Researching emotional labour among Public Relations consultants in the UK: a social phenomenological approach
‘Social phenomenology’ (Schütz, 1970; 1978) and its concept of the ‘lifeworld’ has received limited attention in the research methods literature. Few contemporary researchers, with the exception of Aspers (2006a; 2006b; 2009) and Svensson (2007) have developed procedures for undertaking social phenomenological research in occupational settings.
I developed a social phenomenological approach to explore, from an emotional labour perspective, how public relations (PR) consultants experienced, practised and understood their everyday interactions with clients, colleagues and journalists (Hochschild, 1983). If emotion is understood as a relational practice, the analysis of socially-constructed discourse is essential to access emotional meaning structures within occupational cultures such as public relations.
I adopted an iterative analytical process whereby I interviewed, twice, a sample of six participants. From transcript analysis I produced a ‘description of practice’ document for participants to check (Aspers, 2006a; 2009). ‘Bracketing’ (Husserl, 1963/1913) involved writing self-memos throughout the research process, and finally, a self-reflexive account. Thematic analysis of findings resulted in a rich understanding of emotion management and identity work in public relations.
This paper demonstrates that an iterative and reflexive analytical process that involves participants in cocreating social reality, is a compelling approach to understand the ‘lifeworld’ of social actors in occupational settings.
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