PRSA apologizes for quiz asking 'What PR princess are you?'

One agency leader called the Q&A "derogatory, unsophisticated, and old school."

NEW YORK: The Public Relations Society of America has apologized for a quiz it posted on social media asking questions including "What PR princess are you?"

The group asked respondents to select answers to questions such as "What is your favorite thing about PR/comms?" and "What is the most important quality you look for in a boss?" Depending on their answers, respondents were assigned personas such as the "Curious PR Princess" or the "Assertive PR Princess."

The PRSA launched the quiz in March, but did not notice complaints about it until this week, said Laura Kane, the group’s chief communications officer. About 300 people have taken the quiz, she said.

The PRSA issued an apology on Twitter and LinkedIn on Wednesday evening, explaining its decision to run the survey.

"It was never our intention to upset people, and clearly this was upsetting people," said Kane. "This was meant to entertain and engage people. It is not meant to be anything more than that."

Kane added that the tweets promoting the survey have been changed to say, "Have you ever wondered what it would be like if famous princesses were in PR? Check out this quiz we created for an event we attended at Disney to find out who your alter ego would be!"

"I’m not even sure we are going to run the quiz anymore," said Kane.

The PRSA hosted the Ragan Social Media Conference in March at Walt Disney World Resort, where it asked participants to take a quiz based on the Myers-Briggs assessment of Disney princesses. The PRSA again promoted the quiz at PRSA’s InterSections Conference last week at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

"The only legitimate Myers-Briggs assessment for Disney characters are for the princesses," said Kane. "That is why we chose the princesses. We originally looked for a broader base of characters, but since the data wasn’t there, we didn’t want to compromise the validity of the results."

"The quiz generated a lot of buzz and several people suggested that we share it more widely," said Kane. "In hindsight, we should have provided more context."

A Twitter post promoting the quiz on Wednesday asking, "Are you the curious PR princess?" sparked complaints on social media among communications pros.

Cheryl Gale, president and cofounder of March Communications, said that her jaw dropped when she saw the post. She labeled the quiz "derogatory, unsophisticated, and old school."

"Even without the #MeToo movement and the current climate, I would never want to be categorized as a PR princess; I am a PR professional," said Gale. "As a professional, whether I am a woman or a man, it doesn’t matter. I don’t understand the focus on ‘princess.’"

Priya Ramesh, head of corporate communications at 8x8, said she took umbrage at the "cutesy" princess label. Calling women princesses undermines their strength and what they do professionally, such as managing and building reputations for big brands, Ramesh said.

"There are tons of surveys out there that list PR as the number two most-stressful job in America, next to being a firefighter," she said. "Princesses don’t handle stress that well. At least call us Wonder Woman, or another action hero figure, rather than calling us princesses. Come on, PRSA."

Ramesh added that the quiz isn’t conducive to equal rights for women.

"[PRSA] promotes and advocates for PR pros around the world, and here they are calling us PR princesses," she said. "If you’re going to undermine the role of women and PR practitioners as princesses, it shows you haven’t understood how much we do for the profession."

Elizabeth Somerville, senior account supervisor at PAN Communications, added that she was "surprised" that a professional organization for an industry predominantly made up of and led by women would choose to run such a "polarizing" survey.

"It’s clear that the PRSA wanted to collect data about female PR pros, but in doing so, they both used a sexist stereotype and alienated nearly half of their audience - men," said Somerville.

Kane contended that the PRSA doesn’t see princesses as weak, rather strong, smart, and brave. The princess types include "positive" attributes, such as honorable, smart, studious, organized, curious, and assertive, she added.

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