The Stories of Women Public Relations Campaign Planners
Revealed Through Feminist Theory
and Feminist Scholarship
This study explores whether women campaign planners utilize
two-way symmetrical communication in planning public relations campaigns. Their
stories are told through in-depth interviews. Few of these women's voices have
been heard before, but they deserve attention now due to the increasing number
of women entering the field. Findings reveal that the women use one-way
communication and little research, but employ collaboration and ethical
principles. They also express desire for change in responsibilities.
Women Campaign Planners
1996 AEJMC PR Division Call for Papers
Although many studies have been conducted on public relations
campaigns, little has been done on the role of campaign planners themselves. In
particular, the work of women campaign planners deserves scholarly attention
because women comprise more than half of the public relations profession today
(Creedon, 1993) and their voices need to be heard. In addition, concern over
"feminization" of the field (Toth & L.A. Grunig, 1993) creates a need to
reevaluate the structures in which women campaign planners work.
The prevailing public relations campaign models seem to neglect
women's experiences in campaigns. One reason for this, according to Rakow
(1989b), is that men ultimately define the structure of campaigns through their
wish to control the production of information. Common practices in campaign
planning reflect a masculine design that does not attempt to change the
organization, but rather concentrates on one-way goals (Rakow, 1989b). Rakow
(1989b) stated, "Men have put themselves in the position to produce the forms of
thought and symbols that express and order the world we live in, depriving women
of participation in creating the general currency of thought" (p. 166).
In contrast to this, feminist theory asserts that a feminist model
for campaigns would reflect the two-way model of communication. The two-way
model of communication, developed by J.E. Grunig and Hunt (1984) and later
revised by Dozier (1995), has been shown to be important for effective public
relations. The two-way model consists of a negotiating process between
symmetrical and asymmetrical communication (Dozier, 1995).
The purpose of the current study was to explore whether women
campaign planners use feminist campaign models characterized by the two-way
model of communication. By listening to their stories, we might discover how
they conduct these campaigns, what outcomes do they achieve and what sacrifices
do they incur. The women might be reconciling the feminist principles that
encourage two-way communication in order to work within a patriarchal structure,
or they might overcome conflicts by ignoring the patriarchal paradigm.
The current study utilized radical feminist theory, which has
contributed to communication research over the past few years (Dervin, 1987;
Fine, 1988; Foss & Foss, 1988; Rakow, 1987; Steeves, 1988; Treichler & Wartella,
1986). Radical feminism proposes changes in the structures and systems that are
developed and perpetuated by a patriarchal society (Rakow, 1989a, 1989b). These
systems, which include media industries and information production, have
traditionally devalued women and women's work, and have denied women their own
voice (Creedon, 1991; L.A. Grunig, 1995; Hon, 1995, Rakow, 1989a, 1989b; Toth,
1989). In order for women to attain "voice," the prevailing systems governing
communication in our society need to be changed (Hon, 1995).
Due to the lack of research on women working in public relations
campaigns, this study was exploratory in nature, and utilized the qualitative
research method of in-depth interviewing. It sought to follow Toth and Cline's
(1991) suggestion that future research should seek beliefs and interpretations
of meaning "by listening to individuals more fully than our questions permitted"
(p. 174). In addition, Hon, L.A. Grunig and Dozier (1992) argued that because
women outnumber men in public relations classrooms and practice, "a logical, if
not moral, mandate suggests that research and discussion about women be carried
out in a way that benefits women and thus, public relations" (p. 430).
The findings of the current study should add to the body of knowledge
in two ways. First, in exploring the neglected experiences of women campaign
planners, the study offered voice to a group of practitioners that had largely
been ignored. Second, the findings uncovered factors that might help develop a
"re-visioned" (Creedon, 1993b) theory for public relations campaigns that
reflects a feminist paradigm.
Theory and Literature Review
Public Relations Campaigns
There have been several definitions and models for campaigns. Rogers
and Storey (1987) defined communications campaigns as purposive, communication
efforts planned for a certain time limit, usually with the goal of persuading or
influencing selected audiences. Many studies seem to incorporate this by
focusing on attitude and behavior change, message impact, and evaluation
(Anderson, 1995; Anderson, 1989; Fischer, 1995; Flora, Maccoby, & Farquhar,
1989; Rice & Atkin, 1989; Viswanath, Kahn, Finnegan, Jr., Hertog, & Potter,
1993; Witte, Stokols, Ituarte, & Schneider, 1993). For example, Anderson (1995)
examined the effectiveness of public service announcements on self-efficacy
beliefs. Viswanath, et al., (1993) studied audience motivation, level of
education, and the effectiveness of a cancer risk reduction campaign. Fischer
(1995) tested an innovative evaluation method on two county-wide information
Kendall (1992) defined public relations campaigns differently than
Rogers and Storey (1987), by including the goal of building mutually beneficial
relationships with publics (p. 4). Such an emphasis reflects Grunig and Hunt's
(1984) two-way symmetrical model and a feminist model of communication (J.E.
