Recent years have marked an influx of women into the practice of public relations, which generated a number of studies on the role of women in this field. Fitch & Third (2010: 2) noticed that the dominance of women in public relations defines the coding of public relations as “feminine”. The aim of the research is two-fold: to analyse the field of public relations and its defining dimensions, the perspective of women in the PR sector, respectively to identify what means the public relations for women working in this sector. The case study explores the correlation between the basic concept of public relations and the practice of public relations, the basic qualities for a successful career in public relations, trends, challenges and perspectives for the PR sector. As the research method, we have applied the questionnaire-based inquiry in some institutions, organizations and PR agencies from the county of Bacău, Romania. In Romania, we may notice an increasing preference of the female audience for the PR sector. The practice of public relations is an feminine activity because PR is an inciting domain that offers multiple challenges, such as building strategic relationships and spirit of initiative. Maintaining and consolidating relationships with publics should be a priority for public relations practitioners. Responsibility and professionalism should constitute priority lines in (re)configuring public relations.
Keywords: Women in PRconceptpracticechallengesperspectives
Some authors believe that the practice of public relations is a women’s activity because
“approximately 70% of PR practitioners in most western nations are women” (Edwards, 2009, p. 161).
In turn, Fitch & Third (2010, p. 2) emphasise the fact that the dominance of women in public relations
defines the coding of public relations as “feminine”. The labellingof the public relations sector as
“feminine” creates, at the moment, a dichotomy between men and women and develops a number of
themes regarding the feminization of the public relations sector, the impact of their professional
activities, the gender inequalities in the field, the challenges for women as PR practitioners.
Based on how women affect public relations, the literature investigates the feminization of the field,
highlighting, for the first time, a major concern: “if women become a majority in public relations, the
practice will be typecast as women's work; it will lose what clout it now has as a management function
and become a second-class occupation” (Bates, 1983, p. 6). The study
men and women perceive the impact of their professional activities (Verhoeven and Aarts, 2010, p. 7)
outlines the fact that “male public relations professionals perceive themselves as being taken more
seriously by senior management in their organization than female professionals do. On a 7-point scale,
men scored an average of 5.36 ... while women scored a 4.97”. The surveys revealed that gender
inequalities exist in the public relations sector because while fulfilling roles assigned to them, women
get caught in a “cycle of powerlessness” (Grunig, Toth and Hon, 2001, p. 102).
The literature on the roles of women in the public relations sector emphasises that “the glass ceiling
persists for women in public relations and communications management, despite increasing
feminization of these fields” (Wrigley, 2002, p. 27). Wrigley's study (2002, p. 27), entitled
Ceiling? What Glass Ceiling?A Qualitative Study of How Women View The Glass Ceiling in Public
by female employees and practitioners, the attitude towards women in the workplace has not changed,
which accounts for the gender inequalities visible in this field, as a result of the fact that “corporate
cultures can be more limiting for women who want to advance”.
In Romania, we may notice an increasing preference of the female audience for the PR sector. In
recent years, professional training and development in public relations area have recorded enhanced
participation of the audience, particularly for the profile specializations existing at the university level.
These views coincide with those provided by the some scholars that mention the fact that “the
Romanian domain of public relations is undergoing constant development and diversification”, and it
shows an increasing interest in this professional option (Miculescu, 2006, p. 91). The future of public
relations “promises” to become even more feminine if we consider the number of women choosing to
work in this field. This paper analyses the public relations, the correlation between the basic concept of
public relations and the practice, ”the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats”, challenges and
perspectives for the PR sector.
One of the main definitions presented by the literature mentions that public relations is the “distinct
managerial function which supports the establishing and maintenance of mutual communication limits,
mutual acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its audience. Public relations involve
problem management, supporting managers in being well-informed regarding public opinion and
respond to the demands of public opinion, define and accentuate the managerial obligations of
anticipating the tendencies of the environment and use research and communication based on ethical
principles as main working tools” (Harlow, 1976, p. 36). According to Cutlip, Center & Broom (2009,
p. 7), “public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial
relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends”. In turn,
Long and Hazelton (1987, pp. 3-13) describe public relations as “a communication function of
management through which the organizations adapt to, alter, or maintain their environment for the
purpose of achieving organizational goals”. The same view is accredited by Grunig and Hunt (1984,
p. 7-8) who argue that public relations is the “management of communication between an organization
and its publics”.
