Struggling with New Media and Old Expertise: Reconstructing the Professional Role of Communication Consultancy

Sara von Platen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates how communication consultants struggle to reconstruct their professional role in the digital media landscape. The extant literature on professional roles in public relations has a tendency to render roles as static pregivens. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to contribute conceptually and empirically to role research by focusing on the process of “role-making” and how role actors purposefully engage in role construction in order to maintain legitimacy. The qualitative study of Scandinavian communication consultants reveals how these actors effectively refashion their role as expert advisors by describing the client and her problems, the competitors, their own knowledge and values. The role construct is supported by a narrative strategy and an epic storyline, where social media serves as a vehicle for self-definition and the consultancy role is framed and reinforced by social media. However, the jurisdictional claims of professional expertise and values that constitute the core of a consultant’s role construct are becoming increasingly difficult to sustain in a digital society. A critical reading of the consultants’ narrative thus implies that social media may in fact constitute a professional identity crisis rather than a consolidation of the expert role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-367
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Strategic Communication
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Communication Studies


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