Grunig & L.A. Grunig, 1992; Rakow, 1989a), in that both stress collaboration and
ethics. Two-way communication is both symmetrical and asymmetrical (Dozier,
1995; J.E. Grunig & Hunt, 1984). It involves research, feedback from publics,
collaboration and dialogue between publics and organizations. At times,
organizations use persuasive methods to convince publics, but at other times,
organizations consider the publics' viewpoints and change accordingly (Dozier,
1995; J.E. Grunig & L.A. Grunig, 1992). Today's campaign structure, however,
is based only on one-way communication. In fact, J.E. Grunig and L.A. Grunig
(1992) found that most public relations work reflects one-way communication. In
addition, few studies were found that examined two-way communication in
campaigns (Gaudino, Fritsch, & Haynes, 1989).
No feminist study was found that focused on campaign planners. To
date, most of the literature found on campaigns has measured gender only as a
descriptive characteristic, if at all. For example, Olasky (1987) presented a
case study of an abortion rights campaign but made little attempt to consider
gender as an influence. Rosser, Flora, Chaffee, and Farquhar (1990) did look at
gender differences in audiences, finding that women tended to learn more about
health from a heart-health campaign than men. However, they mentioned this only
by stating that socialization affects gender and other demographic traits (p.
Two critiques were found that discussed the challenges for women
involved in campaigns (Rakow, 1989b; Spender, 1985). Rakow (1989b) stated that
information is constructed by men, and that campaigns are the conduit for such
information. Men create power by maintaining one-way channels: persuasion is a
predominant goal because it offers the "sender" power over the "receiver"
(Rakow, 1989b). Rakow (1989b) argued, "Our cultural preoccupation with
persuasion reflects a conquest mentality that justifies the "violence" of
strategies to change others, reflecting a larger, cultural -- masculine --
propensity to dominate and conquer" (p. 169).
Feminist Scholarship in Public Relations
There have been some significant contributions to feminist
scholarship in public relations and mass communications (Creedon, 1993b; Dervin,
1987; Rakow, 1988; Rakow, 1989b; Rakow & Kranich, 1991; Spitzack & Carter, 1987;
Steeves, 1987; Treichler and Wartella, 1986). Gender issues have been analyzed
in salaries, roles, research agendas, discrimination and excellence in public
relations (Cline & Toth, 1993; Creedon, 1991, 1993a, 1993b; L.A. Grunig, 1988,
1991, 1995a, 1995b; J.E. Grunig & L.A. Grunig, 1992; Hon, 1995; Toth, 1988,
1989a, 1989b; Toth & Cline, 1991; Toth & L.A. Grunig, 1993). For example, in
looking at roles theory, Creedon (1991) found that women tended to be
technicians rather than managers. Toth and L.A. Grunig (1993) argued that women
often play dual roles of both technician and manager, "doing it all" but for
less money (p. 168). These researchers claimed that hierarchy and power, which
have delineated manager and technician roles, are masculine prescriptives for a
system that leaves women and minorities at the bottom (Creedon, 1991; Hon, 1995;
Toth & L.A. Grunig, 1993).
Some communications research has studied women on their own terms,
without judging them against a male norm (Creedon, 1993a; Creedon, Al-Khaja and
Kruckeberg, 1995; L.A. Grunig, 1995a; Hon, 1995; Kucera, 1994). One recent
study built the framework for a feminist theory of public relations (Hon, 1995),
and considered women to be effective communicators who were valuable to the
field. However, according to L.A. Grunig's (1995b) analysis of feminist
research over the last several years, most public relations research still
reflects a male viewpoint.
Feminist theories "understand the origins and continuing nature of
women's nearly universal devaluation in society" (Steeves, 1987, p. 96). One
feminist theory is liberal feminism, which calls for equality through
assimilation of women into the current systems (Steeves, 1987). Radical
feminism goes further, in arguing that assimilation is not enough because it
does not attack the patriarchy that caused problems in the first place (Krepps,
1973, cited in Kucera, 1994). Rakow (1989a) stated that adding an equal number
of women will not help women's position if work is still within a male-dominated
society. She claimed that the very structures within society that devalue women
and perpetuate the status quo need to be changed.
The status quo is defined by a prevailing male perspective. Reskin
(1991) stated that "dominant groups remain privileged because they write the
rules, and the rules they write enable them to continue to write the rules" (p.
141, cited in Kucera, 1994). Sherwin (1988) agreed with this premise, in
arguing that what has been claimed as objective and universal is in reality the
male point of view (p. 19).
"Gendered" characteristics have developed out of the status quo.
Competition, individualism and power are ascribed to males, and nurturance,
cooperation and emotionality are ascribed to females (Hon, 1995; Rakow, 1989b).
According to Rakow (1989b), however, these "feminine" characteristics are not
inherently biological -- women are not naturally cooperative or nurturing.
Rakow (1989b) asserted that "these values have traditionally in this culture
been assigned to white women and have been associated with them. We should not
be surprised, then, when many white women actually hold these values and
practice them" (p. 293).
