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Dr Melanie James

Senior Lecturer

School of Design Communication and IT (Communication)

There's nothing as practical as a good theory

In her career as an award winning communications and public relations practitioner, Dr Melanie James used academic research to inform her strategies and campaigns. As an academic, she draws upon her extensive professional experience to guide her research.

Dr Melanie JamesIt is this synthesis between theory and practice that has informed Melanie's research and teaching philosophy which centres on the belief that academics have a responsibility to serve their professional field and the wider community.

"In my practice, I used to do a lot of research into past PR campaigns and the theoretical work that was happening in academic journals to inform what I was doing," Melanie says.  

"I used to find the ideas in the research could provide different angles and ways of approaching complex communication problems."

Joining the School of Design, Communication and IT in 2006, Melanie has authored four books, numerous journals articles, book chapters and conference papers. Her most recent book, "Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication: A new approach to public relations research and practice" was published by Routledge in 2014.

Melanie's extensive experience as a public relations practitioner allowed her to identify gaps between what was being written about in theory and what was actually occurring in practice.

"The way strategy was discussed in public relations was inadequate and it certainly didn't reflect what I experienced in practice, or the way I had managed to achieve success in my programs," she says.

It was her PhD research that led Melanie to explore Positioning Theory's application in the field of public relations. As part of her research, she interviewed award winning public relations practitioners and found that the term 'positioning' was frequently used to describe what they were doing.

"They were using this term like we all knew what it meant," she muses.

"But when I went back to the PR literature, positioning was rarely mentioned and when it was, it was usually in a marketing context."

It was this gap in the literature that shifted Melanie's PhD research to exploring the positioning concept.  She discovered Positioning Theory quite serendipitously by Googling the terms 'social constructionism' and 'positioning'.

"The theory drew on Foucault's work on discursive positioning which was developed in social psychology by scholars such as Rom Harré, Bronwyn davies and Luk van Langenhove," Melanie reports.

"However I soon realised it was very adaptable to PR- it explained it all!"

Having published her theoretical framework in the Journal of Public Relations Research,Melanie was commissioned by Routledge to further develop her PhD research into a book as part of a series on critical public relations.  Melanie spent the next two years working to apply and test the rigour of the framework which culminated in the book receiving the endorsement of one of the original co-authors on Positioning Theory, Professor Luk van Langenhove. 

For Melanie, positioning in public relations can be understood as a strategic and deliberate process whereby discursive positions are actively negotiated and achieved to various degrees. With this research, she is hoping to begin the conversation around to the possibilities and applications of Positioning Theory in the public relations field.

"I currently have PhD and honours students who are working with the framework, testing it and querying it and finding many of the strengths and the flaws within it, which is great," Melanie advises.

Positioning theory has been developed across many disciplines including health, international studies, international relations, education, as well as in journalism and management studies.

In collaboration with Professor Luk Van Langenhove (United Nations University, Belgium) and Dr Christine Redmen (University of Melbourne), Melanie is co-organising the inaugural Positioning Theory Symposium to be held at the United Nations University Centre for Regional Integration Studies in Bruges, Belgium, on 6-9 July 2015.

"We will pull together the best of the papers presented at the symposium into a handbook of Positioning Theory," Melanie says.

Fittingly, just as public relations academic research enriched her professional career, Melanie's work offers practitioners a framework to design public relations strategies.

"I believe the framework can be just as useful in a PR campaign for a commercial interest immunisation, self-branding, or for preserving Australia's wildlife biodiversity," she asserts.

Currently, Melanie is collaborating with the University of Newcastle's FAUNA Research Alliance, the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, and the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative to look at how we can use Positioning Theory to assist in social engagement and community education around biodiversity issues. Parallel with this research, Melanie, along with her colleagues Professor Mark Balnaves and Dr Marc Adam, are taking a cross-disciplinary approach to researching the construct and positioning of digital persona.

"We're looking at how people position themselves, their brands, causes, services or products using digital platforms and social media," she says.

"I'm particularly interested in how digital personae are used in public relations contexts to position people, organisations and even human entities such as 'Grumpy Cat' or TV series characters."

In the knowledge of how prevalent positioning is in public relations, Melanie is committed to exploring and applying Positioning Theory to this dynamic field.

