About

PRDepiction is a collaborative blog devoted to the collection and publication of information about depictions of public relations on film, television and radio, and in books. It is edited by Prof Tom Watson of the Media School at Bournemouth University in England, with assistance from colleagues around the world.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, Tom. I made some observations in my PhD (2007) about this. How PR is depicted and perceived by people (students) is partially responsible why more women than men study it. I touched on depictions of PR in shows like Absolutely Fabulous. I surveyed more than 200 students and interviewed 20. Herewith snippets relating to that part of my findings. Obviously, they are not in the context of the Thesis but may provide some food for thought. The full PhD can be found at: https://www.academia.edu/8337849/The_predominance_of_women_in_public_relations_2007_PhD_

    In his introduction to the book, The Gender Challenge to Media, Nathaniel Clory (2001, p.6) wrote quite passionately about an “awakening”. Clory was taken aback by a “seemingly worldwide conspiracy that devalued women”. In a roundabout way, Clory came to realise that what the media says may affect thousands of people, including those who want to study PR.

    Learning, of course, comes from a variety of sources – family, peers, work colleagues and the media. All of these will have an effect on the way our society views PR.

    In reference to the continued perception that “occupations are associated with a particular sex, one answer lies in the representation of professions in the media.” Certain occupations are portrayed in a stereotyped way. “Professions such as lawyers, government officials, physicians, etc, continue to be masculine- oriented.” Similarly, Gottfredson, as cited in Glick, Wilk and Perrault (1995), found that “people perceive occupations similarly, no matter what their sex, social class, educational level, ethnic group, area of residence, occupational preferences or employment, age, type of school attended, political persuasion, and traditionality [sic] of beliefs”. This suggests that people organise their images of occupations in a highly stereotyped, socially- learned manner –a point I will explore, and argue for, later. This is particularly apt with regard to PR – an industry that bases much of its success on portraying a certain perception of a client. This notion is also supported by Anne Parry, IPR Midlands group chair and deputy MD of Quantum PR in Birmingham, who said in a 2004 interview with icBirmingham (a UK-based web business site): “The root cause of the problem is perhaps the perception of PR, which is still not being taken seriously enough and is often viewed as a bit girlie in certain quarters” (np).

    In her Honours thesis, McCurdy (2005) highlighted the role that perception of the industry plays in attracting people, and of how the community perceives an industry, in this case, PR.
    a British study by Cross and Bagilhole (2002) reports on a small-scale, qualitative study of 10 men who have crossed into what are generally defined as ‘women’s jobs’. In doing so, one of the impacts on them has been that they have experienced challenges to their masculine identity from various sources and in a variety of ways. This aspect briefly reared itself in the case of the second-year male PR student. However, I believe, as do most in the profession, that this aspect is of concern at this point in time. It may, however, remain an influencing factor on students, who are still, by and large, conditioned by society to believe in what constitutes men’s and women’s work. This perception, fuelled by the media, is enough to guarantee the continued increasing entry of females into PR.

    A British study by Cross and Bagilhole (2002) reports on a small-scale, qualitative study of 10 men who have crossed into what are generally defined as ‘women’s jobs’. In doing so, one of the impacts on them has been that they have experienced challenges to their masculine identity from various sources and in a variety of ways. This aspect briefly reared itself in the case of the second-year male PR student. However, I believe, as do most in the profession, that this aspect is of concern at this point in time. It may, however, remain an influencing factor on students, who are still, by and large, conditioned by society to believe in what constitutes men’s and women’s work. This perception, fuelled by the media, is enough to guarantee the continued increasing entry of females into PR.

    Noble (2005) was probably the first in the US to look at “why public relations students select the major”. One of her findings included: “The news media’s mention of public relations and influence from friends were both more prominent than college advisers in students’ decision to study PR.”

    The image and perception of PR is considered by males to be ‘feminine’. The general consensus among males was that PR is a ‘soft’ subject. PR, it seems, does not suit conform to what male students’ perceive to be a business subject. …. There are numerous reasons for this. Principally, students are still socially-conditioned by the media, both news and entertainment, to view PR in a less-than-serious light.

    For me, there were several important points raised by the literature that crossed over into the surveys and interviews and point towards the reasons why more women than men are entering PR.
    It is clearly shown that the way our culture ‘socialises’ us (that is, imparts its morés, values and customs) is a crucial factor in developing our gender perceptions of all facets of our lives; from how we play to what we regard as male or female roles and careers. “Some experts, believe physical differences in the brain may not be there at birth but are gradually sculpted. This is because social conditioning begins from the first day of life” (Midgley, 2006). Our socialisation leads to the way we perceive things, including occupations. The media, in turn – also a product of our society – merely serve to reinforce these perceptions. In the case of PR, the media presents the profession in various negative guises, as dodgy, glamorous, flaky, secretive, fuzzy and unscrupulous – hardly the light a profession would seek to advertise itself. Yet this is how PR is being ‘advertised’ consistently.

    A couple of comments from surveys and interviews:
    67. Some people still think of PR as it is portrayed in shows like ‘Ab Fab’. (F)

    “I think there’s also an aspect of how the media portrays PR. I’ve often mentioned that I’m doing PR and people refer to Eddie in Absolutely Fabulous.”

  2. Thanks for the mention of the IJPC Database and our research on the Image of the Public Relations Practitioner in Popular Culture. The IJPC Journal has several articles on the subject including our grandbreaking study which you referred to: http://ijpc.uscannenberg.org/journal/index.php/ijpcjournal/issue/view/25
    That entire issue is devoted to the subject.
    If anyone wants to write articles on this subject, the IJPC Journal welcomes any contributions — either for our peer-review section or our features section. Please contact me at saltzman@usc.edu And thanks Tom. I’m a big fan of your work.

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