Leadership, PR and Emma Watson

An essay for my public relations management class.

Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson is not only an iconic actress but also an activist, humanitarian and contemporary leader. Emma Watson has left her mark on society as a whole by connecting with all genders and generations. She is most connected to the field of public relations because of her work as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and her activation of the HeForShe campaign through a speech that went viral on social media.

The HeForShe campaign is a public relations campaign initiated by UN Women and Ogilvy PR, that asks people from all around the world to take a stand and agree to work together towards gender equality. The campaign became most famous by Watson in 2014 at the UN General Assembly, and the hashtag #HeForShe has been used over 1.2 billion times since the speech (Sudhaman, 2015). Not only that, but UN Women saw an 82% increase in Twitter followers and a 3,500% jump in Instagram followers within a day of Watson’s speech, in support of the campaign (Nichols, 2014).

I chose to study what Watson has contributed to public relations because I’ve watched her influence over the years. She’s a symbol of intellect in my generation and therefore has become a role model to both boys and girls around the world. One of the most interesting concepts in public relations is the potential for communication in the most natural, transparent way, and Watson is a true example of that. She uses her platform to spark change and communicate powerful ideas in a conversational, yet influential manner. Watson was one of the many celebrities who began making use of leadership power and their platform for organizations that seek a greater good. Laura Dunn, founder of SurvJustice, told Rewire magazine that having an icon for the “Harry Potter generation” behind nonprofit organizations, makes tough issues easier for these same generations to understand (Crockett, 2014).


Watson was born in Paris, but raised in Oxfordshire, England. She started her acting career at a young age, when she attended the Stagecoach Theatre Arts School at Oxford and focused on singing, acting and dancing (2016). Her first and most famous role was Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, which became one of the most famous movie series of all time. She continued her acting career as one of the main characters of the series, and starred in several movies over the course of the next 15 years.

Though she was one of the most famous teenagers in the world, she made sure to continue her education as she finished high school and graduated from Brown University with a degree in English. Throughout her early adult life, she remained a role model and icon through her sense of class, intelligence and awareness of philanthropic needs and causes. Watson has visited Bangladesh and Zambia in the past to promote girls education, fairtrade and organic clothing, and was named a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014, focusing in on women’s rights and becoming the spokesperson for the viral HeForShe campaign.

Leadership Style, Traits, and Types

Watson exerts her influence through a relationship-focused style of leadership. As stated in the textbook, these types of leaders encourage people to work together to reach the end goal (Smudde, 2015). She gathers people from different backgrounds and genders to spark a conversation on feminism. The goal of the campaign is to get all genders, especially men, to show their support of the gender equality movement. In her speech at the UN meeting, she is asked and invited people of all genders to work together and take a stand on the issue. She uses the HeForShe campaign to give feminism have more of a positive, inclusive view.

Emma Watson became this spokesperson and societal leader by the positive traits she possesses. Throughout her days as a famous actress, she never got in trouble or caught doing something bad and always stayed credible in the public eye. She has a competitive degree from Brown and is well spoken whether on a television interview or giving the famous speech at the UN. She shows her intellect through cognitive abilities and educational history, acting as a leader by inspiring young women to read, write and pursue their passions. She’s always poised and put together, encouraging her followers to do the same. Her experience as a woman is another leadership trait she possesses that’s vital to her work in the HeForShe campaign. Watson is able to exhibit her knowledge in the feminist movement by her experiences with gender inequality first-hand. She speaks out to other women, and men, to take note of these inequalities.

By being a visionary and empowering both men and women to work together towards gender equality, Watson acts as a transformational leader. She encourages her followers to attain self-actualization and satisfy needs such as morality, acceptance and a greater purpose. By asking men to fight for women’s rights, she’s asking them to speak up in a way they normally wouldn’t. It could also be argued that Watson is a charismatic leader, because she goes about transforming her followers in an inspirational way. In her famous speech at the UN, she exemplified her exceptional oratory skills in a poised, confident manner. She represents UN Women as an inspirational influencer through these charismatic leadership techniques.

Contribution to public relations and society

By definition, leadership is human communication, which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet shared group goals and needs (Hackman & Johnson, 2009). Watson is the spitting image of this definition, because she communicates with her followers by asking for modification of all gender’s behaviors and asking for participation in the HeForShe movement to meet the greater need of equality in society. As a leader, Watson satisfies her followers expectations such as trust, honesty, communication, openness, respect and care for individuals (Smudde, 2015).

The public relations field can take note of Emma Watson’s transformational leadership through her intellect, oratory skills and relationship building between members of the society that haven’t always bonded on the topic of feminism. The ability to spark a sense of self-actualization in followers by communicating in a way the audience will appreciate and understand is Watson’s overall contribution to public relations and society as a whole.


Crockett, E. (2014, September 24). He, She, Us: Emma Watson, the White House, and Efforts to Change the Culture on Women’s Rights. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://rewire.news/article/2014/09/24/us-emma-watson-white-house-efforts-change-culture-womens-rights/

Emma Watson. (2016, November 30). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.biography.com/people/emma-watson-20660247#hermione-granger

Nichols, L. (2014, September 24). UN Women sees major social spike after Emma Watson speech. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.prweek.com/article/1313911/un-women-sees-major-social-spike-emma-watson-speech

Our Mission. (2016). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.heforshe.org/en/our-mission

Smudde, P. M. (2015). Managing public relations: methods and tools for achieving solid results. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sudhaman, A. (2015, January 24). UN Women Calls In Havas PR For New #HeForShe Initiative. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.holmesreport.com/latest/article/un-women-calls-in-havas-pr-for-new-heforshe-initiative

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/goodwill-ambassadors/emma-watson

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