Fluffy PR and ‘comms girls’: banter, social interactions
and the office culture in public relations in England
This new paper by Martina Topić is the first one from the second stage of the EUPRERA project Women in PR. Published in the International Journal of Organizational Analysis, it aims to explore social interactions, banter and the office culture in the public relations (PR) industry in England with the use of the difference approach and Bourdieu’s habitus theory. The paper explores whether PR organisations act as masculine habitus.
Findings show that two main themes dominate in responses from interviewees, “de-patriarchalisation” of PR with no personal appearance requirements and no business exclusions because of gender, and “gendered organisations” where interviewees reported dismissive stereotypes of women who work in PR, networking as a job requirement and differences between male-dominated and female-dominated offices, which includes differences between social interactions and banter among men and women.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 26 women practitioners, and thematic analysis was used to analyse data. Women were asked questions on social interactions, banter and the office culture, as well as questions on exclusion, from business decisions and having to work harder to succeed.
Results indicate that women feel there are differences in social interactions and banter between men and women. Interviewees also report masculine domination as and harmful stereotypes of public PR professionals, most of whom are women. Organisations who have PR departments, as well as those who hire PR agencies to do the work externally, should design policies on the office culture to ensure equality and respectful work environment for everyone.
In line with the difference approach, women report differences in social interactions and banter between them and men, thus signalling that social differences influence the office culture and work interactions, which tend to be gendered. Findings also indicate that organisations are functioning as a masculine world where women struggle to fit in and obtain recognition. Consciousness-raising is needed in the industry because many women do not recognise oppression in the form of social interactions, and its effect on the position of women or the fact that the most feminized industry is being trivialised by the men on top.
To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first paper analysing interactions in PR offices using the difference approach and Bourdieu’s habitus theory.