Gender Stereotyping in PR: Is it a vicious circle?

Why we have to be aware of gender in PR practices

These days there are a lot of debates and tensions around the feminist agenda for public relations. Studies show that there is a pay-gap in this particular industry between men and woman. This example of inequality calls for research to examine the underlying processes in the PR field that influence position opportunities, roles, the pay-gap and discrimination. When these underlying processes are clearer, PR professionals can find a way to change these processes and eventually make sure that inequalities are less of a major thing. The strange thing is, as you can see in the figure, apparently women are overrepresented in PR practices.

Gender Stereotyping

The main problem within the PR sector is gender stereotyping. This has developed over the years and, still, is playing a big role (see this study). In another study that examined the historical discourses of gender, it appears that during the 1950s there was a general idea that woman had special intrinsic personal qualities such as hospitality, empathy and listening skills, that suited them for PR work. If you look at the next statement, you’ll see that nowadays these thoughts still blaze in the minds of woman:

“I think empathy’s really key one, and the combination of having a PR background and being a woman is a killer combination.”

This example shows that woman still think the same as 50 years ago and relates to the positioning theory that is mentioned in a study in which woman reflect on feminism in PR.

Positioning theory and the dominant coalition

Positioning theory focuses on the phenomenon of one’s position in terms of “what is relative to others, who constructs it and is it accepted or not?” The rights and duties that are associated with taking up a position is imposed by what is known as the local moral order. In a lot of organizations the dominant coalition (= local moral order) decides whether something is desirable. This dominant coalition is always in power and still structures the PR field of today. As you can see in the example about the 1950s, the rights and duties of PR professionals already have been established for a long time and there has to change something to overcome this gender stereotyping. So, are you still wondering why so many woman work in the PR field? The stereotypes are clearly deeply rooted into women’s minds…

How to overcome gender stereotyping in PR practices?

First of all, inequalities should be a part of PR education and should include research of feminist perspectives. Power also plays a big role and definitely has to be investigated more deeply. Secondly, in the study of how gender influences everyday practice in PR, the researchers give multiple examples on how to deal with stereotyping, participate in power relations and how they can “talk back” to the dominant coalition. This implies that women have to talk back to disrupt the gendered discourses that dominate the PR field.

If you want to know more about gender stereotyping, click here.


About the author:

Jeanne is a Corporate Communication student, living in Utrecht and is 22 years old. Specialized in PR & crisis communication. Currently working in the event management sector and has a huge interest in differences between males and females.

Messages (1): Mark Zuckerberg has sent you a GIF.

Author: Maran Özdemir, Master Student Entertainment Communication (UvA)

Interpersonal communication enforces favorable reputation of the organization and meaningful relationships with the public. Therefore, it is no surprise that organizations increasingly choose to connect with their stakeholders via social media as social platforms provide the opportunity for organizations to engage the public in more personal and meaningful way. An increasing number of CEOs is now also embracing social media as a tool to connect with their public. This is, accordingly, a smart move. But why?

Last year, Men and Tsai conducted a study which focused on public engagement with CEO’s on social media. Basically, what they found was the following. Public engagement, defined as activities that lead to supportive behavior towards the organization, with CEOs on social media lead to positive effects on both perceived CEO authenticity and CEO approachability. This means, that CEOs who actively engage with their public on social media are perceived as more truthful, transparent and consistent (authenticity) and warmer, more caring and easier to talk to (approachability). It is important to realize that CEOs are in fact, the face of the organization. The highly interactive and dialogical nature of social media humanizes CEOs and therefore, also the organizations that they represent when they communicate with the publics on social media.

Hence, it makes sense that the next finding in the study was that perceived authenticity and approachability positively affects the relationship between the organization and the public. That is, organizations with CEOs who actively engage on social media score high on public trust and satisfaction with the organization.

