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Women trailblazers of perception management

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International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the invaluable contributions of women across various fields, including Public Relations. Throughout history, women have played a pivotal role in shaping and advancing the PR profession, leaving an indelible mark on its evolution and practice. This article aims to highlight the significant impact of women in the development of the PR profession, showcasing notable female scholars and practitioners who have made remarkable contributions.

The influence of women in PR

Pioneering figures

Women have been at the forefront of the PR profession since its inception. Ivy Lee, often considered the father of modern PR, worked alongside his wife, Mabel, who played a crucial role in managing his consultancy and supporting his PR campaigns (Cutlip et al., 2000). Similarly, Doris Fleischman, the wife of Edward Bernays, made substantial contributions to the field by co-authoring books and assisting in campaign development (Dooley, 2018).

Prominent scholars

Female scholars have significantly contributed to advancing the theoretical foundations and knowledge base of PR. Notable figures include

Betsy Plank, often referred to as the “First Lady of PR”, who was instrumental in elevating PR education and professional standards (Stauber, 2005).

Wilma Mathews, renowned for her research on PR ethics and corporate communication, has influenced generations of PR practitioners and academics (Heath & Vasquez, 2016).

Larissa A. Grunig who is a distinguished scholar known for her significant contributions to the field of public relations theory and research. Her work on excellence theory, along with her husband James E. Grunig, has had a profound impact on shaping the understanding of effective PR practice. Larissa Grunig’s research has focused on organizational communication, relationship management, and strategic communication planning. (Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Dozier, D. M. (2002).

Industry leaders:

Women have excelled as practitioners and leaders in the PR industry, shaping organizational communication strategies and fostering innovation. Anne Gregory, former President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), has been instrumental in advocating for ethical practice and professional development within the PR community (Gregory, 2012). Furthermore, Margery Kraus, founder, and CEO of APCO Worldwide, has been a trailblazer in global PR, pioneering strategic communication initiatives for multinational corporations and governments (Kraus, 2015).


As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is imperative to recognise and honor the significant contributions of women in shaping the public relations (PR) profession. From pioneering figures like Ivy Lee’s wife, Mabel, and Doris Fleischman to prominent scholars such as Betsy Plank and Wilma Mathews, and industry leaders like Anne Gregory and Margery Kraus, women have played pivotal roles in advancing PR theory, practice, and ethics.

The influence of women in PR extends beyond individual accomplishments to collective contributions that have transformed the profession. Women have brought diverse perspectives, innovative strategies, and ethical leadership to the field, driving positive change and fostering excellence in communication.

In the words of Betsy Plank, often regarded as a trailblazer for women in PR, “the best PR people are individuals who understand how to communicate and build relationships, who are creative, and who can think strategically”. Women have exemplified these qualities, contributing to the growth and evolution of PR as a dynamic and indispensable discipline.

As we look to the future of PR, let us continue to celebrate and amplify the voices of women, recognising their invaluable role in shaping the profession and driving progress in the global communication landscape.

To wrap it up, Women in PR are not just making headlines; they are crafting them, shaping perceptions, and influencing the world around us.

Ayodele is a distinguished and multiple award-winning strategic communication expert who specializes in ‘Message Engineering’. He helps organisations, brands and leaders communicate in a way that yields the desired outcome. He is the author of the seminal work, PR Case Studies; Mastering the Trade, and Dean, the School of Impactful Communication (TSIC). He can be reached via ishopr2015@gmail.com or +234 807 7932 282


Cutlip, S. M., Center, A. H., & Broom, G. M. (2000). Effective Public Relations. Pearson.

Dooley, K. J. (2018). Doris Fleischman Bernays: Women’s pioneer in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 30(1-2), 56-68.

Gregory, A. (2012). Strategic public relations leadership. Routledge.

Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Dozier, D. M. (2002). Excellent public relations and effective organizations: A study of communication management in three countries. Routledge.

Heath, R. L., & Vasquez, G. (2016). The SAGE Handbook of Public Relations. SAGE Publications.

Kraus, M. (2015). APCO Worldwide: A global communications consultancy. In R. L. Heath & G. Vasquez (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Public Relations (pp. 163-174). SAGE Publications.

Stauber, J. (2005). Public relations pioneers: Betsy Plank. Public Relations Tactics, 12(9), 23-24.bg



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