Calls for Papers

Call for Papers Teaching Activism in the Public Relations Classroom Deadline: June 15, 2021

CFP: Teaching Activism in the Public Relations Classroom

Deadline: June 15, 2021

Special Issue Editors:

Stephanie Madden, Ph.D.

Penn State University

Stephanie Mahin, Ph.D.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Students in higher education are leading social movements for climate change, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, gun control, free speech, and other causes. At times, the public relations classroom can seem heavily corporate centered, which may disconnect it from historical and contemporary social movements and restrict the inclusion of more diverse voices. While a body of academic literature continues to grow around activist public relations, there is less systematic analysis or conversation around how the public relations of activism is integrated into our classrooms and curriculum. How can we take activism out of the dark corners of public relations education and center it in classes? Furthermore, how might a curriculum/course change fundamentally shift how students view the potential and power of public relations as a profession?

This special issue will examine how activism is taught in public relations classrooms. Although there is still a conceptual muddiness in our field as to the distinctions between activism and advocacy, this issue is not focused on corporate advocacy or corporate social responsibility. We invite traditional research articles, but scholarly and critical essays and book reviews are also appropriate for this call. Submissions can include but are not limited to:

  • Case studies of contemporary social movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #BlackInTheIvory)
  • Introduction of activist theories into the classroom
  • Teaching the ethics of activism
  • Support for activist clients
  • Evaluation of activist/social movement successes/failures
  • Tensions between definitions of activism and advocacy
  • Prevalence of social movements and their PR histories in textbooks
  • Parallels between public interest communication, cause communication, and PR activism

Potential questions that could be addressed:

  • How do students respond to activist content in the public relations curriculum?
  • What methods of teaching activism are used?
  • When should PR education address activism in the curriculum?
  • What issues are taught to address activism in the curriculum? 
  • What theories are used to address activism in the curriculum? 
  • How is/isn’t activism integrated into current PR textbooks or course content?
  • Which social movements are used in current PR textbooks or course content and which are excluded?
  • What are the shortcomings of traditional public relations theory and cases regarding activism?
  • How are advocacy and activism treated in public relations classes?
  • Are advocacy and activism conflated, or are they two distinct things?

Contributions that provide insights with robust practical implications and recommendations for PR educators will be given the highest consideration.

Additionally, teaching briefs that provide some evidence of effectiveness and/or share classroom activities to be used in relevant public relations courses are also encouraged and will be given a high priority.


All manuscript submissions should be a maximum of 8,500 words (including references, tables, figures, and appendices). Manuscripts should be double-spaced with 1-inch margins, and in 12-point Times New Roman. Please follow the 7th edition APA style guideline for in-text citations and references. When uploading to Scholastica, authors should include the special call name in parentheses after their manuscript title to indicate the submission is for this particular special call. All submissions will be reviewed by experts in PR practice and pedagogy, and both authors’ and reviewers’ identities will remain hidden from each other following the guidelines of JPRE.


  • Deadline for full paper submission to JPRE’s Scholastica submission portal: June 15, 2021
  • Notification of review results, including invitations for revision and resubmission (R&R): August 1, 2021
  • Deadline for R&R submission: September 1, 2021
  • Publication: Scheduled for November 2021

For questions about this special issue, please email one or both of the guest editors:

Dr. Stephanie Madden

Dr. Stephanie Mahin