The purpose of this paper is to explore the notion that, in order to instil and maintain confidence in relationships with clients, journalists and others, PR practitioners in the UK, and women in particular, are required to develop specific skills in managing emotion. It argues that, in providing a PR service, practitioners are performing the skills of emotional labour.
The paper draws on three areas of literature: public relations, emotion in organisations, and emotional labour. The concepts of emotional labour are illustrated by extracts drawn from in‐depth interviews with public relations students reflecting on one‐year placement experiences in the UK public relations industry.
The paper found that the key questions for empirical investigation concern practitioners' feelings of self‐identity, including gender identity in performing professional roles. A feminist paradigm is proposed using social constructionist methodological approaches.
The paper shows that the uncovering of “tacit and uncodified skills” through empirical investigation could have implications for future public relations education and training.
Emotion in public relations is so far unacknowledged and unexplored. This paper represents the first step towards a fuller understanding of how professional relationships are made and understood among PR practitioners, and women in particular.
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