Confessions of a public relations practitioner: hidden life in the open plan office
AbstractThis paper is presented as a counterpoint to normative research which sets out what PR practice should be and the accounts of working life put forward by leading figures in the industry. In adopting this orientation the author draws on contemporary developments in historical biography which have seen a move away from so-called “great man” perspectives on events, to research which pays attention to “everyman” accounts, particularly the personal stories of men and women experiencing the same episodes on the “front-line”. The paper suggests that a focus on C-suite narratives in public relations research has tended to result in an arid and sanitised understanding of how PR teams work. The study argues that neglecting the voices of those who do not hold formal positions of power and authority prevents a nuanced appreciation of working life and how things get done. Episodes from his career as a PR practitioner are used by the author to illustrate this point. These personal stories are framed theoretically by Chia’s (2011) research on the efficacy of the oblique. Chia contends that traditional accounts of practice underestimate the importance of peripheral and seemingly insignificant factors which can be more influential than those designed to make a difference. Through a consideration of these insights the paper positions humour as a crucial intangible asset of PR practice, while noting it remains an unappreciated and unexplored subject of scholarly inquiry in the field. To spark academic interest, the author highlights the important role humour plays in the social interactions between PR employees, particularly in the creative process, in the maintenance of morale in uncertain working environments and as a mode of resistance. This aspect of the discussion is grounded in the literature from organisational studies which explores the role of humour in work place teams (Westwood & Rhodes, 2007).
TypeConference or Workshop Item
Willis, Paul (2015) Confessions of a public relations practitioner: hidden life in the open plan office. In: BCN Barcelona PR Meeting #5, 30 June - 1 July 2015, University of Catalonia, Barcelona. (Unpublished)