As a critical scholar, Professor Edwards' primary focus is on the operation of power in and through PR, both within the occupational field and in wider society. She is particularly interested in the relationship between public relations, different forms of inequality, its contribution to democracy and its impact on social justice. She draws on a wide range of theory in her work, from Bourdieuvian sociology and deliberative theory, to critical race theory and the sociology of the professions, in order to understand how public relations shapes both the world we inhabit and how we interpret our place within that world.
In her search to find ways of understanding public relations beyond the organisational context, Professor Edwards has made a number of different theoretical contributions to the field, including new interpretations of public relations as an object of research, conceptualisations of public relations’ role in globalization, public relations as a cultural industry and as cultural intermediation. She has led or participated in a number of funded empirical research projects focused on diversity in public relations (ESRC grant 000-22-3143), digital communication and social action (EPSRC/CCN+ RG.COMM.484688), the communication of copyright (ESRC grant RES 062-23-3027), the use of social media as a public relations tool by feminist activist groups and by young people in the UK. She has published widely on her empirical work, arguing for a more radical approach to improving diversity in public relations, as well as for a more robust understanding of public relations as a cultural industry and practitioners as cultural intermediaries. In her current writing, she explores the ways in which public relations serves democracy and social justice for young people and marginalised groups.
Alongside her focus on public relations, Professor Edwards has conducted research on the ways in which copyright is promoted, talked about and understood by creative industries, artists / creators, activists and users. This work, conducted with colleagues Giles Moss and Bethany Klein at the University of Leeds and funded by the ESRC (grant RES 062-23-3027) and CREATe (AHRC Grant Number AH/K000179/1), has delivered insights into how the process of making copyright policy could be more inclusive and democratic, ultimately leading to a more robust and widely accepted copyright regime. The work is ongoing and forms a major part of her current interests.