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The ‘third group’ of political communication– political spokespeople between politics and media

Eva Mayerhöffer
University of Roskilde
Eva Mayerhöffer
University of Roskilde
Open Panel

Abstract

In recent decades, the influence on modern politics wielded by independent media has given rise to a ‘quasi-profession’ of political spokespeople, in the broad sense of the term, specializing in campaign management and media relations. Based on recently compiled data, the paper seeks to advance current knowledge about such political communication professionals. In spite of widespread agreement on the importance of this rapidly expanding group of political spokespeople, their role and function in political communication is still theoretically and empirically contested. Are political spokespeople simply an extension of political rationality in the context of mediated politics, an intrusion of journalistic rationality into the political system (given that a substantial number of political spokespeople trained as journalists) or a distinct ‘third group’ of agents in modern political communication cultures? Although political spokespeople may lack the trademarks of a coherent profession, we may expect that they none the less form a relatively coherent group sharing values and perceptions that set them apart from both politicians and journalists. Utilizing survey-based data containing responses from 1,829 political spokespeople, politicians and journalists across seven European countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland), the article determines the positioning of spokespeople in political communication cultures vis-a-vis politicians and journalists with respect to constitutive perceptions of political journalism and communication and preferred instruments of strategic communication and media interaction. Moreover, the paper provides data on age, gender, length of work experience, journalistic experience and political affiliations profiling spokespeople across national communication cultures.