Wednesday 09 November 2016 – Lunchtime seminar with Liz Bridgen (PR, SHU)

Image of Liz Bridgen, PR, SHU

Liz Bridgen, PR, SHU

Speaker: Liz Bridgen (Public Relations, SHU)
Title: PR as dirty work

My research explores the lived experience of people working in public relations and the impact that technology has on their lives, with a particular focus on gender and diversity. My work has been published in Journal of Media Practice and PRism and I have delivered refereed papers at conferences run by EUPRERA (the European Public Relations Education and Research Association) and MeCCSA (the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association) as well as at the International Public Relations Research Conference in Miami, Florida, BledCom in Slovenia and the BCN Public Relations conference, Barcelona. I am currently editing a book Experiencing Public Relations: International Voices with Dr. Dejan Verčič of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia which will be published in late 2017.

This paper examines whether the practice of public relations could be analysed through the prism of the sociological concept of ‘dirty work.’ It uses UK and international news articles in the UK edition of the international public relations trade magazine PR Week to understand how public relations is viewed by those writing about the occupation and it asks whether the self-view of the industry that is presented in PR Week is at odds with the desire by industry bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations to be recognised as belonging to a ‘profession.’

‘Dirty Work’ refers to occupations which are likely to be perceived of as dirty or degrading, which are of dubious virtue, or which use deceptive, intrusive or confrontational methods. Those jobs which academic literature has considered under the heading of ‘dirty work’ include professional roles such as those held by funeral directors and gynaecological nurses, career occupations which require special training (such as police work) and manual work such as grave digging and refuse collecting.

‘Dirty work’ has been divided into four categories. Firstly, it is work which can be seen as having a physical taint, where workers deal directly with death, effluent and dirt. Secondly, it is work with a social taint and involves direct contact with stigmatised or ‘dirty’ others – thus, this category can include prison guards, police officers and gynaecological nurses. Thirdly, and of relevance to this paper, is the concept of moral taint. This categorises ‘dirty work’ as that which is of sinful or dubious virtue and which uses deceptive, intrusive or confrontational methods – past writing has considered debt collectors, casino managers and police interrogators in this category. Likewise, the fourth category, emotional dirty work, could also have resonance with public relations practice. Occupations in this space include those where the work and those who carry it out are ‘spoiled, blemished, devalued, or flawed to various degrees’ as a consequence of the stigma that arises from their work or the people who they have to deal with in their line of work. This category is applicable to many ‘emotion laden’ occupations including flight attendants, doctors’ receptionists and erotic dancers.

The research suggested that public relations is viewed by those who write about it as moral dirty work and argues that while the industry still sees itself in terms of its ‘dirty’ problems, it is a long way from generating any external – or industry-wide – support for the notion of its ‘professional, status.

1.00PM – 2.00PM

See here for details of other seminars in the series.

All SHU staff and students are welcome to attend the C3RI Lunchtime Research Seminars. If you are from outside of the University and would like to attend a seminar, please email C3RI Administrator to arrange entry.