation sessions are part of a doctoral symposium which precedes the actual conference and are especially aimed at 2nd & 3rd year PhD students. Vish led the sessions which concentrated on the specific areas of branding and brand management research and also on further advising the doctoral students in general areas of research methodologies and analytics.

Paul Willis, co-director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies, was invited to give a keynote address at the Public Relations Consultants Association's National Conference in September. The key theme of the event was the future of the PR agency and Paul spoke about the personal development challenges generated by the contemporary operating environment. Speakers included Colin Byrne, EMEA CEO for Weber Shandwick, one of the world's largest PR consultancies and Alex Aiken, the Executive Director of Government Communication.

The Centre for Public Relations has been working with the NHS and the Department of Health to develop the capability of their professional communicators. The work the Centre has done over a number of years with the NHS is recognised internationally in both the academic and professional communities and, more importantly, is transforming practice across the NHS.

Professor Ralph Tench, has recently led a research bid with Paul Willis that builds on his work with More Life and Professor Paul Gately to develop a research cluster in Obesity Communication. In the last 12 months Ralph has presented his findings from an earlier pilot NHS-funded project on obesity communications at conferences in the UK and Australia through his colleague and ex Leeds Beckett Principal Lecturer, Dr Johanna Fawkes, from Charles Sturt University. This new Obesity Communications Research project aims to further develop the methodology and also widen the target research groups for the obesity communication research theme.

Ralph has also recently been one of the keynote speakers at the 14th Croatian Public Relations Association Conference, in Opatija, Croatia. There he presented and discussed findings from the ECOPSI EU funded research he has directed with his keynote talk titled, 'P4ACE – Portal for Advanced Communication Education: Building competencies for tomorrow's practitioners in Europe'.

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