Double Standards and Political Correctness: The Challenges of Modern PR.

In recent years we have seen huge shift in the way we interact with the Public, there are so many things that have been deemed as Racist, Sexist, Ageist etc etc..

With the rise of Social media and the sheer volume of people that can be reached there is now a wider audience of people with different backgrounds, religions, beliefs and races. This presents modern PR professionals with a lot to consider when creating a Campaign, Advert or Press Release. More often than not we have seen this go very wrong for some people/businesses online.

Take Comedian and Actor David Walliams, This Halloween he has dressed up as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

This caused a media storm in which the Actor was widely accused of being Racist, while others leapt to his defence stating “Have a sense of humour”.  It was this widespread debate that unfolded over Twitter was the reason I thought of writing this piece.

I personally found this funny, I found that given that it was Halloween and likeness to the leader of North Korea it wasn’t hurting anyone. I’m sure that if the Leader of North Korea wanted to dress up as the comedian there wouldn’t be as many people saying that is racist. A lot of people have seen this as racist and given that the actor has taped his eyes. I can certainly see how this could be seen as offensive and I am in no way condoning his actions. As ever Twitter became the melting pot for yet another media debacle. Below are a few of the reactions from the users of twitter.

Another issue is that of Sexism, in what is a female led Public Relations Industry where 64% of the employees are female, I may be in the minority with my thinking that it is much easier for women to express themselves than men in today’s society. Although, It is a scandalous that in fact that there is such a huge pay gap between men and women as a study conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) of salaries across 432 organisations reveals that men in senior management positions are likely earning on average £11,606 more than their female peers, putting the pay gap at 26.8 per cent when taking into account bonuses, and perks like car allowances and commission.  (

However can you imagine what the media reaction to a male host revealing a female model in the way that Ellen DeGeneres has done in the picture below. Or how a writer for the tab went around the Holylands in Belfast looking for the best looking Boys in O’Niell’s gear. I can imagine that there would be many a claim of sexism and sexually objectifying woman! I feel that this points towards the idea of double standards. However, I am not saying this is a bad thing as we all know that Sex does sell as it always has, however what has changed in how we portray that message to different genres.

Which brings me to my final point, has the world gone crazy with Political Correctness? Or does PR as an industry be more careful with what we do and say.

This is a debate that I feel will not go away overnight. However, I feel that in the direction we are going, we are going to be limiting ourselves in what we do and say. As Abraham Lincoln put it “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. And with that I would like to add that doesn’t mean we abandon all Human Decency and become racist and sexist. Taste your words before you speak them. (SOMEONE PLEASE TELL DONALD TRUMP). With Stereotypes or Demographics playing such a huge role in how business and organisations target their audiences I feel it is only natural that they will play a part in Advertisements, Campaigns and almost all of our work, the balance has to be found where people of all genders and races are treated equally and portrayed as such in these campaigns.

Here is an interesting link to an debate on Sunday morning live from July 2017.

Also here are a few examples that have caused a stir over the past few years.


Curtis Cregan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter: @CurtisCregan17, and Instagram: @CurtisCregan7.