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)
  • Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA)
  • Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRiNZ)



Born in the Netherlands, Dr Petra Theunissen has lived in Germany and South Africa before moving to New Zealand. She studied at various universities and holds a D.Phil (Communication Management) from the University of Pretoria and a M.A. (Communication) (cum laude) from the Rands Afrikaans University. She is a published fiction and non-fiction author, is co-editor of Public Relations and Communication Management: An Aotearoa/New Zealand perspective, and often volunteers to judge creative writing competitions and review discipline-related material.

Petra has worked in a range of areas such 

as public relations, management, consulting and education before joining AUT University. She is also currently an approved doctoral supervisor for Southern Cross University (Australia).

Although her interests span across a wide range of disciplines, such as Public Relations, Knowledge Management, Reputation Management, Intercultural Communication and the Social Media, she has a particular interest in technologies, their current and future applications and impact on various industries and social communities.

Petra views learning as a life-long journey, and 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:

Current research is focused on exploring the notion of dialogue in public relations practice and theory. Dialogue spans across many disciplines ranging from philosophy to interpersonal communication and public relations. This research explores various aspects of dialogue in public relations practice and theory, including what can be viewed as "authentic dialogue" and how it is practised online. Questions raised are: Is it the norm towards which we should strive in public relations? What do we understand dialogue to be - in a practical, theoretical and philosophical sense? How do we create opportunities for dialogue? And how is it related to persuasion?


Theunissen, P. & Rahman, K. (2012). Making choices in public relations planning: are we reinforcing stereotypes? The Asian Congress for Media and Communication Journal. 4(1), August 2012, 87-106. ISSN 1656-8168 and ISSN 1656-8170 online.

Theunissen, P. & Wan Noordin, W. (2012). Revisiting the concept "dialogue" in public relations. Public Relations Review. March, 38(1), 5-13. doi: 10.1016/j/pubrev.2011.09.006

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., 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. 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. (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.

Theunissen, P. (2000). The politics of information-sharing. Knowledge Management Seminar. Sententia Consulting, Pretoria (South Africa), 3 Aug 2000.



  • Dean's Service Award for Contribution to the Faculty of Design & Creative Technologies (2012)
  • Faculty of Art and Design Research Grant for Research Assistance Support (2011)
  • School of Communication Contestable Project Grant (2010)
  • RELT (Learning and Teaching) Grant (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: 14-Feb-2014 5.01pm

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