Public Relations Division

Conference Call for Papers

Ansgar Zerfass, Vice Chair

Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication

Institute of Communication and Media Studies

Leipzig University

Ritterstrasse 24, 04103 Leipzig, Germany


Besides the Public Relations Division’s Call for Papers, members and colleagues are strongly encouraged to read the general submission guidelines for the ICA 2021 Conference in Denver to avoid any mistakes!


The Public Relations Division is concerned with the theory and practice of communication between organizations and specified publics. We address theoretical as well as professional questions in relation to a variety of entities, including business, nonprofit, public and political organizations at local, national and international contexts and society at large. 

We encourage the submissions of research papers, extended abstracts, and panel proposals for the 2021 ICA conference that contribute to the development of public relations theory. We welcome submissions that seek to reflect on public relations, its practices and impact on the micro level of professionals working in the field and individual recipients; on the meso level of organizations, their communication departments, agencies, stakeholders, and publics; and on the macro level of societies who provide context for managed communications but are also shaped by those activities.

The Division is highly interested in submissions attempting to clarify, define, and question core concepts in the field of public relations from all perspectives (strategic, managerial, dialogic, rhetorical, critical, etc.). We are especially interested in submissions that introduce new theoretical, conceptual and methodological perspectives to our body of knowledge or link public relations approaches to other fields of communication theory and social theory. Repetitive and cross-cultural studies that support established theories as well as original and innovative attempts to leave established terrain are appreciated. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are considered appropriate. To reflect the conference theme “Engaging the Essential Work of Care: Communication, Connectedness, and Social Justice”, members and colleagues are strongly encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach when preparing submissions. 

Types of submissions

The Public Relations Division will accept: Full research papers, extended abstracts, and panel proposals. Extended abstracts, as well as complete papers, will be considered for presentation in high density sessions, where presenters share their research for five minutes in a kind of elevator pitch with the aim to discuss details afterwards with interested members of the audience.

1. Full length papers (completed research). In accordance with ICA guidelines, papers should be no longer than 8,000 words in length, plus tables, images, appendices and references. Only full papers qualify for best paper awards.

2. Extended abstracts (research in progress or key insights from completed research) up to 2,500 words, plus references, with a full paper (up to 8,000 words, as above) submitted in case of acceptance prior to the conference until April 19, 2021. This category is mainly intended to present research that is still in progress at the time of submission, but will be completed by next spring in order to prepare a full paper until the deadline mentioned above. It is expected that the content of such abstracts should describe the status and timeline for the project and preliminary results, if available. This year, extended abstracts as a shorter format may also be used by authors who have experienced downsides of the pandemic and have not found time to work on full papers prior to the submission deadline.

The following formal guidelines apply for full papers and extended abstracts:

- Papers should be prepared in US letter format, 12-point type font, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins (= 2.54 cm) on all sides of the document and page numeration at the center bottom.

- Each submission should include the word count on the cover page.

- Use APA style for citations, references, tables and figure captions.

- The first page of your submission must include the title and a structured abstract (max. 350 words) which explains:

1. Purpose of research and research gap: …

2. Theoretical approach and background: …

3. Research questions: …

4. Methods (for empirical studies): …

5. Key findings: …

6. Practical or social implications (if applicable): …

7. Originality and innovation: How does the submission move public relations research
– and communication or social science at large – forward?

- Submitters must DELETE ALL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION before submitting a paper. This includes your name or affiliation in the text as well as identifying information stored in metadata, e.g. as found in Word or PDF documents in File -> Properties.

- Submitted papers and extended abstracts must NOT have been previously submitted, scheduled for presentation or presented at other conferences, and must NOT have been handed in to journals or edited books at the time of submission. 

Submissions which do not match the formal guidelines, esp. those which are not fully blinded or have been presented/submitted before, can be disqualified, and are not eligible to receive awards.

3. Panel proposals (including roundtable proposals) should focus on current debates in the field of public relations or strategic communication. Panels should have a clear discussion orientation, and topics proposed should not only lend themselves to a debate among panelists but also generate discussion among session attendees. The Division will consider panel proposals using creative formats that advance Division aims such as expanding participation and mentoring of student scholars, or initiating future research collaborations. 

