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Becoming a profession: crafting professional identities in public relations / Cara Reed
Swansea University Author: Cara Reed
Since its beginnings in the WWI propaganda machine, public relations (PR)has had a murky image as the influential force at the sidelines of powerful groups in society. Despite this shadowy existence, the predominant professional body for PR, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)has look...
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Since its beginnings in the WWI propaganda machine, public relations (PR)has had a murky image as the influential force at the sidelines of powerful groups in society. Despite this shadowy existence, the predominant professional body for PR, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)has looked to professionalise the industry. This research explores how these tensions and ontradictions play out in the construction of professional identities by examining the on-going construction, contestation and attempted closure of a professional body within a wider web of power relations, and its relationship and resonance with those practicing PR. Utilising a combination of interviews, participant observation and document analysis, the thesis argues that discourses circulating in texts generated by the CIPR constructs the subject position of the PR professional as someone who is committed to continual development and learning through the professional body’s credentialised resources. Nevertheless, this professional subject position isn’t always salient in practitioners’ identity work where the majority of ractitioners draw on alternative discourses that centre on their level of experience and access to powerful networks. The dominant subject position that PR practitioners construct in their identity work is that of shapeshifter: someone who continually adapts their performance of identity with different audiences in order to do their job. This indicates that the CIPR needs to consider how its professional subject position can reflect practitioners’ experience of their work as centring on relationships and adaptation to different contexts. As such, this research contributes to the literature on identities and knowledge work by highlighting the importance of the shapeshifter identity whilst also providing a more nuanced appreciation of how ambiguity operates in knowledge workers’ identity construction. It also contributes to the sociology of the professions by demonstrating that closure and credentialism are not the most salient discourses for the modern professional.
identities, profession, knowledge work, becoming, PR
School of Management