Feminist scholars focus their efforts on changing the traditional,
research paradigm of social science (Fine, 1988; Foss & Foss, 1988; L.A. Grunig,
1988; Rakow, 1987; Sherwin, 1988; Steeves, 1988). Prevailing research methods
seek to objectify subjective experiences, offer little consideration of
individuals and often use data generalized from males to both males and females,
ignoring the experiences of women (Dervin, 1987; Roberts, 1981; Tetreault, 1985;
Toth & L.A. Grunig, 1993). This "normal" research, believed to reflect
patriarchal society, searches for primary causes and focuses on parts instead of
wholes (Dervin, 1987). Feminist research, on the hand, includes a
nonpositivist, nonlinear approach, a rejection of objectivity, and an acceptance
of diverse forms of data (Dervin, 1987; Fine, 1988). Dervin (1987) stated, "How
can you give voice to those who have been silent for centuries except by
inventing new options?" (p. 109).
Foss and Foss (1988) offered three ways that feminist scholars can
challenge established research systems: 1) Consider women's perceptions and
experiences -- focus on interdependence, emotionality, wholeness and the
process; 2) Seek to change the rules of construction of knowledge so they
incorporate women's values; and 3) Seek to discover how gender construction
denigrates women and attempt to change it (p. 9).
One research model that emphasizes women's voices is Tetreault's
(1985) feminist phase theory, which categorizes stages of research on women.
The first phase is male scholarship, and assumes that male experience is
universal. The second phase, compensatory scholarship, reveals a consciousness
that women are missing, but men are still perceived as the "paradigmatic human
being" (Tetreault, 1985, p. 367). The third phase is bifocal scholarship, which
is characterized by the conceptualization of women and men as different but
equal. The fourth phase is feminist scholarship, and emphasizes women's
activities on their own. Women's everyday lives are investigated, and women are
compared to other women rather than to men. Tetreault (1985) stated,
"Individual women's experiences...contribute to the fashioning of the human
experience from the perspective of women" (p. 375). Public relations campaigns
research should attempt to approach Tetreault's fourth stage because the
increasing number of women in public relations has created a need for studying
the value of women's experiences. This does not mean that research at the
third, bifocal phase has no value. In some fields, feminist research is only
beginning to be accepted, and stark comparisons to men are needed as a base from
which scholarship can build. However, re-visioning public relations models will
only begin by giving an independent voice to women.
In feminist scholarship, allowing women "voice" is a central tenet.
Steeves (1987) argued that women have been made to stay silent by men
controlling and producing language forms and meanings. As self-appointed
proprietors of language, men have been able to structure a world that is
amenable to their experiences and outlooks (Rakow, 1986).
However, this status is slowly changing (Dervin, 1987; Wood & Cox,
1993). Rakow (1986) claimed, "A growing appreciation for women's lived
experiences, values and contributions has led to more research that recovers
women's words and their alternate meanings that value women's talk" (p. 17).
Dervin (1987) argued that the field of communication should focus on the
fundamental concern of giving women voice "so we may hear their reality" (p.
112). This focus is especially important in an area such as public relations
campaigns, where, for example, the experiences of women campaign planners have
not been examined in depth.
Based on the exploratory, qualitative nature of this study, these
research questions were posed:
RQ1: How do women campaign planners develop campaigns within a
masculine model characterized by such elements as one-way communication?
RQ2: Are women campaign planners attempting to utilize a feminist
model of campaigns characterized by two-way communication?
RQ3: When given their own voice, what do women campaign planners say
about how campaigns should be developed?
The research methodology employed by the current study embodied
Tetreault's (1985) feminist scholarship, where women were not compared to men,
but rather spoke for themselves. Results focused on feelings and personal
experiences, which are valid for feminist scholarship (Dervin, 1987; Fine,
An inductive approach was utilized, where collected data might
enhance a feminist theory of public relations. Through the women's stories,
factors were identified that might be used in re-visioning campaign planning.
Research Technique and Protocol
To operationalize information campaigns, the participants in the
study were asked to define the concept and describe their responsibilities in
campaign development. How the women planned campaigns and what they considered
important marked the definition.
The qualitative method of in-depth interviewing utilized in this
study is favored in feminist research because it develops a relationship between
the respondents and the interviewer (L.A. Grunig, 1995a; Steeves, 1987). The
instrument used for the interviews was an open-ended protocol of ten broad
question areas rather than a structured questionnaire (see Appendix A).
Respondents were women campaign planners who have worked in the field
for over ten years, and who held manager positions. The type of organization
where the women worked was not a factor in selection of respondents, since it
has been argued that corporations, non-profit organizations and public relations
agencies are all part of a larger, patriarchal society that employs the same
system of information and communication channels (Rakow, 1989a). It was,
however, noted whether respondents felt that their organizations practiced
two-way communication or supported a participative organizational culture.
The selection of respondents was a "snowball" sample, where the women
recommended other professionals in the field to participate. The first
respondent interviewed was recommended by a female professor. Five women were
asked to participate in the study, and the same five agreed to be interviewed.
The interviews, though small in number, were lengthy in time,
achieving depth and richness of information from the participants. This depth
is a desired goal in both qualitative research and feminist scholarship, because
it allows for the respondents' voices to speak for themselves. It offers
details in how women plan campaigns and how they utilize models of
communication. Generalizability, often a goal in traditional, quantitative
research, was not attempted here, because surface descriptives of women campaign
planners would not be helpful in answering the research questions or solving the
challenges in today's campaign planning.
