This International Women’s Day just passed we celebrated how far radio has come in the battle for gender equality.
With the exception, perhaps, of Broadcast Engineering, women, it seems, have infiltrated every discipline from Producer to Publicist.
No, wait! Publicist?
Checking around the major radio networks, in fact, not one male works in Public Relations. It’s an all female affair.
How is this so? We spoke to their PR heads who assured us that there’s no policy, written or unwritten that calls for Public Relations to be a bloke free zone. It just kinda turned out that way.
Bec Brown – ARN
Ms Brown (top right) is principal of her own PR Agency, The COMMS Department (TCD), which has been handling all of ARN and iHeart for the past four years. Her other clients include, The Wiggles, several record companies and Red Nose Day which she does pro bono.
With an uncanny resemblance to the late Robert Palmer’s backing band (below) all the staff at TCD are women. Ms Brown says, “Gender isn’t an issue, it’s about finding the right person for the right client at the right time.”
Okay, but what are the odds that the right person in every case is a woman, whether it’s TCD, SCA, NovaEnt or MacRadio?
Ms Brown says that only about 30 per cent of applicants for jobs at her firm have been men. In that case, statistically, at least one and half members of her team should be male. If it’s just the luck of the draw, then TCD and all the other networks are beating the odds by quite some margin.
Nonetheless, Ms Brown is happy to theorise that, like teaching and nursing, women are more likely to possess the skill sets required for PR. “This is a massive generalisation but it is a a societal fact that women are more communal and better communicators within a group. That skill set comes in very handy when you are looking after PR a group.
“Also, there’s a lot of multi-tasking in Radio PR. And that is something I think women are good at as well,” says Ms Brown.
Nikki Clarkson – SCA
Rather than use an outside PR agency, SCA prefers to have theirs in-house. Head of Marketing, Nikki Clarkson oversees a team of three publicists, all of them female and like Bec Brown at ARN insists, “It’s far less about gender and much more about the right person for the role.”
But SCA also has extensive television assets and as Ms Clarkson points out, “Chris Clarke is also part of the team, he looks after the regional PR. We certainly don’t approach hiring PR practitioners with a gender preference.”
Perhaps women truly are better suited to the rigours of PR. “
PR can be very different on a day by day basis because of the reactive content PR. But it also has a strategic and planned approach to it as well, particularly for launches and trade communications,” says Ms Clarkson.
Rochelle Burbury – MML
In the absence of either a dedicated in-house department or an outsourced PR agency, the role of designated spokesperson for MacRadio currently falls on the shoulders of COO Adam Lang. However Rochelle Burbury, whose small team of two (females) at her firm Third Avenue Consulting, was MML’s PR agency until about a year ago. Now her firm handles the giant music streaming service Pandora.
Asked why women dominate PR roles in radio. Ms Burbury says “I can’t tell you why.” But hazards a guess, “I guess the PR profession tends to attract more females than males. There’s a bit of a legacy of women within PR and maybe that’s what attracted us to radio, that hopefully it is a sign that the glass ceiling has been broken.”
Before males with a hankering for PR become too disillusioned, “That imbalance is going to be redressed, says Ms Burbury. “There are definitely more men coming into the PR profession now – particularly on the consumer side particularly with the growth in digital and social media and influencers. I think that’s what’s attracting more males.”
Bec Brown agrees, “I don’t think that PR is going to necessarily be female dominated over the next five years purely because the number of journalists and media professionals jumping the fence. And the industry changes.
Of course, these days, content is king. Before, PR used to be known as promotion but it isn’t just promotion anymore. It’s now a number of things. It might be publicity, it might be social media, corporate communications or content creation. I think that will probably start to level the playing field a bit more,” says Ms Brown.
Note: Nova Entertainment’s Jane Elliott was not available for comment prior to posting.