According to The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), 92% of PR Practitioners in Northern Ireland are female. 92%!!! And as I look around those who are also studying my degree (Communication Management and Public Relations) I don’t doubt this statistic whatsoever. With only a handful of boys studying the course it led me to wonder why this industry is so female dominated and why we aren’t doing more to try and change this?
Can you imagine the uproar if this statistic was the other way around? The industry would be criticised for being sexist and would likely generate a lot of negative attention.
So why are there so few males in PR?
In my opinion, the most prominent reason for the lack of males in the PR industry is that it is not deemed to be the most ‘masculine’ profession.
Based on portrayals of PR practitioners in movies Dr. Jane Johnston, Professor in Journalism and PR at Bond University, coined the term ‘The Samantha Syndrome’, based on the character Samantha Jones from Sex and the City.
This refers to the misconception that PR is all about being a pretty girl who parties at events every day, travels across the world and gets to work closely with celebs. I can tell you first-hand from my placement year that working in PR is NOT always the glamourous and luxurious lifestyle that we see portrayed on TV (as much as many of us may wish that it was).
Matthew Alexander, Director of Matthew Group Limited who specialise in Personal and Entertainment Publicity, recently said, “I feel there is a lot of encouragement and guidance for women to go into men-led fields however there are notably fewer programs that encourage men to build a career in female-led fields like PR and nursing…”. I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Surely, we, as communication professionals should be trying to eradicate this misconception and try to bridge the gender inequality in our industry?
There is so much more to PR than what is portrayed by the media. Through my previous role as a Communication and Social Media Placement Student in the utilities sector, I gained a wealth of experience in the different aspects of PR. One minute I could be writing content for the company website and the next I could be on site, in the rain, wearing a hard hat and hi-vis vest photographing work vans. What is so feminine about that? I think that it is so important that we promote all aspects of PR to paint a clearer, more accurate, picture of the industry so that men are not discouraged from taking this career path.
So, what other aspects of PR are there?
Depending on the nature of the company you are working for there is a vast array of roles and duties that you can undertake. I’ll only go into detail on a few so as not to bore you but you will get the general idea.
If you can keep a cool head when under intense pressure and have impeccable problem-solving skills, Crisis Management may interest you. Crisis Managers develop emergency plans and oversee their implementation if, and when, necessary. For example, if an oil spill occurs, the Crisis Management team would step in with a strategy as to how to rectify the incident as best as possible while also trying to maintain the Company’s image.
Perhaps Politics is more up your street. If that’s the case, Public Affairs may be the way to go! Public Affairs Practitioners manage a company’s stakeholder relations, such as politicians and local communities by engaging with these groups regularly regarding policies and legislation.
-Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR improves the company’s brand image in terms of ethics, for example, environmental management, improving working conditions and employee volunteering. While on my placement year, I had the opportunity to volunteer one day per month (as did all other employees) as part of the company’s CSR initiative. I think this really gave the employees a sense of purpose knowing that the company valued the charities so much that they were enabling employees to take time out of their busy schedules to get involved. Additionally, it makes for a great social media post on the company’s accounts helping to improve the company’s image.
So there you have it, a quick guide as to what PR involves. I can only encourage you to research the industry more. Research each area in detail, you might surprise yourself and find something that really interests you.
Chantelle McKeever is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @ChantelleMcKee5