Pretesting the interviewing instrument on two female graduate
students who have had experience planning campaigns allowed for modifications in
the order and wording of questions. After pretesting, interviews were arranged,
with the respondents selecting the locations. All the interviews were tape
recorded and conducted in person, each one taking approximately one hour.
After completing all the interviews, data analysis began, with
transcriptions of all interview tapes. The transcribed text was grouped by both
patterns of general consensus and unique stories or opinions. The women's
voices were retained as much as possible by using many direct quotations in
reporting the results. In addition, the respondents were sent a copy of the
results and given the opportunity to comment and offer suggestions.
Four of the women work in a mid-sized city and one works in a large
city. Each woman has at least 15 years of experience in public relations and
holds a director or manager position. One works in an agency, while the others
work at either non-profit organizations or academic institutions.
The findings presented here reflect participants' perceptions and not
the researcher's. Whether respondents' beliefs are supported by other research
or by the researcher is not relevant to this section; according to Hon (1995),
these women's experiences are valuable in their own right.
Each interview was unique, and the women did not reveal striking
similarities in personalities. However, some patterns did emerge when responses
were grouped according to the Research Questions.
Research Question 1: How do women campaign planners develop campaigns
within a masculine model characterized by such elements as one-way
The participants develop campaigns by relying on one-way
communication and media relations to pursue goals of "moving" target audiences.
They conduct some prior planning and informal research, but lack time and money
to do as much as they would like. For various aspects of campaigns -- from
definitions to planning, decision-making, audiences, evaluation and
implementation -- the participants included traditional, media-oriented
activities or marketing.
In addition, the women said they often develop campaigns with
limitations set by decision-makers, supervisors or clients. Most of the
participants stated that they do not often initiate campaigns, though they are
asked to implement them.
Participants had difficulty defining campaigns in one sentence,
because the campaigns they implement vary a great deal. One participant said
that a campaign can be very informal -- "It can be three people sitting around a
table and saying I'll do this, I'll do that," -- or very formal.
All the women's definitions included objectives. Other concepts
mentioned were time-specificity, "moving" an audience, using media and
"marketing." One participant defined a campaign as "where you want to move an
audience, or public, whatever you would define that to be, to some kind of
response, using mass and niche media and everything in between, everything but
Participants said they do not often run campaigns similar to the
definitions they gave. One participant noted, "What we do does not always fit a
campaign." Another said, "Ideally, that's the textbook way, and a lot of times
it doesn't work that way."
All the participants claimed that it is important to plan or try to
plan. The words "design" and "strategy" were used synonymously with "plan."
One woman stated, "We do have a long range plan and we usually do have a public
information plan for the year." She also said that her "administration" tells
her what "they hope to accomplish," and "this is usually sort of negotiated, and
from that I'm frequently asked to put together a plan." The one woman who works
for an agency said that her firm always plans for client campaigns.
However, planning often consists of a "seat-of-the-pants" approach, a
term used by two participants. One woman remarked, "My planning is like getting
in the middle of a stream with a really strong current." Some said plans are in
their heads, but they considered this equivalent to a written plan. One woman's
days were "constant checking, list making, negotiation with vendors. I'm an
obsessive organizer." Another woman explained, "Drop everything, stop
everything, this is an emergency, put out that fire. That's the way it seems to
work for me."
Although the women hold director positions, they do not have final
approval for their campaign plans. They said their campaign plans and materials
are approved or "reviewed" by at least one supervisor or client before
implementation. Some of the women didn't mind this, while others complained
One participant noted that her reporting mechanisms are "weird"
because she reports to two supervisors. She explained how this situation
We just had a consulting firm come in over the summer and they
recommended that I shouldn't report to the CFO that I should report to the
COO and we all agreed, but we're not going to change it. I work with both of
them, and I tell both of them everything I do anyhow, so they didn't feel as
though there was any burning desire to literally move me from one to the
The participant didn't "mind" the reporting structure, however,
because "they're both nice women" and because previous reporting procedures were
Campaign audiences vary by situation. Audiences mentioned included
physicians, employees or staff, patients, alumni, consumers, students, faculty,
donors, and the "general public."
Little interaction and dialogue occurs between the campaign planners
and target audiences. Phrases that described the amount of personal interaction
with audiences included: "Some more than others," "Not all that much, more
indirectly," and, "The ultimate audience? Not even close." When informal
dialogue does occur, it is usually through coincidental meetings, "mall
intercepts," at "a cocktail party," or by walking around and asking questions of
employees. One woman said, "I think it's really important to touch and feel the
person who's going to buy the product." She agreed that it is not always
possible, but she always tries.
Little formal research is conducted by participants, with the
exception of the woman from the agency. The other participants conduct informal
methods. One woman commented, "A lot of it is just oral." Another participant
stated, "We just finished our...campaign, and one of the nurses said, 'Geez, it
would be really nice if we did an evaluation,' and I thought it was a good idea,
but we never got to do it." Another described research conducted at her
organization as "anecdotal."
