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 2020 Conference in Australia to avoid any mistakes!


The Public Relations Division is concerned with the theory and practice of communication between organizations and specified publics and addresses 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 2020 ICA conference that reflect the conference theme, “Open Communication”, and 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, 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 session / roundtable proposals.

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 and best interactive paper awards.

2. Extended abstracts (research in progress) 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 6, 2020. This category is 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.

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 and with all identifying marks removed. APA style for citations, references, tables and figure captions.

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

- The title of any submission is limited to 15 words. Titles should NOT be all capitals or all lower-case.

- Start your submission with a structured abstract (max. 250 words; start new line for each aspect) which explains:

Purpose of research and research gap;
Theoretical approach and background;
Methodology / Research Questions (for empirical studies);
Key findings;
Practical or social implications (if applicable);
Originality and innovation: How does the submission move our field– and communication or social science at large – forward?

- Title and abstract shall appear on the cover page of your submission AND both have to be copied into the online system during submission.

- Submitters must DELETE ALL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION before submitting a paper. This includes identifying information stored in metadata rather than the text itself, e.g. as found in Word or PDF documents in File -> Properties. Submissions with identifying information will be disqualified.

- Submitted papers and extended abstracts must NOT have been previously submitted, scheduled for presentation or presented at other conferences, and must NOT have been submitted to journals or edited books. Such submissions will be disqualified.

3. Panel session 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. 

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. Session title (max. 15 words)

  2. Short description for the conference program (75 words)

  3. Names and affiliations of panel chair/organizer and all panel participants

  4. Abstract for the panel (max. 400 words) that includes the rationale and a schedule including the discussion section (sessions should be planned for 75 min overall – if you are proposing a novel panel format, please specify here the format); in the online system this abstract has to be uploaded as “linked submission” for the panel chair/organizer

  5. A 150-word (max.) abstract of each participant’s contribution/presentation; in the online system these abstracts have to be uploaded as “linked submission” for each participant

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 and instructions is not met, the panel will 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 provide keywords 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 submissions to the PR Division as first author (of a full paper, an extended abstract, a panel presentation, or as panel organizer or member). There are no limitations to submission as second or additional author of full papers or extended abstracts.

Apart from this and in accordance with the overall conference guidelines, each author/presenter is allowed to submit a maximum of 3 submissions across all divisions and theme sessions as first author (of a full paper, an extended abstract, a panel presentation, or as panel organizer or member). There are no limitations to submission as second or additional author of full papers or extended abstracts.

You might also consider submitting for ICA 2020 Pre- or Post-Conferences. These follow individual submission and review processes independent from the one discussed 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 only based on the ranking in the review process.


The Public Relations Division recognizes Top Faculty Papers and Top Student Papers each year. Only full length completed papers are eligible for these Division awards. 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:

- Robert Heath Top Paper Award to one full paper selected by a special jury among highly ranked papers, based on the following criteria: a) Innovativeness and advancement of public relations research beyond applying established theories; b) stimulation of new directions for research in the field; c) linking the field to other areas of communication science and/or other disciplines. The jury will look for papers that might become a classic work in the field. 

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

- 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;

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

- 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 scheduled between November 8-29, 2019. Faculty submitters MUST register as reviewer for the Public Relations Division in the ScholarOne Abstract system used by ICA (after you’ve logged in, click on your name and on “General Information” to add your reviewer keywords) and should also be aware that they can 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 2020 conference in Australia, 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, etc. Acceptable reasons which allow the program planer to grant an exception to this rule are those listed by the 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 2020 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.