Tina Beaty of Porter Novelli Public Services told The Grindstone:
“Most PR pros will tell you that any mass media representation of them is far from the truth – shows like Sex & The City and The Hills might be great entertainment but they are nothing more than a fictional story. In PR the rock stars work long hours, are highly dedicated to their clients, pour over fine details, and work tirelessly to achieve communication goals that ladder up to broad business goals. Getting ahead in the intense environment of PR means women become leaders and sometimes, still today, a strong female leader is seen as bitchy or a “mean girl” but the true PR rock stars I know are fierce women who over-deliver for clients, support their teams and fellow colleagues, somehow balance work and home, and even enjoy their crazy jobs along the way.
PR is about skill, connections, and understanding the inner workings of business – the industry doesn’t have room for “mean girls” or any other stereotype that is why those images end up on the big screen because they wouldn’t last a minute in actual workplace. PR touches all brands, industries, and movements – just know that behind every good message is a team of great PR pros working collaboratively to achieve their client’s strategic goals. For the PR fakers and the “mean girls” – let’s just hope they are good at PR and remember to manage their own personal brand. In PR just like any other industry true leaders rise and everything else falls away.”
Yes, fashion publicists do often get automatically put in one box (perhaps a mean box) because it is the fashion industry itself that absolutely celebrates great design and innovation, but also outer beauty. Even though it is the publicists that are doing the behind-the-scenes tough work so everyone else can shine, they will be associated with that persona. But Janna Meyrowitz, founder and CEO of Style House Public Relations, thinks the “mean girl” persona may be changing for the fashion industry and that that reputation was a result of an older generation that felt pressured to act like Queen Bees.
In her experience she found that some of the women who had been working for PR firms in the 1990s and 2000′s were very proprietary about contracts and relationships with clients. “One thing I noticed was that those women had a lot of paranoia. They didn’t play nice with others. It was very competitive and you were often being pinned against an old boss or colleague. It was just a different way in the workforce in the 80′s and 90′s. You had to be a woman in a man’s world and now it is different,” she said. It was this kind of energy, which she thinks is quite common in other industries as well, that made Janna want to go out and start her own agency, a trend which we are seeing a lot of women under 30 do in this field. “I think my generation is doing a great job of learning how to be businesswomen and still women at the same time. We [fashion publicists] help eachother out if there is a client I can’t take, I am going to send it to my friend at another firm. I think social media plays a big part in it.”
And, again, because PR is so dominated by women, especially fashion PR, there are going to inevitably be catty labels. The field of PR is now actually 70% female (compared to back in 1987, when there were 20 females for every 80 males). Nicole Yelland, a brand manager, told The Grindstone:
“Having worked in technology, sports, music and fashion in a PR role, I can honestly say that the catty PR girls are the ones people hear about because they’re the ones who scream the loudest…and least successful at doing PR. The job of public relations is more or less one of relationship building, curation and communication. People who are described as ruthless or catty tend to burn out fast and fade away. Those who stand the test of time tend to be those who can understand the needs of business or their clients.
The example you listed in your last article about Kelly Cutrone doesn’t ring catty to me, rather a fierce business owner who refuses to back down and will likely be around for a long time to come. The job is tough and at times can be tiring but so are hundreds of other jobs – I’ll bet of physicians had more time between painfully long shifts and actual life or death situations to pitch ourselves as a “stressed out professional” they’d rank higher on those surveys. When it comes down to it there’s no room for catty, whiny professionals in today’s demanding economic climate. There’s only room for people to go in, work hard and get the results their businesses need.”