An Analysis of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Applying James’ (2014) Framework for Intentional Positioning in Public Relations

  • Deborah Wise University of Newcastle, Australia
Keywords: positioning theory, public relations, strategic positioning


The concept of positioning ‘something’ (be that a person, product, or a social construct) has been shown to be a significant facet of contemporary public relations practice. Nonetheless, how positioning is actually undertaken remains a vague concept that is rarely explicated, with public relations practitioners mostly referring to positioning from a marketing perspective. In this article, I present an evaluation of James’ Framework for Intentional Positioning in Public Relations (James, 2014) as a model for examining and explaining public relations positioning. James’ Framework is based on Positioning Theory (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999), a social constructionist approach to understanding why people say and do certain things in their interactions with others. I show that James’ (2014) conceptualisation of Positioning Theory potentially provides answers in terms of answering a key problematic of public relations scholarship; that is, how is strategic intent conceptualised in public relations theory and what role does power play in such practices? But while James’ (2014) Framework has obvious merit in terms of increasing understanding of strategic positioning in public relations, particularly in relation to issues of power and legitimacy, there were some identified shortcomings with the Framework as it stands. Principally, this is that the Framework is failing to fully capture the dynamism of positioning as it has been more traditionally conceptualised. Given this, I argue that more research is needed to determine how, or if, James’ (2014) Framework requires further adaptation. This article will be of interest to positioning theorists and public relations scholars alike contributing to both wider discussions of positioning in public relations as well as scholarship within Positioning Theory.

Author Biography

Deborah Wise, University of Newcastle, Australia

DEBORAH WISE, PhD, is an academic in communication at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Deborah’s research interests are in the area of public relations/strategic communication, and she has published in the areas of health, risk, and political communication. Her doctoral thesis applied positioning theory to analyse the strategic positioning of carbon mitigation policies by political leaders in Australia. Dr Wise has also held high-level strategic communication roles outside of academia, and she brings this experience to her research and teaching. Her current research applies positioning theory to examine inter-cultural communication within the context of higher education teaching and learning.