Exploring the evolution of Public Relations in post-communist Romanian book publishing industry: a historical and sociological approach
Authors: Dolea, E.A.
Journal: ROMANIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY/ REVISTA ROMÂNĂ DE SOCIOLOGIE
Publisher: THE INSTITUTE OF SOCIOLOGY of the ROMANIAN ACADEMY
There is little scholarly research on the history of public relations in post-communist Romania with few exceptions (Dolea, 2012; Rogojinaru, 2009, 2014). This study aims is to fill the gap and explore the historical reconstruction public relations’ development and role in the book publishing industry. This particular industry was chosen as it is considered emblematic for the effects of the Communist regime on a society: lowest book consumption in Europe with 1 book per capita per year (Barbu, 2015), almost half of the population has not read even a book during an entire year (Eurobarometer Cultural access and participation, 2013), while almost 40% of Romanian high school students have difficulties in reading and understanding a text for the first time (Programme for International Students Assessment, 2012). Building on social construction theory (Berger & Luckmann, 1966/2008) and, methodologically, on the historical sociology approach (L’Etang, 2004, 2014), this study explores the intertwined relations between different actors, practices and structures of public relations in an industry which aims to increase book consumption and reading habits. Moreover, it places these intertwined relationships within a historical context, tracing the evolutions of public relations in book publishing industry during a quarter of a century. This exploratory study shows how the industry itself witnessed a rebirth after decades of Communism, censorship and control. Consequently, public relations has followed a late and slow process of institutionalization and professionalization: the role of public relations has been largely technical, supporting marketing and sales through events management and editing press materials; it is after 2010 that the strategic, managerial role of public relations has started to be slowly understood, initially by (some) practitioners themselves, then by (some) directors of top publishing houses. Public relations is still in a legitimization phase aiming for recognition, professionalization and a greater role both within their organizations and within society. Moreover, if public relations practitioners would understand and assume a social role (focusing on public interest), they could influence, through public communication campaigns, public policies to address functional illiteracy; ultimately, these would be beneficial for both the book industry and their own organizations.