Christmas PR advice – follow that star

starAs PR practitioners, we’ve all probably got ambitions or thoughts about the direction we wish to travel in our futures. However, we might not have set specific goals. The Star of Bethlehem was the goal that inspired the three wise men (magi) seeking the new born Jesus in the traditional nativity story and this inspires my final 12 Days of Christmas post.

In my PhD studies, I am researching career strategies in public relations. Definitions of careers generally include a temporal aspect (i.e. developments over time) and/or progression (often viewed as moving through a hierarchy of increased benefits and responsibilities).

This allows us to think about a period – say the next year or longer, and any progress we wish to make in that time. We can stipulate specific goals and objectives as personal equivalents of the star that we will set out to pursue.

Incoming CIPR president, Stephen Waddington set out a set of 10 pledges for his tenure in 2014. This public statement serves several purposes which are useful guidance in following our own stars:

  • Putting our goals in writing enables us to think clearly about them and makes them more explicit
  • Sharing our goals with others increases our motivation to succeed, and allows others to help us on the way
  • Specifying our goals precisely provides a target or measure against which we can assess our progress and achievement of the destination

Many of us may set our goals out as New Year resolutions – and that can be helpful (although it can be easy to forget or abandon these). Others perhaps have a life path with ideas of what they would like to achieve by the time they reach certain age milestones. Or maybe we have dreams that we are not sure we can realise, but hope we could, with a bit of luck.

Our stars should be a stretch to achieve, so that we can benefit from the experience and development in reaching out and up. But they should not be impossible or achievable only at the expense of something or someone that we value.

A star can also illuminate our path – continuing to shine ahead and act as a navigational reminder when the going gets tough along the way.

Scientifically, stars can be of different sizes, grouped into constellations and are a source of energy. Each of these can be applied to our own goals. We can set ourselves small and large goals and link these as steps or complimentary achievements. Knowing what we are aiming for in life can be seen as energising too.

Incidentally some biblical scholars apparently argue that the three wise men arrived several months after the birth – whilst others believe the story is a fiction by the author of the Gospel of Matthew. This reminds us both of how goals do not necessarily have to be achieved at a specific time (especially if we are setting out our career aims before reaching a crucial age, for example) – and also how it is often the narrative around the goal that is important in influencing behaviour.

Being open to the emergence of new stars is as important as setting a set goal for ourselves. So as we head into Christmas – and I end my 12 Days series (there will be one reflective post to follow), my advice is to look for your star or stars and and take the next step on your journey to reach your chosen destination.

Happy Christmas – may all your dreams come true.

Do the CIPR presidential candidates appeal to women?

genderBoth candidates standing in the CIPR President-Elect 2013 elections (who will become President in 2014) are white, 40+ years old and male. As men comprise a minority of PR practitioners, perhaps it is time to throw into the debate, a question about how appealing Stephen Waddington and Dr Jon White are to women?

It is a relevant consideration given that the UK PR Week-PRCA 2011 PR Census, revealed the occupation is dominated by the young and female.   Also, CIPR “aims to develop an inclusive culture, raise general awareness of diversity within the public relations industry and to increase the number of public relations practitioners from all backgrounds”.

What are some of the issues that face women working in PR that the candidates should address?

1. Salary disparity – women in PR are paid less than men at all levels according to the data from the PR Census study. Nearly 30 years ago, US researchers released the Velvet Ghetto study noting a million dollar income penalty over the course of a woman’s career in PR. It isn’t difficult to argue that things haven’t changed much.

2. Mid-career chasm – there also appears to be a black hole with women leaving PR in mid-career, possibly as a result of a lack of flexible options for combining family and work commitments.

3. Friendliness trap – academics have claimed that women working in PR are expected (particularly at the start of their careers, and specifically in agencies) to adopt overtly feminine behaviour, which serves as a trap to their subsequent credibility and career progression.

4. Female dominated education – the majority of PR undergraduates are women, with men often less than 10 per cent of a class. A gender imbalance is frequently notable among cohorts studying the CIPR’s professional qualifications. The willingness of women to seek qualifications (perhaps buying into the professional agenda of career development) does not seem to be generating them greater career rewards.

5. Marginalisation of women as communicators – women have traditionally occupied technician roles in PR, with claims made that they have softer skills best suited for a communications-dominated position and function. In the past, women were employed to target female-oriented media and organise parties. This continues today, but additionally, they dominate specialist areas such as internal communications and lay claim to relationship building.

Of course, these issues do not affect all women and most apply beyond public relations.  We can also argue that with self-efficacy and personal agency, women are as capable as men of building successful careers. The current CIPR President is female, as was the one before. There have been a total of eleven women Presidents compared to 52 men. The first was Margaret Nally in 1975, followed by Norah Owen in 1981 and then Carol Friend in 1986. In the 1990s, two of the ten Presidents were women; in the last decade they accounted for three out of ten. This decade, so far it is three out of four, with Jane Wilson holding the role of CEO since 2010 as well.

So let’s cut the male candidates some slack – but invite them to comment here whether they believe there are specific considerations relating to women, and other sectors of society, in building careers in public relations. And how their year in office could help address some of the issues that I’ve mentioned above.

Over to you guys… how do you appeal to women in PR?