Feminist trends, public discourses and organisational cultures

In this blog on CommsWomen, Dr Raluca Moise, a senior lecturer at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London writes about her research, which spans communication studies, with a focus on PR and strategic communication.

Recent research interests

My research expertise in organisational communication and, more broadly, in the analysis of contemporary communication shifts, can be seen in my last two research programmes: online and digital communication within professional virtual communities populated by communication practitioners and online and strategic communication practices developed by diaspora communities for advocacy purposes.

For the first research project, together with Dr Anca Anton, senior lecturer at the University of Bucharest, I looked into the impact COVID-19 has had on freelancing in communication industries and the role of PVCs as spaces for knowledge sharing and professional innovation. The publications I co-authored with Dr Anca Anton[i] highlighted the supportive role of professional virtual spaces for specifically communication freelancers; as COVID-19 caused a massive slowing-down of the activity and an increase of abuses coming from clients (e.g. delays in payment, pressure in outputs delivery), professional virtual communities proved to be more supportive and helpful than ever (for the information provided, guidance, advice, lived experiences, administrative freelance, and self-employed work, but mostly “camaraderie”). A hidden story of this research project was the impact on women communication freelancers; as flagged by social research in general, COVID-19 enhanced the gender equality gap (ONS, 2021), with women being more exposed to the risk of furlough and labour precarity, in general. We are beginning to understand what this means for women freelancers in the communication sector and the recent call for chapters launched a month ago for a co-edited book in the series Women, Economics and the Labour Relations series, published by Emerald (editor-in-chief: Dr Martina Topić) aims to build more knowledge in this particular area, but also to discuss in a broader way the intersection of gender and freelance work in the communication industries (public relations, advertising, marketing, corporate comms, and digital communication).

Secondly, looking into how different types of actors (i.e., citizens, and diaspora communities) develop social and symbolic capital for diplomacy purposes and use strategic communication to enhance democracy in global and transnational spheres was another area of my research. With Dr Anca Anton[ii], the investigation of highly visible and high-profile citizen diplomats, from various public fields, led us to identify the specific pathways to diplomatic power and to check to what extent this generated impact in terms of policy-making rather than awareness. Secondly, deep diving into how London civil society organisations build social value iii, it became obvious to me that collaborative communication supports the existent work through networks and effective advocacy programs require strong relationships with decision-makers and media gatekeepers.

Food for thought

Drawing two key dimensions from my recent previous research – the role of strategic communications for informal organisations and the social value of communication practices – I am interested in developing new areas of research by investigating the link between public discourses on socio-cultural dimensions (e.g., gender, race, social class etc.) and organisational cultures. To Butler’s point[iii], today’s public sphere is populated by conflictual political movements that function as “vectors of power, historical formations, sites of political contest” (p. 72); issues such as gender and sexuality, race, ethnicity, social class etc. are constituted in a polarising manner, socialising publics that expect organisations to take a stance on political issues and social issues (e.g. campaigns such as #BrandsGetReal are signs for our current communication climate). The risk, as Aronczyk, Edwards and Kantola point out[iv], is that “when protest is constructed as part of a corporate brand – as in the case of the Body Shop, Lush and others – its political significance is reduced (Aronczyk, 2013b; Mukherjee and Banet-Weiser, 2012). Individualised consumer activism cannot replace collective action outside the market; on the contrary, it places the market at the centre of politics and civil society, rather than serving to protect the political sphere from the influence of commerce and private interests.” (p. 142).

Even so, organisations do contribute to the way in which these issues are socially construed. Jensen[v] considered that their participation in the public sphere, through issues of common concern, could be defined as a ‘self-referential identity policy’; narratives, stories, and cases of general interest are forms of organisational expression and reflection by which organisations build their own legitimacy and social value. Building on this particular perspective, my future research agenda would focus on the impact of public discourses and understandings of gender equality and how this social dimension is encoded in sustainability reporting frameworks. Currently, all SDG reporting frameworks include a non-financial section dedicated to the way in which organisations contribute to society; however, there is insufficient knowledge on how international voluntary and mandatory SDGs define their social contribution and address human rights in the broader communicational sphere. Starting with a content analysis of the most influential voluntary and mandatory SDGs frameworks, I will then expand the research to see if there is any correlation with the ways in which gender equality is currently understood and defined in the public discourse. Secondly, the way in which sustainability reporting impacts public discourses and understandings of gender equality is another potential development of such a study.

I am therefore addressing a call for possible collaboration within the ‘Women in PR’ network; if any researcher is interested in developing such a research direction, my email address is

[i]Anton, A. and Moise, R. (2021). ‘Communication Freelancers, Facebook groups and COVID-19. A Qualitative Analysis Research Report’. Styles of Communication. Vol. 13, Issue 1, pp. 76-82.

Moise, R., and Anton, A. (2022). ‘An Exploratory Study of Communication Freelancers and Online Communities. A Mixed Methods Approach’. Romanian Journal Of Communication And Public Relations, 24(2), 23-44.

[ii] Anton, A. and Moise, R. (2021). ‘The Citizen Diplomats and their Pathways to Diplomatic Power’. In – (eds) Pedro Sebastiao, S. & de Carvalho, S. Diplomacy, Organisations and Citizens:  A European Communication Perspective, Springer, pp. 219-254.

[iii] Seeliger, M. and Braslavsky, P.-I. V. (2022). ‘Reflections on the Contemporary Public Sphere: An Interview with Judith Butler’. Theory, Culture & Society, 39(4), 67-74.

[iv] Aronczyk, M., Edwards, L. and Kantola, A. (2017) ‘Apprehending public relations as a promotional industry’. Public Relations Inquiry, 6(2), 139-155.

[v] Jensen, I. (2001) ‘Public relations and emerging functions of the public sphere: An analytical framework’. Journal of Communication Management, 6(2), 133-147.

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