Far too frequently, I feel like the lone ranger of ethnicity in the PR industry.
I've seen countless initiatives and outreach programs launched to entice more people from multi-cultural backgrounds to join the profession I love; and yet I still don't see the community we are asked to build relationships with reflected in the PR pros who have been delegated with the task.
It's disappointing to see how far the profession has come to hold its rightful position as an integral part of the marketing industry; and still so backwards in ensuring there is a consistent influx of diverse talent that echoes the cultural and economic perspectives of its audience. A census by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) in 2013 revealed that 6 per cent of public relations practitioners identify themselves as being from an ethnic group other than Caucasian. I haven't see a significant shift of the needle in employee diversity since this startling revelation.
Why is there such an unwillingness or lack of proactive effort to move with the times? If you pride yourself on developing relevant brand-marketing strategies, it's crucial to diversify the PR employee roster. Research by a UK university predicted that ethnic minorities are set to make up a fifth of the UK population by 2051 and a separate study found that in America alone, white Americans will be in the minority in 25 years time. Therefore leveraging the knowledge of staff that understand the behaviour and beliefs of the new multi-cultural generation to come will be fundamental to the success of any business practice. You can only build loyalty among consumers if you truly demonstrate that you understand their worth. This is how you turn their interest and gratitude for your insight on what makes them tick into a revenue goldmine. It's a simple formula that will ultimately sustain profitable growth within our trade.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well in this case it takes a diverse team to build a global brand, and dare I say it, the economy.
It is up to the industry to promote employee experiences that resonate with forward-thinking Millenials, and also provide reassurance to established PR practitioners that their career will be nurtured and, more importantly; their role in the marketplace will be respected.
The uncomfortable truth is that PR falters at the outset by being a contradictory 'come one, come all' occupation.
Allow me to be more specific - do not beckon new candidates to join the profession with one hand and then allow music containing racially-emotive lyrics to be openly played in an office environment with the other hand. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to send an email to senior directors politely asking that songs with the words 'n****a', 'black tricks' and worse be stricken from the playlists. Do not profess an ambition to diversify your pool of talent and then wittingly put up invisible barriers to limit your resources for recruitment; such as hiring interns strictly through graduate programs or in some cases; bringing in family members of CEO-level clients as a fee relationship building exercise.
PR cannot afford to be produced from the viewpoint of one specific socio-economic group. Culture is a valuable commodity and appropriation of various aspects of consumer behaviour from different communities has enabled some of the world's biggest FTSE companies to financially thrive. We're putting ourselves on a road to failure if we confine ourselves to one uniformed way of thinking.
We need more people to step up and instigate further change in the industry by creating a workforce that is a true reflection of the society we live in.
In future, it would be nice to attend a PR networking event with diverse attendees who collectively want to evolve our practice rather than go to events held by associations who are defined by the cultural background of their members.
More diversity and less press releases please.