In this manuscript, we integrate work on political public relations research, strategic management, and multitrack diplomacy (from international relations scholarship) to advance the concept of citizens’ political public relations (PR), defined as strategies and choices devised by organized, local citizens to enhance inter-group and/or intra-group relations among conflicting groups. We demonstrate citizens’ political PR in action, using a case study to show how one activity planned by a group of organized everyday Ghanaian citizens, a football (soccer) tournament, helped promote better relationships among conflicting communities. We articulate the impact of not only a deliberate strategy devised by the group, but also of an emergent strategy that became evident through the choices made by the citizens in organizing the tournament. Theoretical implications of this new integrative conceptualization of citizens’ political PR for public relations scholarship are discussed.
That public relations and/or communication as an organizational function is gaining increased legitimacy around the world is indisputable. Indeed, recent reports indicate that not only are organizations in North America recognizing the importance of public relations (Penning & Bain, 2019), so too are organizations around the world, including in Asia (Kim, Krishna, & Plowman, 2018), South America (Alaimo, 2016), and Africa (Nsehe, 2015). Such growth in the practice of public relations around the world has been paralleled by the development of a robust academic discipline, with conceptualizations and articulations of different theoretically driven and grounded models of public relations. From normative, systems approach-based models (e.g., Grunig, Grunig, & Dozier, 2002), relationship-centric models (Ledingham & Bruning, 1998), and dialogic models (Kent & Taylor, 2002), to critical explorations of public relations practitioners being activists within the organization (Holtzhausen & Voto, 2002), public relations scholars have contributed extensively to our understanding of what public relations practice is and what it should be. However, one enduring criticism of public relations scholarship continues to be the ethnocentrism of North American-dominated models of public relations. For years scholars have called for further models of public relations and its practice that are informed by the cultures and societies in which they are set rather than applications of models from the West (e.g., Sriramesh, 2003; Halff & Gregory, 2014). To this end, scholars have offered insights from and examples of public relations practice from around the world, including the Middle East (Duthler & Dhanesh, 2018), South Africa (Venter, 2010), India (Patwardhan & Bardhan, 2014), Ghana (Wu & Baah-Boakye, 2009), and Colombia (Pastrana & Sriramesh, 2014) among many others. Notably, however, few models and examples exist of public relations strategies in action in Africa, particularly West Africa. Although a rich body of knowledge exists on public relations in South Africa (e.g., Benecke & Oksiutycz, 2015; le Roux, 2014), fewer examples of public relations in other parts of Africa, particularly West Africa, have been forthcoming.