As can be observed, these definitions highlight the managerial function of public relations, within
which the process of communication becomes a reference point. The focus lies particularly on the
efficient communication between an organization and its audience, the mutually advantageous relations
established between the two partners that reach a certain level of cooperation, mutual trust and respect.
The main role belongs to public relations as “the function responsible for establishing and maintaining
relationships with the public” (Grunig, Toth and Hon, 2001). Public relations is a connection bridge
between the organization and the public that enables the success of this partnership by means of a two-
way communication. Public relations support the “crystallization of the public opinion about a certain
organization in a certain direction” (Bernays, 2003, p. 26). In this case, the public relations practitioner
assumes double responsibility, both in relation to the organization and the audiences, by building and
maintaining efficient relationships that may generate good collaboration and mutual respect. The
system of public relations has the role of establishing durable connections based on truth and mutual
trust, both inside as well as outside the system, with the public opinion (Petrovici, 2011a, p. 35).
Therefore, this system implies developing two subsystems, one responsible with building connections
inside the organization with a view to ensuring a beneficial internal climate, the other one responsible
with building durable connections with the external environment, which includes all the other
institutions or organizations, as well as public opinion (Rus, 2002, p. 58). Within this process, the
practice of public relations appears as the art and social science of analysing trends, anticipating
consequences, counselling the leaders of the organization and implementing the designed action
programmes that will serve both the interests of the organization and those of the public (Gordon,
1997, p. 59). The practice of public relations focuses particularly on reputation, aiming at gaining the
public’s trust and support and at influencing the latter’s opinion and behaviour (Newsom, VanSlyke
Turk, Kruckeberg, 2003, p. 18). In this context, public relations is a strategic form of communication
that aims at gaining the public’s understanding and acceptance, building beneficial relationships
between the organization and the public, “particularly in terms of shaping reputation and information
communication” (Curtin and Gaither, 2008, p. 19). In this case, reputation turns into a key concept.
The modern definition of public relations (2012) for today's practice is provided by the Public
Relations Society of America (PRSA) which emphasizes that “public relations is a strategic
communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their
publics”. According to the PRSA (www.prsa.org), “this definition focuses on the basic concept of
public relations – as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing mutually
control and top-down, one-way communications.
helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders.
stakeholders has connotations of publicly-traded companies”. As can be seen, public relations rely on
the reference terms of organization and audiences, between which there is a two-way communication
process. This process implies building mutually advantageous relationships based on trust and respect,
respectively maintaining sustainable connections between an organization and its audiences that are a
real challenge for public relations practitioners. Adopting a professional conduct becomes, in this case,
a reference point that involves compliance with the professional ethics code, honesty and transparency
in PR practices, not the “public’s” interest.
Another dimension of professionalism is represented by “considering professional standards before
the financial rewards promised by an employer or client; public relations practitioners are often only
standard or belief” (Wilcox, cited in Miculescu, 2006, p. 203). Such situations result in low
appreciation from the public and a status of public relations that is not honourable. The challenges for
public relations practitioners are “to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in relationships, for
example, respect, transparency, honesty, open lines of communication; nurturing of shared values and
other basic principles are key to communication that builds strong organization-publics relationships”
(Hutton, 2007, p. 56)
Material & Methods
The aim of this study is to examine the correlation between the basic concept of public relations and
the practice of public relations, the basic qualities for a successful career in public relations, challenges
and perspectives for the PR sector by identifying the following research questions:
RQ1: What is the relationship between the concept of public relations and the practice of public
RQ2: What are the basic qualities for a successful career in public relations?
RQ3: What are the trends, challenges and perspectives for the PR sector?
