Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access



First Advisor

Althea Delwiche

Second Advisor

Rebecca Densley


Through its circulation of culturally relevant messaging, the field of public relations has established itself as an omnipresent force that “both intervenes in and instrumentali[z]es different aspects of society and culture” (Edwards, 2018). Despite public relations’ role as a socio-cultural decider, there has been limited academic exploration of public relations within the field of media literacy. Considering the influential nature of public relations, there are negative implications surrounding a lack of general comprehension of the field at both the individual-consumer level as well as at the national level (i.e., the health of American democracy). This thesis seeks to bring public relations literacy, a term coined by Holladay and Coombs (2013), to the forefront of academic consideration by gauging American adults’ average comprehension of public relations tactics. In a survey assessing 185 adults, results suggested that U.S. adults lack public relations literacy compared to advertising literacy, a notable finding considering that advertising literacy frequently appears in media literacy discourse whereas public relations literacy does not. The results of this study provide foundation for the necessary discussion of public relations literacy in future research.