Examples of research included clipping files, "paying attention," "x
number of reporters were there, you get a note from the person heading up the
event saying thank you," and, "you can feel if there's a resonance." One
participant did discuss a survey that measured interest in a program. Another
said her organization did a count of how many flu shots were given to people
during their flu shot campaign.
Research on audience needs is not usually the source for campaign
ideas. Instead, campaign ideas are either suggested by upper-level management
or clients, or were successfully done in the past. For example, one participant
said that an idea came from a supervisor who had discovered that similar
organizations were doing the campaign. Another participant said that the nature
of her organization allows for others on staff to decide what services they
would like promoted. She noted, "So that's beyond our area of control. The
weather is beyond our area of control."
The woman who works at an agency has more opportunity to conduct
research, though she did mention this it is often cut if budget is limited. She
remarked, "I would never start a project without doing research." She listed a
variety of research techniques, such as "primary data," focus groups and
Although participants agreed that more formal evaluation is desired,
they also agreed that there is little time or budget for it. "You just don't
have time to do formal evaluation." Another woman said, "Some things are really
hard to monitor," and "A lot of what we do is difficult to evaluate." One
participant remarked, "The best evaluation is years of experience, comparing
what you put in and what you can see you got out, compared to other things that
you worked on."
The women's campaigns range from large, unique campaigns to weekly,
media efforts, including a successful flu shot campaign, a recruitment campaign,
a consumer marketing campaign, and an educational program.
Some participants described implementation as "publicity" and "press
relations." One participant relies on marketing, due to the types of clients
and campaigns she manages. Another participant commented, "A lot of it crosses
over between public relations and marketing. I really see my job blended."
Media coverage is a measure of success for many participants. Their
activities include calendar listings, news releases, radio spots, and "cable
calls." One woman noted, "From my perspective, the real important part is the
air time." She described one of her successes: "We had three TV stations, two
radios, three newspapers and a color photo on the front page of the Herald,
which was really good."
Limitations or Barriers
There are limitations that participants work around in order to
accomplish effective campaigns. All the participants talked about the lack of
money, staff and time. One woman said, "Everything is always done on a
However, the "hardest" or "worst" barrier mentioned by some of the
campaign planners is "internal politics," "hidden agendas," or lack of autonomy.
A couple of women discussed how they deal with supervisors who get involved in
campaigns, but who do not have any experience. One woman talked about a new
policy that was enacted without her input, but she was asked to plan the
promotional campaign. She discovered that the policy was inaccurate and had to
tell her supervisor. "Those are the hardest things to do...telling bad news to
somebody who doesn't really want to hear it." She explained, "The most
difficult part is that very often our own administration will have a
preconceived notion of some aspect of the campaign and they would do what I call
fall in love with your own idea."
Another women noted, "The getting there could be a lot more fun if
you didn't have the politics." She added that in the end, however, "the right
thing is done and people are happy, I'd say 90-something percent of the time."
One participant told a story about supervisors who decided on a
campaign idea, and then told her to "take care of it." She remarked, "I
couldn't get anybody's attention who really cared." A supervisor's wife got
involved, and "at the last moment...it was like 'don't screw up.'" The
respondent described the wife's contributions, "I wouldn't have thought of
gluing little doo-dads on the tables...I wouldn't have run all over the city
looking for accent squares on the tablecloths." When asked if these additions
were important, the respondent said yes -- it assisted with internal
morale-building for the staff who attended the event.
Research Question 2: Are women campaign planners attempting to
utilize a feminist model of campaigns characterized by two-way communication?
The evidence did not support a strong use of two-way communication,
although some similar, feminist characteristics were apparent. For example,
participants said they value teamwork, collaboration, ethics and flexibility.
There are no clear examples of two-way communication in practice.
The women's organizations do not change to meet audience needs, and there is
little research or dialogue with primary publics. However, a couple of women
said that staff is slowly learning about the value of public relations. One
woman said that "front-line staff" is becoming more "attuned," that they are
understanding they are "all a part of it." Another woman described the
education process as an "ongoing campaign in the organization that never ends
whatever campaign you're working on." One participant noted, "If you make a
good case for something, the clients will listen to you."
Compromise was discussed with regards to media. One participant said
her "boss" once changed his schedule so that he could meet with media. Another
participant said it's a "balancing" between the media and the institution, but
argued that "the needs of the institution are always going to win out."
Teamwork Within the Organization
Participants said they often work in teams with other staff members
on campaign planning and development. Many of them used the term "we" when
describing their work on campaigns. One said of her assistant, "We've worked
together for over ten years, so we're really a pair." Another explained, "we
will sit around a table and five of us will talk about all these wonderful
things we should be doing. Then we'll put it down on paper and each person's
responsible for something else." She said that this is different from the past,
when "you had a lot of separate fiefdoms that interacted on occasion when
One participant noted that although her teamwork experience has been
positive, she thinks total teamwork is a "slight bit overboard." She explained,
"I also think it is really important to let people do their own thing, to bring
their own strengths to the picture. Let's do our jobs, let's come back
together...but we don't live, eat, sleep, dream together in order to get the
Collaboration with Other Organizations
Cooperative publicity was mentioned, where some respondents said they
join other organizations to promote a campaign. One participant described a
program where "they are doing it to build audiences, we're doing it to show our
wares to people." Another woman said, "I think you see a lot of it shared all
across the system, all across the country, people share ideas..."
