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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Qingwen Dong

First Committee Member

Carol Ann Hackley

Second Committee Member

Alan Ray


People throughout history have judged Public Relations critically. So, today, it is essential for PR professionals to know how the field is perceived. This research examines how college students in America and China perceive public relations. Four research questions were proposed to understand perception differences between the two countries, existing misconceptions against public relations, media influences and PR education.

This study employed the survey method to find college students' perceptions of public relations in the U.S. and China. The study finds that college students believe that public relations practice is related to a broad range of specialized areas. Most of students view public relations as an important, ethical profession. However, some negative terms are still associated with public relations, such as "spin," that affect students' PR perceptions. In China, fewer students now relate public relations to the previously perceived escort service; and the Chinese cultural norm "guanxi" is considered to be an important element in PR practice. Comparative analyses show that American college students view public relations as a more positive, ethical, and well-developed profession than their Chinese counterparts do. Public relations, in Chinese students' mind, is far away from the well-developed stage. College students believe media, PR courses and internships influence their perceptions to a great extent. More Chinese students recognize the media impact, while more U.S. students value he education impact.

This study affirms the importance and professionalism of public relations. At the same time, it provides crucial insights into the challenges that this field is facing in the two countries. No matter whether it is as a profession, or an academic discipline and a social contributor, public relations still needs to keep educating the public in the new decade ofthe 21st century.



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