Is Public Relations gender sensitive?
Published On February 8, 2014 » 2707 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
 0 stars
Register to vote!

Public relations forumFROM the growing trends of who is studying and practicing Public Relations (PR), one wonders whether PR is gender specific, gender sensitive or depends on the nature of an organisation and the candidate who should occupy a PR position.
Whatever the case may be, PR has proved to be a highly complex and tasking function in any organisation and in any situation for many years now.
This is because PR handles issues relating to many disciplines such as communication, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, etc.
Moreover, PR stakeholders come from all walks of life with various socio-cultural, economic, political, legal and technological backgrounds. The needs, interests and expectations of PR publics from an organisation vary according to the nature of PR stakeholders.
It is from this background that PR considers communication, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, etc in any given situation in its practice.
PR demands articulation of PR-related issues at strategic management level and effective communication skills which combine good command of the official language, flair in oral and written communication and pleasant appearance.
The ability to convince PR stakeholders logically using facts and figures from a well-researched position makes one a good PR practitioner.
Does one of these dominate who should be a PR person or it is a combination of all such factors? Therefore, what calibre of a person should be spokesperson of any organisation?
Are the functions of PR gender-specific or it depend on the qualifications and personality of a person?
This article has been ignited by the trends that seem to be growing in terms of who is studying and practicing PR in this country. The purpose of this article is to facilitate analysis and debate who should be a PR practitioner in an organization, and to assess whether PR functions are gender-sensitive or not.
But before one goes into details about this week’s topic, Times of Zambia and this writer would like to apologise to our esteemed readers for not bringing Public Relations’ Forum article last Sunday.
Many readers called this writer and Times of Zambia why PR Forum article was not there last Sunday.
And Christopher Hamukali, Lusaka resident who is also a studying PR with UNZA at Ridgeway Campus said he tried to look for the PR Forum article last Sunday almost thrice in Sunday Times of Zambia; but all in vain.
And the Judiciary Public Relations Officer (PRO), Terry Musonda rang this writer and said: ‘I always buy Sunday Times of Zambia specifically to read PR Forum articles. Why didn’t you write those good articles for us to enjoy reading them?’
To all our esteemed readers, Sunday Times of Zambia and this writer say: ‘Heartfelt apologies for not publishing your much-needed and expected PR Forum article last Sunday. It was beyond our control.’ We, at Sunday Times of Zambia promise to do our best whenever possible to bring your favourite PR Forum articles every Sunday.
Of late, if one goes to any training institution that offers PR courses, one finds that there are more females than males in each PR class. Similarly, there is a growing number of females occupying PR positions in some organisations both in the public and private sectors.
This is encouraging in that firstly, it is helping to balance gender in line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gender protocol of reaching 50:50 gender balancing by 2030. Secondly, this effort further proves that both male and female were creating in God’s own image, and that they have equal capacity to contribute to family, organisational and national development processes.
But does this mean that PR is becoming more female-oriented career than ever before or does it mean that males are slowly losing interest in PR-related functions? Or is it that employers feel that females can do better PR functions that males?
As alluded to earlier on, PR in an organisation has many functions. PR functions are not limited and, therefore, restricted to Press release writing and media relations. Functions of PR include oral and written communication using various media of communication to many PR publics of different socio-cultural, political, economic and legal backgrounds at different times.
A PR practitioner is also required to be analytical and assess the needs and expectations of each group of PR publics to advise top management leaders on various actions to take to promote both mutual understanding and benefits between an organisation and its publics.
This makes a PR person to take a leading role in being pro-active in any given situation to prevent crises in an organisation. This makes a person to have high qualities of an expert prescriber and a problem-solver in any organisation at all times.
One is also supposed to be pro-active. To achieve this, one is supposed to have high levels of intelligence and analytical skills.
A PR practitioner also needs to have high managerial experience and skills.
One is supposed to be highly knowledgeable about an organisation’s products or services and operations, and how PR publics receive or perceive products, services and operations of an organisation.
A PR practitioner is a strategic planner. It is strategic planning in PR practice that attracts and enhances effective media relations.
A good PR practitioner facilitates planning of regular organisational events that attracts favourable publicity for an organisation.
A PR practitioner is also supposed to be fluent in the official language. This helps an organisation’s spokesperson to be good at public speaking and making presentations for an organisation.
It is from such a background that a PR practitioner is a chief technical advisor to top management and the chief executive officer in any organisation. Now does this require gender specification on who should be a spokesperson in an organisation?
With all such background and functions of PR, who, therefore, qualifies to do such PR-related functions between males and females?
Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to be a female or male in PR functions? What is really wanted for one to easily get a PR position in an organisation?
Generally, it takes one who can effectively combine knowledge from
PR-related disciplines and their related skills to handle PR functions effectively. Understanding an organisation’s policies, procedures, rules and regulations, in addition to its operations in relation to stakeholders’ needs, interests and expectations are critical to who is supposed to get a PR job in an organisation.
But can this lead to PR-related functions being gender specific? Or can anyone created in God’s own image execute PR-related functions with expected diligence, effectiveness and efficiency at any given situation in any organisation?
Like preaching, historically, PR has been associated with males with dotted cases of females participating in such PR-related functions in small ways possible.
The first recognised PR consultant, Ivy Ledbetter Lee was male.
He was the first PR consultant during the Anthracite Coal Mine Industrial unrest in 1906 in America.
In 1923, the first PR author, Edward Bernays was male. But Bernays worked as a PR consultant with his wife, Frescher. The first, PR trainer was male, Rex Harlow. Generally and historically, most of the people associated with PR-related functions were males.
In Zambia, males have dominated PR-related functions for some time. In fact, in our country and in the past, the age of males has also been a factor in who should be a spokesperson in an organisation. And for some time now in Zambia, the position of Press and public relations assistant to the president has always been a male.
Does this mean that males have, in the past been perceived to be the most capable persons to handle PR-related functions?
However, gradually, females have stood up to be counted in PR practice. For example, for some time now, from Brenda Muntemba, Zambia Police Service has demonstrated that even females can do good PR for an organisation. Brenda and others proved that females could be good PR practitioners.
To follow suit, some faith-based organisations such as the Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) have female spokespersons. Suzane Matale is the current CCZ spokesperson. Ms Matale speaks with confidence on issues affecting CCZ’s mission and goals.
University Teaching Hospital (UTH) had Pauline Mbangweta as PR manager for some time. But now a male, Mwenya Mulenga is the PR manager.
Ms Mbangweta demonstrated her skills to handle PR-related functions well at UTH. Her long stay there in this position proves this point.
And taking a snap survey in most organisations in our country, one also finds that a relatively increasing high number of females are favourably competing with males in occupying PR-related positions.
But is age still a factor in who should be a spokesperson of an organisation or it is gender consideration and relevant academic or professional qualifications that matter in occupying PR-related jobs?
Or are situations in our country favourable to make more females the most capable persons to manage PR-related jobs? Why? How?
How is the performance of PR functions between organisations with male PR practitioners and those with female practitioners?
(The author is a PR trainer and consultant. For comments and ideas, contact: Cell: 0967/0977 450151;

Share this post

About The Author