From Style to Strategy: An Exploratory Investigation of Public Relations Practice in the Fashion Industry
Over the past several years I have received numerous requests from students and academics interested in the thesis I wrote back in 2006 at San Diego State University – so I have decided to make it available to download!
The purpose of the study was to contribute to the body of knowledge in public relations, which until this time had not explicitly looked at fashion public relations, despite the popularity of this specialty among public relations students and young professionals. As such, qualitative, exploratory research involving public relations practitioners was needed to develop a general understanding of the roles and responsibilities of public relations practitioners within this public relations specialty area. In addition, several other academic disciplines have successfully explored how the social, cultural, and political nuances of fashion relate back to scholastic inquiry. It is time to consider fashion public relations as a potential launching pad for a renewed feminist critique of public relations theory and practice.
The fashion industry and public relations have distinct similarities. Both have struggled for professional recognition, too often criticized and overlooked for being superficial or unnecessary. Importantly, each field has attracted a female majority to the industry. While significant effort has been made to cultivate research and theory that exposes the inequitable treatment of female public relations practitioners within the profession less attention has focused on how feminist values integrate into public relations practice and theory. Unfortunately, feminist scholarship in public relations has decreased compared to the past two decades.
Understanding public relations as a multifarious field extends previous feminist public relations research into new territory. Rife with possibilities for a more detailed and expansive approach, this new phase encourages researchers to explore the various influences of public relations theories and practices with regard to female practitioners and publics across industries. By encouraging and producing new themes for research that are in keeping with current industry and cultural trends, and also in keeping with the career goals of public relations students, this study of fashion public relations will help to ensure the continuation of feminist research in public relations.
Key findings from in-depth interviews with fashion public relations practitioners suggest that fashion public relations is a dynamic, fast-paced profession. Fashion public relations agencies engage in strategic communication and perform a variety of tasks, from media pitching to organizing fashion shows, based on individual client needs. Practitioners spend the majority of their time working with media, either pitching story ideas to editors, or working to fulfill editor requests. Most participants consider themselves feminists and acknowledge that while fashion can be fun and empowering for many women, it can often be hard to work in an industry that places so much emphasis on beauty and celebrities.