Recent Publications


A Strategic Nature

In A Strategic NatureMelissa Aronczyk and Maria I. Espinoza examine public relations as a social and political force that shapes both our understanding of the environmental crises we now face and our responses to them.

Drawing on in-depth interviews, ethnography, and archival research, Aronczyk and Espinoza document the evolution of PR techniques to control public perception of the environment since the beginning of the twentieth century. More than spin or misinformation, PR affects how institutions and individuals conceptualize environmental problems.

Revealing the linkages of professional strategists, information politics, and environmental standards, A Strategic Nature shows how public relations restricts alternative paths to a sustainable climate future.

Read the introduction to A Strategic Nature.

Melissa Aronczyk and Maria Espinoza, A Strategic Nature: Public Relations and the Politics of American Environmentalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2022.

Branding the Nation

National governments around the world are turning to branding consultants, public relations advisers and strategic communications experts to help them “brand” their jurisdiction. Using the tools, techniques and expertise of commercial branding is believed to help nations articulate a more coherent and cohesive identity, attract foreign capital, and maintain citizen loyalty. In short, the goal of nation branding is to make the nation matter in a world where borders and boundaries appear increasingly obsolete.

But what actually happens to the nation when it is reconceived as a brand? How does nation branding change the terms of politics and culture in a globalized world? Through case studies in twelve countries and in-depth interviews with nation branding experts and their national clients, Melissa Aronczyk argues that the social, political and cultural discourses constitutive of the nation have been harnessed in new and problematic ways, with far-reaching consequences for both our concept of the nation and our ideals of national citizenship.

Branding the Nation challenges the received wisdom about the power of brands to change the world, and offers a critical perspective on these new ways of conceiving value and identity in the globalized twenty-first century.

Read the introduction to Branding the Nation.

Melissa Aronczyk, Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Blowing Up the Brand

Creative cities, PR nations, celebrity diplomacy, Hype Machine, branded philanthropy, YouTube identities…. These are both symptoms and effects of what Andrew Wernick termed “promotional culture”: the extension of promotional discourses, practices and performances into virtually all areas of public life.

What is at stake in these contemporary promotional paradigms? The interpenetration of public and private interests, techniques and expertise creates new anxieties and demands new forms of analysis. This edited volume develops a set of productive critical perspectives on promotion in relation to contemporary culture. Aronczyk and Powers assemble creative and interdisciplinary frameworks to identify common themes and disjunctures inherent to these forms of communication. At issue is the changing role of the consumer-citizen-user in contemporary life.

Read the introduction to Blowing Up the Brand.

Melissa Aronczyk and Devon Powers, eds. Blowing Up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture. New York: Peter Lang, 2010.