In other words, every CEO should at least consider becoming a “social CEO”. Understandably, some leaders might feel hesitant and fear risks and negative feedback. Below follow some strategical guidelines for effective online CEO-public communication:

  • It is the task of the Public Relations professionals to educate CEOs about the new trend of using social media and its value to the organization and to encourage the CEOs to embrace the trend and to create an active social media presence.
  • The main factors that motivate publics to engage with CEOs on social media are expertise and authority of the CEO. Rather than posting about relevant organizational information (e.g. facts and figures), CEOs should post about their strategic views, insights and thought about current issues to express their expertise and authority

  • Current social media practices of organizations mainly aim at attracting followers. By doing so, the interactive nature of social media is ignored. The magic word here is ‘dialog’. The CEO who aims for direct interactions with their online stakeholders is on the right path to create meaningful public engagement. Think about, asking for ideas from the public on a particular issue and participating in discussions.
  • The online dialogs between corporate leaders and public are, or should at least seem, genuine. Personal and conversational tone, active responds and the encouragement of interactions blend professional and personal which helps to build a strong bond between the CEO/organization and the public.

With these guidelines every CEO can become a social CEO. Go ahead, the public will LIKE! it.


Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, there is no way you could have missed the coming (pun intended) of the second Fifty Shades of Grey movie: Fifty Shades Darker. Commercials, interviews and posters have been popping up like spamming your e-mail. Blockbuster movies have become more of an inevitable event for cultural journalists. Together with the recent research from Nete Kristensen and Unni From, I will show you how cultural journalists are reporting on Blockbusters differently today compared to 50 years ago. It all boils down into 3 new developments.
blockbusters are global media events

Let’s kick off with the small world we live in. 50 years ago it took several years for a Blockbuster movie to be released across the ‘great’ Atlantic. Ben-Hur’s 1959 movie won over 10 Academy Awards in 1960 only to be released in Denmark two years later. The (Danish) news coverage of Ben-Hur scattered over all these years. There was limited press coverage and the role of the PR industry was only to provide factual information about the movie production, and if you were lucky, it’s cast. Cultural journalists had access to some kind of PR information, but there had been no development whatsoever to a broader selection of PR.

Today, you can record a spicy tape with Mr. Grey and have the entire world see it within minutes. Instead of local epidemics, Blockbusters have become globalized pandemics. They are global media events, reaching a wider public than ever before. Where it took Denmark 5 years to get a Danish Ben-Hur’s premiere, the events are now taking place almost simultaneously worldwide. This results in intense media coverage but in a shorter period of time. The news coverage on Fifty Shades Darker has people all across the world struggling with the wait for 118 minutes of heavy breathing on the big screen.

blockbusters are negotiated as relevant

Cultural journalism today provides different reflective spaces for popular culture at different times. They provide a cultural service as well as infotainment. The dynamics between the Hollywood industry and the press are different. The competing news media are aware of genre, attention to reader segments and most importantly: a broadened and less hierarchical interpretation of culture. Blockbusters are big and continue to be negotiated as relevant in cultural journalism.

Professionalization of blockbuster’s PR

Everything is more professional. PR is characterized today by dissolving boundaries between highbrow and lowbrow. PR is more diverse now (and Mr. Grey has a brand new swing). Next to interview sessions and marketing information there has been a recent development in the press circuit: Box office numbers. Press can access and report on the earnings of Blockbusters. The press focus has thus changed to the economic side of Blockbuster movies.

Today, one thing is for sure. If the press were to ask Mr. Grey’s phone number, it would be as easy and quick as getting Anastasia upstairs.

‘Health-washing’: An inefficient attempt at trying to fix your reputation



What strikes you most about this image?

During the Olympic games in London in 2012, a discussion erupted about whether or not the Olympic committee should accept sponsorships of companies whose disposition does not seem to align with this celebratory event of athletic achievements. The two biggest sponsors of the sports event, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, are two companies with disputable reputations in terms of the health effects of their products. Extensive research has shown that soda is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. McDonald’s fast food products have been linked to harmful health consequences, due to their high caloric content and ridiculously high amounts of fat and sodium. In 2012 McDonald’s built world’s biggest branch on the Olympic games site, while it seems highly unlikely that the athletes would be eating the same food McDonald’s restaurants provide.