All participants mentioned honesty, accuracy and ethics as the most
important principle they abide by in any campaign. One woman mentioned the PRSA
Code of Ethics as her guide. Another participant expressed concern for what she
thinks is an increasing trend to "manipulate and be asked to manipulate."
Other values important to the participants included "trying to meet
your client's needs," and to "counsel" to the best of their abilities. In
discussing competitiveness for media, another participant used the terms "piggy"
and "grabby" as behaviors she avoids. She said, "I'm more than happy to have
Because plans often change due to circumstances out of their control,
flexibility is important for campaign development. One women said, "I don't
know how you could have possibly dealt with this thing if you were rigid."
Another participant explained, "It's important for people to understand that you
need to do a broad mix of things in a campaign -- something will work, something
Research Question 3: When given their own voice, what do women
campaign planners say about how campaigns should be developed?
For campaigns to be developed effectively, all the women said they
need more allotted resources and more respect or autonomy. Most of the
respondents added that campaigns should be developed with shared or
Participants agreed that their campaigns would be more effective if
they had more money and time. One woman answered, "I would do ads in the paper,
because it really turns people out." Another said, "I would have hired someone
to do the whole deal..." A third wants time to train staff in media relations.
Most of the participants said their campaigns would be better if they
had more control and decision-making power. One participant said, "I would like
somebody to tell me what they want to accomplish, and leave it to me to put
together the plan that I know would work based on the fact that I have the
education, training and the track record to do that."
Although participants plan and orchestrate activities, most of the
women said they do not initiate campaigns. For example, one woman said her
supervisors usually tell her what the event will be. Another woman said that
several staff members decide what programs they want in their individual
settings and she carries out the plans. She related one story where someone had
applied for a grant to produce bumper stickers for people who can't read: "I
said I think we should do radio spots for people who can hear but can't read.
They overrode everything I said." The person received the grant, and then
turned to the respondent to derive a message to print on the bumper stickers.
"I was beside myself," the participant recalled, "My kids were little then, and
I was crabby at the dinner table and my son who was probably nine at the time
said, how about, 'If you can't read this, honk.'"
Some of the women described campaigns they were proud of because they
had control, "credibility" and "respect." One participant said, "I actually got
my hands on a concept of a real plan from scratch, it felt like I had some
ownership." She said she became "intimately involved" with the project.
Another participant said, "On one project I work on, I coordinate all the
aspects pretty much. I have control over that...I choose the topic...and I know
what I want out of it. I want a good quality speaker, I want good media
coverage and I want a good audience for this event."
Shared or Participative Planning
Most of the participants agreed that campaigns should be developed
without personal interests getting in the way, without "hidden agendas." More
gains would be made in their work if conflict would be reduced. It "could make
life easier for some," and allow for flexibility. One woman said that if she
could get rid of the politics, she would "do it a lot faster, and spend a lot
less time gnashing my teeth."
One woman expressed her desire for "all parts to work together." She
argued, "We can't have ourselves isolated...Why are we fighting with each other?
It affects the public relations because so much has an internal focus, like an
ingrown toenail rather than a united front. It's very troubling to me and I
hope its turning around."
Additional Findings Not Related to Research Questions
There are additional patterns that emerged that do not directly
address the research questions. These findings are relevant not only for the
purpose of this study, but also for the women who considered them important
enough to discuss.
Most participants do more than campaign development and execution.
Some complete mailings and photocopying. One woman remarked, "I found that I
didn't really have a lot of help so I wound up doing a lot of the practical work
myself, like literally stuffing the kits, putting the bags together and
Another woman said that she does not want managerial responsibilities
though she is director. She remarked, "I don't want to have to sign people's
time sheets." She enjoys creative work and wants to continue writing, producing
public service announcements and "going on the air." Another participant
described the times she is part of the management team as "doing stuff I think
is beyond what is really considered public relations." She mentioned that her
management responsibilities "take me away from what I see is the promotion
aspect of what needs to be done."
Another woman acts as "ghost writer" for a supervisor, though people
in her office do not know this. She did not complain, except to say that she
has to complete many other activities simultaneously.
A couple of participants said they are facilitators. One woman
stated, "You have to be the kind of person people can come up to and say it took
me so long to do this. And then you can go back to your boss and say what's
happening?" She said she was "translator" between media and her organization
"to try to help them understand each other." Another woman used the term
"troubleshooter or fix-it person."
All the participants but one work for male supervisors, even if the
organization is predominantly staffed by females. One woman commented that,
although the staff is female, "of course the boss is a man...he has more chicks
in his hen house." She said, this makes "certain kinds of planning much more
Participants' attitudes were not similar on gender issues in the work
force. One woman noted that she is probably more like a male because she wants
tangible accomplishments. She explained, "The other people are like, we did
something because we had a meeting. I think if I go to a meeting, I'm not doing
anything." She described herself as different from others because she desires
"closure" on activities. This participant presently has one male employee. She
argued, "Every time I have a search, I'm told we need to hire females because of
affirmative action reasons, and I find myself thinking, au contraire, I need to
have better diversity."