"Anything that deconstructs things that people take for granted is worthwhile doing," Melanie affirms.

"It helps shines light on practices that potentially abuse the use of power in our societies, and that can only be a good thing."

Dr Melanie James

There's nothing as practical as a good theory

In her career as an award winning communications and public relations practitioner, Dr Melanie James used academic research to inform her strategies and campai

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Career Summary

Biography

Dr. Melanie James is a senior lecturer in communication and deputy head of the School of Design, Communication and IT. She joined the School of Design, Communication and IT at the University of Newcastle in November 2006 after working in senior management roles in strategic communication, government communication, public relations and marketing communication. She is a member of the Hunter Centre for Creative Industries and Technology.

The foundation of Melanie's career experience is applying innovative solutions to organisational challenges through integrating sound communication management into organisational strategy. Communication and PR is often seen as an "add-on" and research shows this is an inefficient and often ineffective approach. This knowledge informs the way Melanie teaches her students and how she approaches research and consulting projects. The awards she has received at national and state level for her work are testament to this approach.

Melanie sees her academic work as assisting communication practitioners to think more critically about what they do. She provides frameworks for innovative communication, engagement practice and community participation in decision-making. She works to make a significant contribution to her academic field through her research which is underpinned by some 25 years of practice in related fields. She welcomes collaboration with other researchers and inquiries about how her work could help organisations and other entities achieve their goals.

Melanie has authored four books, most recently "Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication: A new approach to public relations research and practice" (2014) published by Routledge. This book has been endorsed for not only bringing an innovative approach to communication and PR but as offering to social scientists from different disciplines new insights in how to analyse data from a Positioning Theory angle.

She is co-organiser of the inaugural Positioning Theory Symposium to be held at the United Nations University Centre for Regional Integration Studies in Bruges, Belgium, on 6-9 July 2015.

She has published in the areas of public relations, strategic communication and positioning theory in journals such as Media International Australia, Public Relations Inquiry, Public Relations Review, The Journal of PR Research, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, Public Communication Review and PRism and authored the chapter on strategy in public relations in Public Relations Theory and Practice (Chia & Synnott, 2009 and 2012). She is also the author of the books, Public Relations (2006) and Careers@Gov (2007).

Melanie has presented papers at a number of conferences including the Barcelona PR Meetings, International Communication Association Conference, Bledcom International PR Research Symposium and the Australian New Zealand Communication Association. Her research interests include positioning theory, strategic meaning construction and  social media. She currently supervises Honours and PhD research. 

Melanie is a member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and sits of the National Education Advisory Committee of PRIA. Melanie sits on the Editorial Board of journals, Journal of Public Relations Research and Public Communication Review.



Collaborations
Melanie James has been invited by Professor Luk van Langenhove, (Professor and Director of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), Representative of the Rector at UNESCO in Paris, and co-author with Prof Rom Harré of the 1999 book, "Positioning Theory - Moral Contexts of Intentional Action") to contribute to a forthcoming book on positioning theory methodology. She is collaborating with the FAUNA Research Alliance, Associate Professor Kevin Lyons (UoN) and project officers from the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative on biodiversity research projects to drive enhanced communication, positioning and social engagement. Along with Professor Mark Balnaves and Dr Marc Adam, Melanie is taking a cross-disciplinary approach to researching the construct and positioning of digital persona.

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Master of Arts (Journalism), University of Technology Sydney
  • Graduate Certificate Practice of Tertiary Teaching, University of Newcastle

Keywords

  • audience studies
  • communication
  • content marketing
  • media
  • new media/social media
  • positioning
  • public relations
  • strategic communication

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
200199 Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Design Communication and IT
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2014 -  Editorial Board - Journal of Public Relations Research Journal of Public Relations Research
Australia
6/11/2010 - 30/12/2012 Lecturer in Communication Faculty of Science and Information Technology,The University of Newcastle
Australia

