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Working woman/PR professional: The multi-faceted identities of women working in public relations

Daymon, C. and Surma, A. (2011) Working woman/PR professional: The multi-faceted identities of women working in public relations. In: Barcelona Meeting COM #1: International PR 2011 Conference, 28 - 29 June 2011, Barcelona, Spain


One symptom of the knowledge economy characterising contemporary, developed society is the blurring of the once-clear demarcations between work and home, labour and leisure, and economic and cultural value. Individuals increasingly cross borders that are not only physical and technological but also emotional, psychological, relational and temporal. We are interested in understanding the ways in which public relations practitioners, as knowledge workers, are positioned as individual, gendered subjects responding to the pressures induced by this shifting, complex relational landscape. Therefore, in this study we explore the ways in which public relations practitioners improvise, communicate and negotiate their personal–professional identities and the tensions inherent in the encounter between self and other, private and public, economic and cultural.

We interviewed women of different ages, in various stages of family life, and at different levels in their professional careers: unmarried, married, with and without children, in junior and senior roles, working in consultancy and in-house. The rich descriptions we gained of the ways in which the women invest their professional and personal experiences with meaning reveal how they constitute the work–life interrelationship discursively; how they navigate these tensions and make sense of them reflexively; and their impact on the practice of public relations. We posit that public relations is a profession whose resources and focus resemble those with which the notion of identity and the negotiation of work–life balance are themselves preoccupied: the relationships between people, time, space and communication technologies. Thus, recognising the importance of personal–professional identities coupled with the notion of who does public relations work, what it involves, and how it is accomplished becomes central to any understanding of knowledge production and individual wellbeing in the contemporary knowledge economy.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
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