Power, legitimacy and political positioning: A case study evaluating James’ Public Relations Positioning Framework

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This research resulted in advancing understanding of how strategic positioning occurs within public relations and has also extended possibilities for the application of Positioning Theory. In terms of the public relations field I have explained, through the application of a positioning theoretical framework and Positioning Theory, how the intertwined concepts of power and legitimacy underpin public relations positioning. I provided an evaluation of both the 2010/2011 and 2014 iterations of James’ Framework for Intentional Positioning in Public Relations. Although these Frameworks had been variously tested and applied since 2010, they had not been evaluated using an in-depth case study approach. My work has resulted in a point of reference from which other public relations researchers can further develop conceptualisations and applications of public relations positioning. From the perspective of Positioning Theory, this research has indicated the prominence of power dimensions in positioning episodes. A suggested critical approach has been put forward that provides a sound basis from which to further investigate this phenomenon in contexts wider than public relations. The research results strongly suggested that the concept of legitimacy be given more prominence and be considered as a core factor in Positioning Theory and these results provide a platform from which a more general conceptual framework for intentional positioning could be developed. This research has also contributed to furthering understanding of political discourse in relation to government policies on climate change, identifying how the climate change discourse in Australia changed in 2010. The results indicated that how viewing climate change from an economic perspective achieved ‘truth’ status, wherein the very idea of action on climate change became an economic risk that took precedence over any concern for the environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Newcastle
  • James, Melanie, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Motion, Judy, Co-Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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