As a research method, we have applied a survey questionnaire
from Bacău, Romania, respectively PR agencies. The survey was conducted through a web-based
questionnaireduring February-April 2016; An email soliciting participation in the online survey was
sent to public relations practitioners, women working in the public sector, in communication and public
relations departments as well as in the private sector, in PR agencies. After excluding incomplete
questionnaires, there were 80 usable responses: 75 from public sector organizations, and 5 from private
PR agencies. Also, most of the respondents have ages around 35 and have less than 10 years of
experience in the domain. Despite our best attempts, we could not obtain a higher number of responses.
However, we hope that the results obtained may constitute new directions of action for future research.
Women in PR. A Romanian perspective
In order to identify the thought particularities existing at the level of a feminine public, we have
applied a questionnaire to a representative group of 80 persons – women working in the PR sector, who
were kind enough to respond to our request. The questionnaire comprises a set of 16 questions on the
domain of public relations and its defining dimensions. The purpose of applying this questionnaire was
not to conduct a rigorous sociological inquiry with statistically valid results, but to analyse the way in
which public relations are perceived and practiced, the basic qualities for a successful career in public
relations, trends and perspectives for the PR sector. When asked what public relations are in their
personal opinion, most of the respondents (62%) answered that PR represent an inciting domain, under
constant development, whereas 38% of them believe that public relations are a professional challenge
requiring constant support and team spirit. The orientation of the feminine public towards the PR sector
is a consequence of the rising trend of public relations in recent years that continues to show at the top
of rankings. The arguments supporting the choice of this sector of activity highlight the fact that public
relations are regarded, by 50% of the respondents, as a motivating profession, whereas 40% of the
respondents claim to have opted for this domain out of passion and only 10% out of curiosity.
According to the respondents, the basic “ingredients” for developing this domain imply a generous
dose of creativity (34%), intelligence (34%) and emotion (32%).
The basic qualities required to practice public relations are, first and foremost, communication and
relating skills (34%), good professional training and constant improvement (28%), professional
standards (20%), creative potential (18%). In order to be successful, public relations practitioners
should demonstrate corresponding training in the field (34%), communication competences (33%) and,
last but not least, adopt ethical conduct in their activity (33%). The secret of personal success lies in
knowledge of communication techniques (50%), thorough professional training (30%) and strategic
thought (20%). When asked about the “weak points” of the PR sector, most of the respondents (85%)
mentioned the gap between the basic concept and the way public relations are practiced nowadays,
compared to 15% who gave no answer to this question. The arguments brought in this respect are
related to how public relations activities are organized (60%), non-compliance with ethical standards
(25%), principles and values assumed (15%). The greatest difficulties they have come across in this
sector was poor communication and lack of understanding at the management level (56%), “lack of
great ideas” (34%), the small budget allotted to events organization (10%). Regarding opportunities,
54% of the respondents mentioned the building and maintaining of the relation with the related
audiences, whereas 46% of these pointed to initiative spirit. According to the respondents, the greatest
risks related to public relations are incorrect practices (48%), lack of efficient communication strategies
(30%), incoherent politics (22%). The greatest challenges in the PR sector are enhancing reputation and credibility (40%), crisis
communication (40%) and management of the relations with the press (20%). Regarding the evolution
of public relations for the coming years, most of the answers assign a relevant role to responsibility and
professionalism in (re)configuring them. Most of the respondents (60%) believe that the social
responsibility of the organization towards its audiences should represent a reference point in the PR
policy, whereas 40% of them plead for adopting professional behaviour. According to the statistical
data recorded, most persons (75%) have ages around 35, whereas 25% are over 50. In terms of the
educational level, 90% of these mentioned university studies, whereas 15% of them mentioned post-
Results and Discussions
Public relations is an inciting domain, undergoing constant development, a professional challenge
reclaiming sustained efforts and team spirit. The orientation of the feminine public towards the PR
sector is a consequence of the rising trend of public relations in recent years that continues to show on
top of rankings. In 2013, Money Magazine/CNN ranked public relations “as one of the top 50 jobs
because of the field's relatively high pay, personal satisfaction, benefit to society and flexibility”. In
2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked public relations “as the best creative job and one of the top
100 careers in America”. For the PR industry, U.S. Department of Labour has projected a 12 percent
growth rate between 2012 and 2022. In the USA, studies on the “feminization of PR” have shown that
the growing percentage of women in this sector of activity reveals that gender inequalities exist in the
public relations sector, which leads to lower wages as well as the depreciation of the professional status
as a result of men withdrawing from this sphere of activity (Mogel, 2002; Verhoeven and Aarts, 2010;
Choi and Hon, 2002; Daymon and Demetrious, 2013; Rotman, 2001). In Romania, the PR sector
records similar tendencies regarding the growing participation rate of women in this domain. However,
the increasing percentage of women in the PR industry does not lead, in any case, to the devaluation of
the profession but, on the contrary: “numerous companies have high demands regarding the quality of
their PR female employees, and within PR agencies, women asserted themselves, long ago, as
consultants for most demanding clients” (Achelis, 2009).
