This abstract is summarized by IPR from the original journal article published in the Journal of Public Relations Research.

Dr. Jennifer Vardeman-Winter at the University of Houston applies the theory of Whiteness (defined as “a location of structural advantage, of race privilege … [and] refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed”) to better understand how public relations professionals can identify the relationship between the public relations practice and race.

Utilizing this concept of Whiteness, Dr. Vardeman-Winter analyzed 82 women’s perceptions of race portrayals in public health messages and analyzed how researchers problematize Whiteness in research with publics. The major themes surrounding the women’s problematizing of race in health campaigns included the disembodiment of race, reductionist assumptions, and the fetishization of racial diversity, while agency issues, vulnerability issues, and performance issues were all themes that arose when researching how scholars problematize Whiteness in research with publics.

The author concluded:
“The nature of public relations comes into conflict with its practice when publics express that they feel distanced from the media representations sent to them in campaign messages. A more dire consequence public relations practitioners face is when publics reject messages and organizations because they feel messages ‘are speaking to another group of people already.”

Read the full research report, here.


Vardeman-Winter, J. (2011). Confronting Whiteness in Public Relations Campaigns and Research with Women. Journal of Public Relations Research, 23(4), 412-441. doi:10.1080/1062726x.2011.605973

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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