Membership

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2010 -  Editorial Board Member of the Public Communication Review Journal The Public Communication Review Journal
Australia
1/01/2007 -  Member - Professional Communicators Network Professional Communicators Network
Australia
1/01/1999 -  Member - Public Relations Institute of Australia Public Relations Institute of Australia
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
30/06/2013 -  Member of the National Education Advisory Committee Public Relations Institute of Australia Public Relations Institute of Australia
Australia
1/11/2005 -  Communication Consultant Melanie James Consulting
Australia
1/10/2003 - 1/11/2005 Marketing Communications Manager Newcastle Permanent Building Society
Marketing
Australia
1/11/1999 - 1/07/2003 Director of Communications Commonwealth Government - AGO, AEC, ABS
Communications
Australia

Awards

Recognition

Year Award
2008 Stream Coordinators Award
Unknown

Invitations

External Reviewer - Programs

Year Title / Rationale
2009 Review for accreditation of courses at Macleay College, Sydney
Organisation: NSW Dept of Education and Training Description: New South Wales Vice Chancellors Committee nominee to sit on the higher education panel of four (one other academic specialist, an industry specialist and a Chair) to consider this application from Macleay College for accreditation of three courses: an Advanced Diploma of Communications, a Diploma of Journalism and a Diploma of Advertising.
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 James MB, Positioning Theory and Strategic Communication: A new approach to public relations research and practice, Routledge, London, 243 (2014) [A1]
2007 James M, J, J, Careers @gov.au: Working for Australia's Future, Career FAQs, Ultimo, NSW., 212 (2007)
2006 James M, Public Relations, Career FAQs, Ultimo. NSW., 151 (2006)

Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2012 James MB, Robson PL, 'Strategies to proactively manage activity', Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, VIC 259-285 (2012) [B2]
Co-authors Prue Robson
2009 James MB, 'Strategies to proactively manage activity', An Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, VIC 248-269 (2009) [B2]

Journal article (12 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 James MB, 'Situating a new voice in public relations: The application of Positioning Theory to research and practice.', Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy: quarterly journal of media research and resources, 34-41 (2015)
2015 Fitch K, James M, Motion J, 'Talking back: Reflecting on feminism, public relations and research', Public Relations Review, (2015)
DOI 10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.05.006
2013 Robson P, James MB, 'Not everyone¿s aboard the online public relations train: The use (and non-use) of social media by public relations practitioners', Prism, 9 1-18 (2013) [C1]
Co-authors Prue Robson
2013 Wise D, James M, 'Positioning a price on carbon: Applying a proposed hybrid method of positioning discourse analysis for public relations', Public Relations Inquiry, 2 327-353 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/2046147X13494966
2012 James MB, 'Autoethnography: The story of applying a conceptual framework for intentional positioning to public relations practice', Public Relations Review, 38 555-564 (2012) [C1]
2012 Wise DJ, James MB, 'The HPV school vaccination program: A discourse analysis of information provided to parents', PCR: Public Communication Review, 2 3-15 (2012) [C1]
2011 James MB, 'A provisional conceptual framework for intentional positioning in public relations', Journal of Public Relations Research, 23 93-118 (2011) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/1062726x.2010.505120
Citations Scopus - 2Web of Science - 10
2011 Robson PL, James MB, 'Trialling PR2.0: An exploratory study of the non-capital city practitioner's social media use', Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 12 19-40 (2011) [C1]
Co-authors Prue Robson
2011 James MB, 'Ready, aim, fire: Key messages in public relations campaigns', PRism, 8 1-18 (2011) [C1]
2009 James MB, 'Getting to the heart of public relations: The concept of strategic intent', Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 10 109-122 (2009) [C1]
2008 James MB, 'A review of the impact of new media on public relations: Challenges for terrain, practice and education', Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 8 137-148 (2008) [C1]
2008 James MB, 'Driving learning through blogging: Students? perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task', Prism, 5 1-12 (2008) [C1]
Show 9 more journal articles