The major argument supporting this choice is a motivating job that is based on the “ingredients” of
creativity, intelligence and emotion. In fact, recent research highlights the fact that creativity,
intelligence and emotion form a triad, whose elements grow in time, interact and interconnect (Ries &
Ries, 2005; Averill, 2011; Mencarelli, 1976). The standards that public relations practitioners have to
constantly meet exercise a certain pressure upon them, meaning that these have to improve their
communication and relating skills, and professional training on a regular basis. Wilcox, Cameron, Ault,
Agee (2003, p. 84-86) believe that public relations practitioners should own several basic personal
attributes, for example the ability to communicate efficiently, solve problems, creativity, identifying
new and efficient solutions for each problem. Successful practitioners need basic qualities, such as
“response to tension, individual initiative, curiosity and learning, energy, drive and ambition, objective
thinking, flexible attitude, service to others, friendliness, versatility, lack of self-consciousness”
(Cantor, cited in Lordan, 2003, p. 24). One of the “weaknesses” of the PR sector is the gap between the basic concept and how public
relations are practiced nowadays. Unfortunately, the current tendencies reveal a “devaluation” of public
relations, practising them only for providing the public with information or draw the attention of the
press to the organization, and not as a function of management. The quality of public relations is often
evaluated quantitatively, in relation to the number of press communications, brochures or press articles
and less in terms of problem solving skills (Miculescu, 2006, p. 189-190). Such skills only highlight
the absence of a strategic approach to public relations, which reveals a disconnection between
perception and reality. Building, maintaining and consolidating relationships with publics should be a
priority for public relations practitioners. Public relations practitioners should be highly aware of the
(micro) demographic features of the audience in order to adjust their message to the particularities of
each category of audience. Michael Bland (cited in Green, 2006, p. 6-7) believes that “the most
startling flops in public relations stem from a failure to recognize that other people will inevitably see
the world differently from you; from major companies failing to understand the mentality of activists
opposing them, or managers in a middle of a crisis not taking into account what people really want to
hear rather than what just suits them. These all originate in an insularity of thinking, and operating
within just one world view”.
Credibility and reputation are the most important assets of an organization.
be described like a set of means used by companies and institutions to create and maintain a climate of
confidence and sympathy among the publics. For any organization, reputation management should be a
priority of agenda settings (Chiciudean, David, 2011; Dowling, 2002; Dospinescu, 2011; Cismaru,
2012; Waddington and Earl, 2012). In managing reputation, it is important to cultivate and maintain
different reputations in different groups, planning the communication process, as part of corporate
communication (Carroll, van Riel, 1995; Varey, 1998; van Riel and Fombrum, 2007). As Cornelissen
(2008) outlines “corporate communication is a management function that offers a framework for the
effective coordination of all internal and external communication with the overall purpose of
establishing and maintaining favourable reputations with stakeholder groups upon which the
organization is dependent”. In fact, reference studies have revealed a close connection between
corporate reputation and CEO reputation. The Burson-Marsteller Report, entitled “CEO Reputation
Study” (2003), suggests that “CEO reputation is a major factor in determining company reputation”;
58% of the sample said that “the CEO's reputation” influences the organization’s reputation to a great
extent, 48% of the overall reputation of a company being attributable to the reputation of its CEO.
