When entertainment skews reality and falsifies the rational perceptions of the real world, Houston, we have a problem.
That is what television’s portrayal of women in public relations is to today’s up-and-coming young women.
I would know I’m one of them.
From PoweR Girls to SPINdustry, The Hills to Kell on Earth there is a irrational storm brewing that the public relations world has been ignoring for far too long: the entertainment industry tossing the profession a bone, by including it in their novelties but at the cost of reinforcing gender stereotypes, ridiculous expectations and creating a desire within the young women of Generation-Y that cannot be met.
In watching these shows without any prior knowledge of what it means to be a true public relations practitioner, it can easily be said that all public relations people are glorified event planners, sharks (or man eaters – take your pick,) probably blond, young, certainly white and mostly work in industries like fashion and entertainment. Period.
However, in reality, that’s not the case.
In fact, that is only a very small percentage of the industry, yet, it accounts for a large percent of its representation. That and fictional characters like Samantha Jones from Sex & the City and Shauna Roberts from Entourage reinforce the problem tenfold.
In a recent article by Dionne C. Clemons on the Public Relations Society of America’s Diversity column she pointed out that many of her students walk into her Introduction to Public Relations university course under the presumption that they want to be the next Lizzie Grubman.
I’m sorry, what?!
These girls, who are more or less my age, want to grow up to be silicone lip-injecting-crack-w*ores living on daddy’s money?
Okay, that was harsh. I take it backâ€¦mostly.
The day someone comes to me and says they want to be the next Jonathan Cheban, is the day I officially write a letter to the Universal Accreditation Board (who issues the APR) as well as the Public Relations Society of America and title it, WTF Are You Doing? Protect the Brand, Damn It!
Okay, that too, was harsh.
But I donâ€™t take it back because these minority groups of the industry leading the way, pummeling through all that is vast, wide and far-reaching will inevitably downgrade the importance of my degree and YOURS.
It’ll be a frigid day in hell freezing over, before I stop advocating for our industry to take responsibility for itself and its image.
After all, that is what other people pay us to do.
So one must forgive me because I have a hard time understanding why what comes so naturally and easily for our industry to do for others, we cannot do for ourselves. And for those of us that do — we are in segmented bubbles, far and few in between.
Not taking hold of the superficial will undermine the transparency, accountability and responsibility we try to impart into our campaigns for our clients.
But most of all, it will undermine us, the professionals themselves.
Us â€“ who toil away to enable our clients to try to walk on water, we who believe in relationships and growth, we, the people, whoâ€¦
Well, YOU get it, do you not?
As Gini Dietrich puts it out there, spin sucks. And the stereotypical portrayal of public relations women on television and in movies is spinning all of us into these images that hardly encompass what we do.
It’s truly sad when your family thinks you are a party planner, or that you really are Emily Charlton from The Devil Wears Prada because they cannot grasp what it is you really do (no matter how many times you explain it) thanks to television.
At some point you just start calling it advertising because almost everyone knows what that is.
Nothing is wrong with being an entertainment publicist, nothing is wrong with working in investor relations and nothing is wrong with being another side to the same prism of public relations, a field we have a passion for.
But, in order to grow as an industry, we have to MANAGE our relationships with those who are not in public relations.
Awareness must be raised outside the classroom before the students set foot inside the door.
Sasha Muradali runs the Little Pink Book. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (â€™07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami (â€™08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima or get a copy of the Little Pink Book delivered to your Kindle.