Conference (7 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Balnaves M, Cassin A, James MB, 'The Social Mood Reader - Mapping citizen engagement in public relations using the semantic web and supercomputing.', International Communication Association, London, UK (2013) [E1]
Co-authors Mark Balnaves
2010 Fursdon R, James MB, 'Why are PR agencies blogging? An exploratory study of the blogging practices of public relations agencies', Media, Democracy and Change: Refereed Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference, Canberra, Australia (2010) [E1]
2010 James MB, 'The use of intentional positioning techniques in government agencies' communication campaigns', Government Communication: Proceedings of the 17th International Public Relations Research Symposium BledCom, Bled, Slovenia (2010) [E1]
2009 James MB, 'The construction of intended meanings: Furthering understanding of the purpose of public relations', Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship: Refereed Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference 2009, Brisbane, QLD (2009) [E1]
2008 James MB, 'The reading journal blog assessment task: Public relations students? perceptions', Power and Place: Refereed Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference 2008, Wellington, NZ (2008) [E1]
2007 James MB, 'A review of the impact of new media on public relations: Challenges for the terrain, practice and education', PRIA National Academic Forum 2007. Abstracts, Sydney (2007) [E3]
1996 Gething L, Fethney J, Redmayne G, James M, 'Disability awareness of general medical practitioners in rural New South Wales' (1996) [E1]
Show 4 more conferences

Report (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
1995 Gething L, Fethney J, James M, Redmayne G, 'Disability Awareness of General Medical Practitioners in Rural New South Wales.' (1995) [R1]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 8
Total funding $31,498

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20141 grants / $2,000

Faculty PVC Conference Assistance Grant 2014$2,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Science & IT

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Science & IT
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme PVC Conference Assistance Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1401218
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20132 grants / $18,665

Positioning carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in Australian public communication: an analysis of how key CCS project stakeholders communicate.$9,333

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Early Career Researcher Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1201205
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Developing qualitative coding conventions to achieve plausibility and consistency in a positioning analysis of carbon capture and storage in Australia.$9,332

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Science & IT

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Science & IT
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Strategic Small Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1401064
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20111 grants / $3,045

Review of Lake Macquarie City Council's Environmental Communication Strategies$3,045

Funding body: Lake Macquarie City Council

Funding body Lake Macquarie City Council
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Project Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo G1100794
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - Local
Category 2OPL
UON Y

20101 grants / $1,650

Completion of doctoral thesis by publication entitled "Achieving Intended Outcomes: the strategic construction of meaning in Public Relations practice"$1,650

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Equity Research Fellowship
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo G0190634
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20081 grants / $1,629

Australian and New Zealand Communication Associaton Conference 2008 (ANZACA08) - Massey University, Duxton Hotel, Wellington, New Zealand, 9/7/2008 - 11/7/2008$1,629

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189141
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20072 grants / $4,509

Constructing visual meanings: how choices of visual elements reveal public relations practitioners' strategic intent when staging communication interfaces$3,115

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2007
Funding Finish 2007
GNo G0187728
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Public Relations Institute of Australia National Conference 2007, The University of Sydney, 14/10/2007 - 16/10/2007$1,394

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Melanie James
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2007
Funding Finish 2007
GNo G0188221
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current6

Total current UON EFTSL

Masters0.1
PhD1.6

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD That Role Has Power: An Ethnographic and Comparative Australia and China Study on Youth Online Identity in Social Media
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2013 Masters Communicating for Gas: A Case Study of the Coal Seam Gas Industry's PR Spin
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2013 PhD Understanding Maori and Pacific Islander Cultures in Australia's National Rugby League
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2013 PhD Positioning a Price on Carbon: An Analysis of the Political Discourses Surrounding the Introduction of an Australian Carbon Tax
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2012 PhD Communication as aid: Exploring the Role and Impact of Communication in Assisting Humanitarian Aid Beneficiaries
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2011 PhD Involvement of, and Communication with, Publics and Communities Concerning the Implementation of Renewable Energies
Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
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News

Mel JAMES tHE coNVERSATION

Stretching the friendship: Australia, Indonesia and the ‘good friend’ narrative

November 15, 2013

By Melanie James, University of Newcastle. 

How far can friendships stretch? Two months ago, the rhetoric of the Indonesian and Australian governments was centred on the countries being good friends. Until last week, from the Indonesian perspective, the positioning of the friendship between the two countries was one of strength and co-operation.

Dr Melanie James

Position

Senior Lecturer
School of Design, Communication and IT - Faculty of Science and IT
School of Design Communication and IT
Faculty of Science and Information Technology

Focus area

Communication

Contact Details

Email melanie.james@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4985 4520
Mobile 0434 572 482
Fax (02) 4921 5821
Links Academia.edu
Google+
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn
Personal webpage
ResearchGate
Skype
Twitter
YouTube
UoN Blogs

Office

Room ICT3.61
Building ICT Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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