Panels must

- include contributions from at least three different countries,

- feature gender balance, and

- include not more than one contribution (with one or more authors) from a single faculty, department or school

Panel proposals should include: 

  1. A 400-word (max.) rationale for the panel and a schedule for the panel including the discussion section (75 min overall – if you are proposing a novel panel format, please specify here the format), 

  2. A 150-word (max.) abstract of each participant’s contribution/presentation,

  3. Names of panel participants (including a designated respondent if relevant for the panel format), 

  4. Name of panel chair/organizer (usually the same person), and 

  5. A 75-word description of the panel for the conference program.

Additionally, the panel proposal should include a statement from the organizer declaring:
“I have received signed statements from ALL intended participants agreeing to register for the conference and participate in the panel.”

If any item of the above guidelines is not met, the panel will be disqualified and not be reviewed.

Hints for submissions

For all submissions, please select the appropriate category (i.e. faculty or student submission) on the online submission site and pick keywords only from the list of keywords beginning with “Public Relations Division” in the system as requested to help us guide your work to the most appropriate reviewers.

When submitting your contribution, it is possible to post a message to the program planner in the NOTES section. Use this for communication special needs only (disabilities, blocked days for presentation due to religious duties, etc.). Due to the complexity of the overall program and some fixed slots for business meetings, best paper sessions etc., we cannot take care of preferred time slots etc. Make sure that you will be available for presenting during the whole conference.

Eligible submissions

Due to large number of submissions expected, each author/presenter is only allowed to submit a maximum of 2 contributions to the PR Division (of a full paper, an extended abstract, or a panel presentation). There are no limitations for second or additional authors of full papers or extended abstracts, or as presenters in a panel proposal.

Apart from this, you can also submit to other divisions or theme sessions. Please be aware that there is an overall limits for submissions to this conference s outlined in the general section of this call.

You might also consider submitting for ICA 2021 Pre- or Post-Conferences. These follow individual submission and review processes independent from those outlined here.

Presentation formats

Accepted papers and extended abstracts will be allocated to one of three presentation formats: presentation in a paper section, high-density session, or interactive poster section. All formats are peer-reviewed, have the same academic importance, and will be equally published in the program.

It is not possible to submit only for one of the formats and authors of accepted papers are obliged to attend the conference in any case. Accepted presentations will be assigned to the different formats based on the topics discussed (innovativeness, potential outreach) and not merely based on the ranking in the review process.


The Public Relations Division recognizes top achievements each year. For a submission to be identified as a Student Paper, ALL AUTHORS OF THE PAPER MUST BE STUDENTS as indicated in the process of submission.

Awards are given to the following papers:

1. Top Faculty Paper Awards to the three full papers with the highest score in the blind review process;

2. Top Student Paper Awards to the three full papers authored by Ph.D. students or graduate students with the highest score in the blind review process;

3. Top Research Poster Award to the best paper presented in the interactive poster session; selected by a special jury onsite at the conference.

4. Top Reviewer Award for the reviewer who conducted the largest number of qualified reviews for the Division (includes a free registration for the conference).


Given the expected high number of submissions, the Public Relations Divisions needs a large number of volunteer reviewers and thus encourages all faculty members to volunteer for this important service between November 6-27, 2020. Faculty submitters should also be aware that they will automatically be added to the reviewing pool and will receive a call for reviewing some of the Division’s submissions. The selection will be based on the submitters’ areas of expertise and the Division’s needs. The Division will recognize top reviewers and will present the Top Reviewer Award at the Division business meeting at the conference. 


Following the ethical considerations in the ICA general submission guidelines, if your submission is accepted for the ICA 2021 conference in Denver, you have a commitment to register and attend the conference and to present your work. It is not possible to delegate your presentation to somebody else, to present via video chat (unless the conference will offer virtual participation), etc. Acceptable reasons which allow the program planer to grant an exception to this rule are those listed by ICA for refunding registration fees, e.g. in case a travel visa is not granted, serious illness prevents a registered participant from travelling, etc.

Reviewers who have registered or are selected because they have submitted papers or panels are obliged to perform their reviews until the given deadline, as this is a prerequisite for building the Division’s program at the ICA 2021 conference.

Please note that the Division reserves the right to reject submissions to future conferences from researchers that fail to register and present accepted papers / posters, or for reviewers that neglect their duties. Such action will block valuable space for colleagues and we might lose presentation slots within the overall program if we will not fill it.