A short lesson from history

Let me take you back to the 1990s. Back then, it was still legal for tobacco companies to advertise in public and sponsor events. You might be able to guess by now that the events they were most eager to sponsor, were sports events. The painful irony of tobacco brands sponsoring sports events stimulated a discussion that is similar to the discussion being held now. The outcome of this debate is well-known: tobacco sponsorship is illegal in many countries and due to extensive efforts of health professionals the tobacco industry is going downhill. In the beverages and food industry it might not come this far, but intuitively, it seems likely that this illogical sponsorship might be forced to an end on short notice.

This gut-feeling is now backed up by science: a research published by Public Relations Review in 2016 ( showed that when Coca-Cola posts on Twitter about their campaign to fight obesity, the public reacts more heavily than to neutral posts and in a more negative tone. These findings suggest that consumers notice and react to incongruent actions by companies. Although this research covers only Coca-Cola related Twitter posts, the outcome of this study should be taken into account by PR professionals globally. The more people post negatively about your initiative or sponsorship, the more negative the effects on your reputation.

What now?

 Based on these results, I would recommend companies to carefully (re)consider their sponsorships and public relations campaigns. If your company’s behavior contradicts the purpose of the event or campaign, don’t be hesitant to change your strategy. Although previous research has shown that sponsoring major sports events can result in higher brand loyalty among consumers, what your company is known for should not contradict the reputation of the sports event or campaign goal in question.

It is foreseeable that if a company that has a negative reputation in terms of health effects sponsors an event or campaign with a health-related goal, a backlash will unveil. These efforts will be covered negatively in the media and it could even prompt permanent negative consequences for your industry, as it did for the tobacco industry. Adapt now by shifting your focus from ‘seeming to do the right thing’ to ‘actually doing the right thing’, and your company will profit in the long run.


About the Author: Rosa Huetink

With a bachelor’s degree in Biological Psychology, this is not your typical PR blogger.


Is it news? Five tips that will make your story newsworthy

What kind of news grabs the attention? What increases the chance for a story to be picked up by journalists and the media? And what about social media? Which values and topics triggers people to share posts on platforms such as Facebook? It definitely doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the values that will make your story more newsworthy.

News values

News is something people want to know or need to know, it is what editors and reporters find interesting and relevant. But how can you increase your odds of getting media coverage? A study done by Harcup and O’Neill led to an updated set of news values. The findings show that you as a PR practitioner need to keep several factors in mind. Based on these findings, here are five concrete tips while crafting your pitches:

  1. Exclusivity and follow-up: Be the first and write about something new! Current news has much more impact than older news. And once there is more news on the same subject, write a follow-up.
  2. Conflict and bad news: Your story needs a conflict. People love to hear about plane crashes, controversies and other bad news.
  3. Celebrity and entertainment: Write about (famous) people and soft stories concerning show business and lighter human interest, because familiarity is important to the audience.
  4. Magnitude: Stories which are perceived to be significant to a large number of people are more effective. The more people it affects, the better.
  5. The power-elite and relevance: Write about stories concerning powerful individuals or organizations and groups which are perceived to be influential.


Nowadays, the “shareability” is also taken into consideration by
several  journalists when selecting material for publication.
The big question that news organizations face is:
What elements make content viral in the digital environment? A study by researchers García-Perdomo, Salaverría, Kilgo and Harlow explored what values and news topics receive the most social recommendations on Facebook and Twitter through sharing, liking and commenting. News values such as human interest, conflict and controversy appear to trigger both Facebook and Twitter users to share and interact with news articles. So as a PR professional, take into account that the unexpected and dramatic really does catch the attention of the social media users, since they more often share and react to those stories than other news stories concerning different values. Stories concerning soft topic news (like odd news and entertainment) in combination with hard topic news (like life/society) also do well on social media.