Another woman said that she does not believe that being a woman
affects her job or any aspect of her position, "not in any way, shape or form."
She contended that it is not gender that brings about problems:
I think a lot of what you do you bring about yourself...yes, there
is still discrimination, but I think people are a little too quick to jump to
that and to use that as the excuse rather than looking at themselves and
their place in the organization. Here, I don't think any one has either
got ahead or not got ahead because of gender.
The one participant in this study who works with women supervisors
said she likes working for men better than women. She said with men, "you
always know where you stand." With women, she said there are "hidden agendas."
The current study addressed the situation in which women campaign
planners may lack voice in the campaigns that they develop. Are women campaign
planners encouraging a feminist model of campaigns that uses two-way
communication? Do they maintain the status quo by emphasizing one-way,
persuasive techniques? The findings are mixed. The patterns that emerge seem
to represent campaign development confined by masculine structures of
information and one-way communication, but it is also apparent that the women
collaborate, share ideas and stress ethics. It seems that the women desire a
more feminist perspective in campaign development than what actually occurs in
their jobs. However, they are not attempting to overthrow the status quo --
they are attempting to work within it.
Status Quo in Campaigns
There are several indicators that pointed to the women maintaining
the prevailing, masculine structures that define campaigns. These included
their heavy reliance on one-way communication, the lack of dialogue with
publics, their use of language and the dual roles they play. The most
significant finding, however, was the lack of representation or voice offered
the women in their campaign development.
The participant's voices stayed silent in their work, even if they
had experience, knowledge or responsibility. When unique opportunities arose
for the women to work on campaigns "from scratch," they felt they had
"ownership" and "control" for a change. According to Hon, L.A. Grunig and
Dozier (1992), female practitioners may be experiencing feelings of oppression
or lack of empowerment because they do not have the option of removing the
patriarchal structures that guide their work. There is evidence for this, in
that all the participants except one mentioned frustrations over a lack of
decision-making power, autonomy, or respect.
These frustrations do not necessarily stem from gender, but from
working within a traditionally partriarchal system. Rakow (1989b) stated that
gender differences are not "property acquired by individuals, but...a principle
around which social life itself is organized" (p. 290). Therefore, it may not
be one man or boss that restricts the campaign planner in her work, but a work
setting that dominates with power and control. The woman who said that she
doesn't like working for women may not realize that her female supervisors are
working within a patriarchal system that rewards certain behaviors regardless of
The code of silence that evades the women's work is perpetuated by
our patriarchal system. At least two vivid examples of silenced women were
revealed in the findings. One participant has worked for her organization over
20 years, and was "overrode" by three male supervisors who decided to approve
bumper stickers to target illiterate people. Another woman has been playing
what is considered a normal public relations role of "ghost writer." She has
been anonymously writing important reports for a male vice president, and has
taken time away from her other job responsibilities. This lack of voice affects
the women's work and perpetuates masculine-structured practices such as one-way
communication and publicity efforts.
The findings showed that there is a predominance of one-way or
asymmetrical communication. The organizations these women work for push
persuasion, a key criteria in one-way communication. Also, all but one of the
participants did not believe their organizations are receptive to change. There
was little research or dialogue, which are important for two-way communication.
Although the campaign planners used negotiation, it was to compromise between
supervisors and media, not between primary publics and the organization.
The language use of participants portrayed a masculine viewpoint for
campaigns. The women described their campaigns as "marketing," "publicity," and
"promotion." These words indicate one-way communication efforts and may be
interpreted as a sign of the socialized language that controls and defines
Another example of the prevailing design was the participants' job
duties. Although their titles were manager or director, the women performed
many technical responsibilities, which supported the findings of Creedon (1991)
and Toth and L.A. Grunig (1993). The participants played the dual roles of both
technician and manager, by "doing it all" (Toth & L.A. Grunig, 1993, p. 168).
Creedon (1991) and Toth and L.A. Grunig (1993) claimed that hierarchy and power,
which have delineated manager and technician roles, are masculine prescriptives
given to a patriarchal management system that leaves women at the bottom. This
seemed to be the case for some of the women in the current study, since they had
no authority over campaign decisions, though they implemented the campaigns.
Feminist Model for Campaigns
Although the findings illustrated masculine characteristics of
campaigns, there was some evidence of a desire for a feminist paradigm. For
example, all the women stressed honesty, ethics, teamwork and collaboration.
"Ethics" was the first word offered by participants when asked if they work by
certain principles. Ethics not only characterized a feminist perspective, but
it was also significant to a symmetrical world view, a paradigm prescribed by
J.E. Grunig and White (1992) that embodies the two-way model of communication
Other evidence of two-way communication came from the two
participants who said that staff is learning the value of public relations.
This experiential education could be the first step in moving organizations to
accepting a symmetrical world view.
