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The politics of public relations, reputation management and digital influence in the Global South

Call for papers - workshop

Organized by :

 Corentin Cohen
 Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

Date & meeting place : University of Oxford, 7-8 June 2023

Cambridge Analytica’s campaigns during elections in Brazil, India, or Nigeria have brought attention to social media and PR global strategies that aim at influencing citizens’ views in the Global South. But despite this growing interest in influence operations, we still lack a clear picture of reputation management services and the global circulation of these firm’s practices. A myriad of regional actors and boutique companies providing expertise emerged over the last 20 years. As they operate from Latin America, Africa, or Asia, they engage and collaborate with western companies and states, and provide services which blur the difference between lobbying and PR. This is reflected in the products these companies sell or trade. These include puff pieces in newspapers, events to engage with elites, surveys, spin doctors for electoral campaigns. This can also extend to operations of social media disinformation to create street mobilisations, marketing plans for states, strategies to improve position in global rankings, and the facilitation of relations with other states and international organisations.

This workshop aims at gathering ongoing research in international relations, political science, sociology, history and media studies that concerns practices in this domain. It will provide an opportunity to look at the political economy of these services and discuss how these global and regional actors attempt to shape media landscapes and public spheres that are sometimes highly regulated by the state.

Research topics may include:
 Case studies and first-hand data on PR services provision and the role of states in their regulation
 Analysis of the relations between PR, lobby, digital campaigns, surveillance, and influence services, and of the interactions between global, regional and local firms in this arena
 The sociology and circulation of professionals, verging from individual biographies to the trajectories of particular firms
 The political economy of service provision

Submission of paper abstracts:

Please email an abstract of 300 words max, with the name, affiliation and the author’s short bio to corentin.cohen@politics.ox.ac.uk by 5 March 2023. We will aim to publish the papers in a special issue of a major journal in the field. Financial support may be provided for scholars based in Global South institutions.

Deadline : March 5, 2023

Contact: Corentin.cohen@politics.ox.ac.uk