Spin your story

Knowing the news values mentioned above and knowing when a story increases shareability online will help to spin your story in a way that it will attract an editor or journalist. So, if you are aiming to obtain maximum news coverage, then ask yourself: ‘is this news?’ and make sure you keep the news values in mind while writing your story.


Esmee Roetman, 21 years old
Currently a student in the Master track Corporate Communication at the University of Amsterdam

Vier succesfactoren van social media campagnes in public relations.

Social media hervormt PR-praktijken
Het aantal gebruikers van social media in Nederland is ook dit jaar weer toegenomen: afgerond is 9 op de 10 Nederlanders actief op een social media platform. De groeiende populariteit van social media heeft public relations professionals aangemoedigd om tijd en geld te investeren in het opnemen van social media-elementen in hun communicatie. In public relations wordt social media gezien als snelle, goedkope en interactieve kanalen die conversatie mogelijk maken en platforms van specifieke doelgroepen bereiken. Het wordt steeds duidelijker dat social media daardoor de PR-industrie veranderen en in toenemende mate een belangrijke rol spelen bij het planning proces van bedrijven. Social media en public relations bestaan in een natuurlijke symbiose met betrekking tot engagement: de sterke overtuiging dat zowel social media als PR bestaan om relaties te bevorderen en de interactie te promoten tussen de leden van een doelgroep en het bedrijf, en onder de leden van de doelgroep.

Succesfactoren in social media campagnes
Twee collega-wetenschappers uit het Midden-Oosten, Ilhelm Allagui en Harris Breslow, onderzochten PR praktijken die een betere interactie en engagement in staat hebben gesteld bij bedrijven en hun doelgroepen als gevolg van integratie van social media als onderdeel van de campagne. Ze doen dit door bewijs te verstrekken van vier bekroonde public relations campagnes en komen tot de volgende vier conclusies:

  1. Digital storytelling
    In de kern van alle succesvolle campagnes die de auteurs bespreken zitten digital storytelling technieken en entertainment. Storytelling is een communicatiewijze waarbij gebruik wordt gemaakt van een verhaal om een boodschap meer kracht te geven. Alle vier de campagnes beginnen met een meeslepend en emotioneel verhaal dat wordt gebruikt als basis voor de ontwikkeling en productie van vermakelijke content. Digital storytelling is een belangrijk facet van een effectieve social media campagne omdat de leden van de doelgroep door het verhaal niet alleen op de hoogte van en geïnteresseerd in de campagne worden, maar ook worden betrokken bij de campagne.
  2. Content sharing
    De onderzochte campagnes bevatten social media die verschillende vormen van content sharing bevorderen onder de leden van de sociale netwerken van de doelgroep. Dit delen is fundamenteel voor de conversatie van het publiek met het merk; het merk wordt daardoor een onderdeel van het media-ecosysteem, een deel van de gemeenschap en het onderwerp van gesprek.
  3. Offline engagement
    Effectieve social media campagnes drijven doelgroepen in de richting van een bepaalde vorm van offline engagement. Offline engagement zorgt niet alleen voor iemands betrokkenheid bij de campagne wanneer men uit de buurt is van social media, maar optimaliseert ook de kans dat een campagne viral gaat over een breed spectrum van de doelgroep, en uiteindelijk publiciteit verkrijgt over een breed spectrum van de bevolking.
  4. Optimalisatie mobiele displays
    Tot slot, moet content worden geoptimaliseerd voor mobiele displays en bedieningsorganen: een cruciaal aspect van social media-inhoud ervaring. Social media wordt namelijk in toenemende mate een mobiel fenomeen; content die dit niet inziet, ongeacht het aantal platformen waarop het is gepubliceerd, zal niet gedeeld worden, en zal niet zorgen voor engagement onder de leden van de doelgroep.

Bron: Allagui, I., & Breslow, H. (2016). Social media for public relations: Lessons from four effective cases. Public Relations Review42(1), 20-30.