Is PR a Girls World?

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.

-Crisis Management

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.

-Public Affairs

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


Colour coded baskets – Win Win for Sephora?

Have you ever walked into a store and immediately been bombarded by staff asking if they can help you? Without name dropping, a few certainly come to mind.

Research conducted by DisplayMode, a leading point-of-sale company, shows that 89% of shoppers are put off or bothered by in-store sales assistants.

Personally I despise nothing more than entering a store and being pounced on by employees within the first 3 seconds of being there. If anything, it makes me want to leave the store without purchasing anything.

While I understand that most staff across various stores are under pressure by management to assist customers, management don’t seem to understand how off-putting this can be from a customer perspective.

Sephora, seeing the issue, have upped their customer experience game and received widespread praise for their new colour coded basket system which is being trialled in certain European stores. Customers who wish to be assisted with their purchases can take a red basket, informing staff that they are open to help,  while customers who wish to be left alone can take a black basket, notifying staff that they would not like any assistance.

Twitter user Cami Williams (@cwillycs) photographed the display of baskets in a European Sephora store and tweeted, “There is a fellow introvert on the Sephora customer experience team who deserves A RAISE RIGHT NOW”.


The tweet went viral with over 240,000 likes and 58,000 retweets. Other Twitter users commended Sephora for their forward thinking and even tagged a few prominent rival stores suggesting that they should implement this idea as they no longer visit their stores due to their “over-attentive” sales assistants.

However, other Twitter users were quick to point out that the colour coded basket strategy has already been adopted by Innisfree. The Korean skincare brand successfully rolled out the baskets in 2016 across some of its stores.

As a part-time customer assistant myself, it is painfully obvious when a customer is bothered by being approached by staff. So why continue to do it? Why not let the customer decide what sort of interaction they would like to have instore and therefore have a better experience? An enjoyable experience will result in the customer continuing to shop in a particular store, being hounded by staff will drive customers to other stores.

Upon first seeing Cami Williams’ tweet, I thought that the colour coded baskets were a genuinely customer focused strategy.

It wasn’t until I read a comment on the thread that I started to think more about how the colour coded baskets may benefit Sephora as well as their customers…

“And from a marketing standpoint, this puts a basket in the hands of people who may have only planned to window shop. A win for the customer and the store.”

Another Twitter user agreed, stating that the basket ‘changes the narrative from “no thanks, I’m just looking” to “I’m shopping on my own”’.

So, was Sephora really thinking about solo shoppers and introverts by introducing their colour coded baskets? Or was it a marketing plan to get someone who only popped in for one item to grab a basket, encouraging them to make more purchases? I know that if it was me, I would grab the black basket so as not to be interrupted by staff and end up unintentionally filling the basket with products that I had no want or need for when going to the store in the first place.

Either way, given the reaction to the baskets on Twitter, no matter what Sephora’s intentions may have been, someone is getting a raise…


Chantelle McKeever is a Final Year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter- @ChantelleMcKee5