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GIRL PLEASE: PR is 'Too Feminized'
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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I have had the privilege to work in the media for more than 12 years. For another 10-ish years, I worked with the media as a "flack," a "spindoctor," or even a PR professional, if you will. In that time, I have seen male and female directors, colleagues, and team members — more female than male, to be candid. Has it ever bothered me? No. Have I ever thought about it? Not really. Have I ever screamed gender gap? Meh. 

So, imagine my surprise when I read this article in Business Insider about some chief executive — a female CEO — sounding like...well, a stereotypical man?! Meet Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America. Admittedly, I'm a fan. She is a globally known "trendspotter" and has a nice following on Twitter. That said, don't let that diminish the weight of my message...but what the what?! 

The lede will grab you too. Marian wants to discover the "balls" of [Australian] PR. Why isn't that term bleeped in this article? Let her tell you:

“My use of the word “ballsy” is intentional: The best Australian work exudes a great masculine energy, something we’re sadly missing over here,” she said. “The American PR industry has become so feminised and so politically correct that I worry about where the edge has gone. It’s not even in Brooklyn or Long Island City anymore. We’ve institutionalized all the hot shops, softened their edges and finishing-schooled the brashness right out of them."

Not that Brooklyn and Long Island were known for "edge," but I can pick up what she is throwing down. Here's my question to the greater flackdom: Is this a cry for gender equality or a complaint about the PC run-amuck in our industry? "Edge," to me, is saying what should be said although it may not be popular. "Edge" is writing copy that will make people stop, look, and listen without fear of some client getting perturbed or offended. "Edge" is doing what is right for your client even though other clients may not agree. So again, I ask you, "Is that more of a gender question or a kowtowing to everyone and their mother getting offended if you look at them cross-eyed?" 

Frankly, I think it's the latter. I'm not one to pick apart a brilliant display of wordsmithing, such as Marian exhibited here. However, I do adore clarity. And I see that edge quelled in men and women alike. Creativity is shunned for PC...not PR. Reaching an audience at the point of their need may be avoided because of fear of feathers getting ruffled. Candidly, I don't care about rubbing the fur of a cat in the wrong direction. I would just turn that cat around and keep on patting. Maybe that's what this industry needs. A 180 turn? Reconsider the way we do things. Reassess our messaging tactics. Re-examine our approach to client service. At least I would like to do that before we are relinquishing our right to do the best we can do for our clients, and the PC world just neuters us all. (See what I did there?) 

What do you think?

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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