Let’s talk about stereotypes of the Public Relations industry and its professionals. I came across two posts tonight that leave me a little bit concerned and a whole lot amused.
- PR and the ‘Chick Factor’: What Kent State Learned About the Missing Men of Public Relations – from Bill Sledzik at Tough Sledding
- Mistaken Stereotype of PR – from Caitlin Regan of TGC, a student-managed PR agency at California State University, Chico
It was purely coincidence that I happened upon these two posts side by side, both addressing stereotypes people have of PR pros, especially from a student perspective.
Here are a few of the stereotypes that were mentioned between the posts, as well as a few I’ve faced personally from people who should know better (feel free to add your own favorites):
- We’re liars.
- All we do is manipulate people.
- We spend all our time schmoozing.
- PR’s for chicks.
- Our job is easy or just one big party.
Caitlin seemed to take particular offense (and who could blame her) with the portrayal of Sex in the City’s character Samantha Jones, whom HBO refers to as “a successful PR exec who knows what she wants- and most of the time, she gets it. She radiates confidence in everything she does, whether it’s landing a star client, getting a table at the trendiest restaurant or bedding the hottest guy in a room.”
Sounds like a typical “day at the office” for me. How about you?
Does Sex in the City go too far with Samantha’s character? I’m honestly asking… I’m not a fan of the show. Yet this is where I’m amused. Call me an optimist, but I’d like to think that most people (or at least a lot of people) are smart enough to know the difference between fact and fiction.
I mean, do you imagine that most doctors act like Hugh Laurie’s character on House? Do you think most in law enforcement act anything like your favorite characters in whatever Law & Order or CSI spin-off you’re into? Maybe you believe in the Boogeyman too.
I’m not saying Caitlin’s got it wrong. I think pop media probably does influence the general view of the Public Relations profession. And I blame us.
Shhh! It’s a Secret!
Caitlin talks in her post about having to defend her PR degree. Do you even feel a twinge of embarrassment when you tell people you work in PR? Do you try to give it another name? Do you just not mention it at all when you can help it?
Personally, I’d rather shout it from the rooftops. “I work in PR, and I’m damned proud of it!!!”
I think that’s the only way we’re ever going to do our part to educate people about PR’s existence, nonetheless the truth behind us and what we do. And apparently, we really need to get on that.
Bill points out the gender divide in PR, especially with Kent State’s PR majors. A recurring theme seems to be that students are going into college having no idea what PR is (which was true in my own case – I pretty much stumbled into the major), or they have a preconceived notion that it’s a “chick thing.”
Hey… the testosterone pool in the PR industry may not be overflowing, but I have to say I’m generally pretty proud of the guys we do have. Even though I don’t always agree with them, I’ll admit that most I’ve come across are pretty competent in the work itself (even the ones I don’t particularly like on a personal level). And quality matters more than quantity, right?
I loved one student’s quote that Bill published, essentially saying that women are better liars and therefore more suited to PR work. Maybe it’s just because I’m the bluntly honest type, but I don’t see that. Do you?
What Can We Do?
Why don’t we have more men in PR? Why don’t students know what PR is before getting into college? Why are we still fighting this stereotype that we’re all a bunch of lying party animals who wouldn’t know real work if it bit us on the ass?
It’s no secret that we do an awful PR job when it comes to the image of PR itself. It’s been discussed seemingly endlessly. I’d like to think things are better now than a few years ago. I find that smaller businesses I work with are usually the most willing to learn about what we do and how it can benefit them, and go into it with the fewest assumptions. At the same time, other groups seem too far gone – their minds probably won’t ever be changed.
So in your opinion, where should we be focusing? Educating future PR pros? Educating our current and potential clients? Working over the louses who still give us a bad name? (I vote for this one.) What can we do? Not on a grand scale even, but perhaps the better question is what can we do right now?