Another feminist characteristic mentioned was teamwork. All but one
woman supported the idea of increasing participative methods for planning. This
woman believed in retaining individuality along with working in teams. In other
words, she did not want the team effort to subsume the individual voices of the
members. This woman worked in an agency and developed campaigns differently
from the other participants in that she did not desire change, she believed she
had autonomy, and she conducted formal research. This could be seen as evidence
of socialization: women are not biologically collaborative, for example, they
are "trained" to be that way. In addition, this woman might have learned that
the only avenue to success was through the masculine world view that rewards
individuality. It may just be the agency setting that created different
campaigns, or it may be personal experiences that lead her to different
conclusions. The findings did not arrive at any one answer.
The use of informal research by the other four participants may be
construed as somewhat feminist, depending on interpretation. Though not
supportive of the two-way model, the informal methods and the reliance on oral
feedback are elements of a feminist approach to research. They are subjective
approaches but no less valid according to feminist scholarship. However,
feminist research is still rigorous and relies on dialogue and connections with
the subjects, elements not practiced by the campaign planners. Therefore,
research by the women can be interpreted as partly reflecting feminist
scholarship, and partly reflecting a lack of either feminist or traditional
The women illustrated a liberal feminist perspective in their
campaigns work. When given the opportunity to speak, the women professed a
desire for change to more collaboration, more involvement, or greater voice,
which reflect a desire to move towards a feminist paradigm. However, there was
no evidence of attempts at changing the actual patriarchal structure that is the
source of complaints. Instead, it seemed the women assimilated the best they
could to get their work done without conflict. They talked about flexibility
and compromise, but only in the context of their work load and dealing with
This is not to say that the women were not strong, creative and
important. They obviously were, to get as far as they had with the limitations
set upon them in their daily practices. They juggled several activities at
once, with little time or resources, accomplished successful campaigns, and yet
still found time to offer at least an hour of their time for academic research.
Limitations of the Study
There were some limitations of the current study that may have
affected the findings and interpretations. First, the respondents were all
similar in age, experience level, race and class. Their voices, therefore, need
to be understood within this context. Second, using in-depth interviews limited
generalizable conclusions. However, the goal of this study was depth, not
breadth offered by large survey samples. It would add to the current findings,
though, if the research questions were applied to a greater number of women
campaign planners. Third, the interview protocol should have had at least one
question area directly asking participants their feelings about being a woman in
the field. This would have allowed for opinions on gender issues related to
Theoretical limitations involved the lack of established research on
feminist theory and feminist scholarship as they apply to campaigns. Gaps and
inconsistencies might be apparent in the findings because of the exploratory
nature of this work. Future research might attempt to close any gaps by
answering new questions that have emerged from the current findings.
From a theoretical viewpoint, this study has been helpful in
identifying issues and factors worthy of future research. For example, the
women in the study were not struggling for voice in their campaign planning, but
were aware of limitations placed on them. They did not have strong influence on
the campaign process, but did not attempt to change this process. Is this
indicative of most women campaign planners? It could not be concluded from this
research if the findings indicated a move towards a feminist paradigm or only
In addition, the importance placed on teamwork and collaboration
might offer areas of future study. How do these factors contribute to campaign
effectiveness? How do women work with other women in teams, and would they be
more productive working alone?
In conclusion, the current study utilized feminist scholarship to
explore the stories of women campaign planners and whether they practice two-way
communication. It applied feminist theory in examining the work of five women
campaign planners, and found that a liberal feminist perspective seems to be
employed by the participants. The women campaign planners in this study were
still developing campaigns within a controlling structure created and
perpetuated by a masculine model. There was, however, some evidence of feminist
principles, such as collaboration and teamwork. In addition, the women desired
change in their work and in their organizations, which might eventually lead to
two-way communication and a feminist paradigm for campaign development.
With the increasing numbers of women in public relations, women's
viewpoints need to be heard. This study represented a few voices who experience
working within limitations set by organizational and campaign structures.
Public relations practitioners could learn from this research to become more
aware of women campaign planners' insights and to increase education within
organizations about these women's value to two-way communication. Although the
women in this study contributed to their organizations, they could offer even
greater contributions if they were allowed decision-making responsibilities,
opportunities to practice their expertise, and freedom to speak with their own
voices. Theoretical application might further examine the evidence discovered
for collaboration, teamwork and ethics, and how these concepts add to a feminist
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In-Depth Interview Protocol
1. What are some of your daily responsibilities in working on a
campaign? List of activities you do in developing/implementing a campaign.
2. How would you define a public relations campaign?
3. When you think of a campaign being "effective," what elements of
that campaign do you think of first?
4. Do you do a lot of planning before actually putting a campaign into
action? How much? What do you plan for?
A. Do you do evaluation for your campaigns? What type?
5. How do you select audiences for a campaign?
A. Do you interact with your audiences?
6. How do you select channels of communication and messages? What
7. What are the most crucial elements of a campaign that you make sure
is in every campaign you plan?
8. Do you feel there are limitations or barriers in your work as
A. Are there characteristics of campaigns that you have to leave out
because of these limitations?
9. If you could do a campaign without any limitations, what would be
10. Do you have certain values or a general philosophy about
11. (If work in organization and not in agency) How would you
characterize your organization's receptiveness to new ideas and new audiences?
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Can you suggest another woman to talk to, who has at least ten years
of experience in planning campaigns?