Atalia Nyx Chua 09 Mar 2023 // 7:24AM GMT
It would be easy to make the sweeping blanket statement that PR is a woman’s arena. Yet while 70% of PR executives are females, there is the possibility that women thrive in this particular industry because of skill sets that match the acute needs of a changing function.
Firstly, the demands of PR are no longer about having a presence at the back of stakeholders’ minds. Instead, deep and meaningful connections are required, which resonate with the public. Amid ‘digital media chaos’ where hyperbolic opinions and polarising information spread intensely and exponentially, the changing role of PR is to build stronger narratives that win loyalty and trust.
To manage this, for example, Pontera CMO Nicole Zheng said that PR teams can "employ stakeholder empathy mapping". After all, the overarching role of PR is to manage an organisation’s relationship and reputation with stakeholders in order to influence sentiment and effect behavioural change. In this regard, there is plenty of research to suggest that women benefit from greater sensitivity and emotional intelligence as leadership traits — particularly as effective leaders move from empathy to compassion.
When each CEO on Fortune 2017 ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ were asked the main characteristics they looked for in an employee, soft skills ranked first. In a 2016 survey by Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, women outscored males in 11 of 12 major emotional intelligence traits. Some of these were emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict resolution skills, and versatility.
Secondly, PR is about promoting and protecting the brand’s image, values, and long-term equity with stakeholders. This is both a short term and long term endeavour. Professionals who wish to excel in this domain must have the vision to perceive the larger picture and be detailed enough to map out the finer details to achieve that agenda.
This requires meticulous and adept multitasking — qualities fundamental in crafting a practical and feasible plan, as well as thoughtfully planning out specific steps and solutions.
As Cheryl Goodman, CEO of FindGood.tech, notes — PR teams need a "crafted message guide for every product, partnership, platform and policy that includes lifetime milestones and the forecasted risk of the market as well as a reality-based Q&A."
Coupled with a leadership position, where women have a bird’s eye view of the organisation's objectives and its position in the industry, female leadership can play a positive role in entrenching positive brand reputation and identity.
Lastly, one of the most crucial roles relates to crisis management and communication. At a time when economic volatility and societal turbulence are rife, crises seem to plague headlines every other day. The landscape of PR has reshaped from reactive to highly preemptive, where response time is decimated to minutes.
"Most PR teams have a crisis communications process outlined and ready to be deployed if needed," observes Nysha King, VP of marketing and communications at Healthmonix. "To be even more proactive, business units and client-partner relationships that are vulnerable to a potential crisis should be identified quarterly." In doing so, she added that specific threats can be identified early on, helping in terms of damage control and liability when problems strike.
Traditionally, women have faced far more workplace challenges than men. These include gender discrimination, pay inequity, and glass ceilings that curtail career advancement. This has built tenacity, resourcefulness, creativity, and flexibility when dealing with difficulties and finding solutions.
In crisis control, thinking quickly on one’s feet and versatility is vital. Perhaps, therefore, women can bring more perceptive and agile ideas to the table, that are more effective in tempering public uproar.