Dr Petra Theunissen

Curriculum Leader, Public Relations

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 7854

Email: petra.theunissen@aut.ac.nz


  • D.Phil (Communication Management)
  • MA (Communication) (cum laude)
  • BA (Hons)(Communication)
  • BA (Communication)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education

Memberships and Affiliations:

  • International Communication Association (ICA)
  • National Communication Association (NCA)
  • Member of Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (MPRiNZ)



Born in the Netherlands, Dr Petra Theunissen has lived in Germany and South Africa before settling in New Zealand. She holds a D.Phil in Communication Management from the University of Pretoria, South Africa and an M.A. (Communication) with distinction from the Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dr Theunissen is a published fiction and non-fiction author, and has written and co-edited books, chapters, articles and papers on Public Relations and Communication. In 2015, she won the PRIDE Best Article of the Year Award from the Public Relations Division of the National Communication Association for the co-authored article “Reputations at risk: Engagement during social media crises”. Prior to joining AUT, Petra worked in public relations, management, consulting and education. She is currently the Curriculum Leader for Public Relations at AUT and is a Member of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand.

Although her interests span across a wide range of disciplines, such as Public Relations, Knowledge Management, Reputation Management, Intercultural Communication and Social Media, she has a particular interest in technologies and their current and future impact on society as well as dialogue, persuasion and identity.

Her teaching and supervisor philosophy is one of life-long learning and co-constructing knowledge through discussion, guidance and structure. She believes in working with individuals to develop their own unique 'voice', whether academically or professionally.

Teaching Areas:

  • Public Relations (undergraduate and postgraduate)
  • People and Organisations
  • Supervision of dissertations and theses (Masters & Ph.D)

Research Areas:

  • Internet PR/social media
  • Reputation Management
  • Public Relations
  • Communication Philosophy

Current Research Projects:

She is currently researching relationships in Public Relations: their nature, the role of dialogue and persuasion, and interpersonal communication theory might translate to organisation-public relationships. The research will culminate in a co-authored book for Routledge on Relationships and public relations, to be published in 2017.


Kent, M.L., & Theunissen, P. (forthcoming). Elegy for Mediated Dialogue: Shiva the Destroyer and Reclaiming Our First Principles. International Journal of Communication.

Theunissen, P. S. (2015). The quantum entanglement of dialogue and persuasion in social media: Introducing the Per-Di Principle. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 23(1). doi: 10.1080/15456870.2015.972405 

Theunissen, P. (2015). Being ‘Afrikaans’: A contested identity. International Communication Association Annual Conference, 21-25 May, Caribe Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico (US).

Ott, L., & Theunissen, P. (2015). Reputations at risk: Engagement during a social media crisis. Public Relations Review, 41(1), March, 97–102. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.10.015

Theunissen, P., & McAllister, S. (2014). Relationships and dialogue in public relations: Foundations of effective public relations? Editorial. PRism Journal, 11(2).

Theunissen, P. S. (2014). The quantum entanglement of dialogue and persuasion in social media: Introducing the Per-Di Principle. Panel on “Social Media” convened by Dr Michael L. Kent, 100th Annual National Communication Association. 19-23 November, Hilton Hotel, Chicago, USA. 

Theunissen, P. S. (2014). Co-creating corporate identity through dialogue: A pilot study. Public Relations Review. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.02.026.

Theunissen, P. S. (2013). Afrikaner identity: Argument, discourse, and stigma. New Zealand Discourse Conference, 2-3 December, Auckland, New Zealand: Institute of Culture Discourse and Communication.

Theunissen, P. (2012). Dialogue vs. two-way symmetrical dialogue: Not two sides of the same coin… Panel on “Future Directions of Building and Sustaining COMMunity Relationships Through Dialogue”, convened by Dr Sheila McAllister, 98th Annual Convention, National Communication Association (NCA), 15-18 November 2012, Orlando, Fl., USA.

Theunissen, P.S., & Rahman, K. (2012). Making choices in public relations planning: are we reinforcing stereotypes? Asian Congress for Media and Communication, 25-27 October 2012, Bangkok, Thailand.

Theunissen, P. & Mersham, G. (2011). "New Zealand's darkest day". The representation of national grief in the media: the case of the Christchurch Earthquake. Alternation. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of the Arts and Humanities in Southern Africa, 18(2), 386-403.

Theunissen, P. S. (2011). The language of support: the case of the Christchurch earthquake. 3rd New Zealand Discourse Conference. 5-7 December 2011, Auckland, New Zealand.

Theunissen, P. S. (2011). “Let’s have a dialogue”: The potential risks of dialogue for corporations. The Journalism, Media and Democracy Conference, 13 September 2011, Auckland, New Zealand.

Theunissen, P., & Rahman, K. (2011). Dialogue and two-way symmetrical communication in Public Relations theory and practice. In Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Annual Conference. 6-8 July 2011, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Theunissen, P. S., & Rahman, K. (2011). The art and science of dialogue in public relations practice. In Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Annual Conference. 26-27 May 2011, Rotorua, New Zealand.

Theunissen, P., Mersham, G. & Rahman, K. (2010). The New Media, Cultural Transformation, Tourism and Orientation. In Z.K. Uslu & C. Bilgili (Eds.), Media Reviews 2010. Broken Molds - 2: Intercultural Communication, Multicultural (Vol. 2, pp. 279-310). Instanbul, Turkey: Beta. [Translated into Turkish.]

Mersham, G., Theunissen, P. & Peart, J. (2009). Public Relations and Communication Management: An Aotearoa/New Zealand Perspective. Pearson: Auckland.

Theunissen, P. (2008). Alien Genes 2 – Infitalis. Whiskey Creek Publishers: Casper, WY, US.

Theunissen, P. (2007). An exploratory study into the perceptions of knowledge and knowledge sources among tertiary students. Annual Conference, New Zealand Communication Association (NZCA), Napier. 5-7 December 2007.

Theunissen, P., Theunissen, C., & Allan, M. (2007). Exploratory study into the perceptions of knowledge, knowledge sources and knowledge uses among students. “Bytes in the Bay.” Annual Conference, New Zealand Communication Association (NZCA), 5-7 December 2007.Napier, New Zealand.

Theunissen, P. (2006). Alien Genes 1 – Daughter of Atuk. Whiskey Creek Publishers: Casper, WY, US.

Theunissen, P. (2006). Change Management Strategy. In Gill, L. & Pio, E. (eds). Organisations and Management. Theory and Applications. Pearsons Education: Auckland. pp 73-89.


  • NCA 2015 PRIDE Article Award for Innovation, Development, and Educational Achievement in Public Relations for 'Reputations at risk: Engagement during social media crises' published in Public Relations Review, 41(1)
  • School of Communication Studies Contestable Project Grant for relationship mobile app (2014)
  • George Hines Prize (2014) for a Special Edition of the public relations journal, PRism, on relationship management and dialogue. [Awarded in 2013].
  • Dean’s Service Award for Contribution to the Faculty of Design & Creative Technologies (2012) for service to the Faculty.
  • Faculty of Design & Creative Technologies’ Research Project Grant for dialogue research project (2011)
  • School of Communication Studies Contestable Project grant for dialogue research project (2010)
  • RELT (Learning and Teaching) grant for Developing Podcasts for Public Relations project (2008)
  • Book prize for Alien Genes’ first page in First Page of a Novel Competition held by the New Zealand Writers’ Website (2003).

Last updated: 19-Feb-2016 12.57pm

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.