A significant challenge is crisis communication (Libaert, 2008; Fearn-Banks, 1996; Coman, 2009;
McLoughlin, 1996). A crisis enhances the interest of the press and public, drawing attention to the
organization. Optimists believe that a crisis may be controlled, pessimists believe that once the crisis
installed, the organization has already lost control and the consequences are negative. To prevent such
a situation, public relations practitioners should be responsive to problems that may, at one point,
evolve into a crisis situation. Crisis management relies on two basic principles: the early identification
of possible risks and organized reaction to manage the crisis situation efficiently (Petrovici, 2011b, p.
100). In fact, the research conducted in this sense highlights the relevance of the concept of crisis
management that, according to specialists, should represent the constant concern of an organization for
identifying the most efficient strategies (Jaques, 2007; Iacob, Cismaru, 2005; Regester and Larkin,
2003; Coombs, 2001; Booth, 1993). The successful management of a crisis situation implies equal
shares of honesty and transparency in the relation with the press, mutual trust and respect.
Responsibility and professionalism should constitute priority lines in (re)configuring public relations.
The responsibilities of practitioners within organizations are to develop, communicate and integrate the
knowledge and professionalism into public relations practice (Wright & VanSlyke Tirk, 2007, p. 571).
In this article, we have analysed the domain of public relations, its defining dimensions, the basic
qualities required by a successful career in public relations, challenges and perspectives for the PR
sector, starting a feminist standpoint – women working in the PR sector. In Romania, we may notice an
increasing preference of the female audience for the PR sector; the future of public relations
“promises” to become even more feminine if we consider the number of women choosing to work in
this field. The practice of public relations is an feminine activity because PR is an inciting domain that
offers multiple challenges, such as building strategic relationships and spirit of initiative. In this field,
the women have a head start: good instincts, intelligence, empathy and creativity. The same view is
supported by Donato (1990, p. 129) who believes that „women are attracted to public relations because
the field offers good opportunities”. The study underlines that “women have better instincts and a
different sensitivity to the communication needs of people and institutions and are therefore better
suited for the practice” (Bates, 1983, p. 31), and “one reason for this ready acceptance of women is that
public relations is a highly intuitive business which is a talent inborn in little girls” (Smith, 1968,
One of the “weaknesses” of the PR sector is the gap between the basic concept and how public
relations are practiced nowadays. Current trends indicate the fact that, in most cases, public relations
are practiced only for informing the public, draw the attention of the press to the organization, and not
as a management function that requires building problem solving skills. This aspect highlights the
absence of a strategic approach to public relations particularly in the management of crisis
communication, unfortunately, reflected by numerous cases of inefficient management of crisis
The basic qualities for a successful career in public relations imply skills in communication and
problem solving, creativity, the identification of efficient solutions to problems. For today's practice,
the public relations practitioner must be “
of the challenge of being a successful practitioner is to recognize problems before they happen and
once they happen. Recognizing a problem is the first step. Being able to think strategically and
tactically is the second” (Heath and Coombs, 2006, p. 166).
Responsibility and professionalism should constitute priority lines in (re)configuring public
relations. Public relations involve a two-fold responsibility: responsibility towards the public, adapting
behaviours with the expectances of public, respectively responsibility towards organizations, the
correct presentation of the values assumed, transparency on policies. Professionalism derives from the
increasingly higher transparency we should apply to what we do, the responsibility we should take for
our actions (Bernays, 1947, Miculescu, 2006).
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18 December 2019
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Communication, communication studies, social interaction, moral purpose of education, social purpose of education
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Petrovici, A. (2019). Women in PR. A Romanian Perspective. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Logos Universality Mentality Education Novelty, vol 15. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 756-765). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.96