PRWeek recently released a mini-documentary with the title, “What it’s like to be Black in PR” and it couldn’t have been more timely. During Black History Month, it’s nice to hear about ground-breaking trailblazers of our past but it also ties their struggles to today’s challenges and how we all must continue to march on and fight the good fight. For a brief second while listening to the stories, I felt comfort. Comfort in knowing that the things that I was feeling and the situations that I’ve experienced throughout my career weren’t just in my head. But then one of the interviewees said something that was oh so true, but infuriating:
“The only people who are talking about and understand how big the diversity problem is in PR are the people of color.”
This statement is a part of the problem. Reaching communities of color has always been a goal of mine. Whether its an opportunity to educate, engage or inform, I’ve always felt that many underserved communities are left out simply due to access, among other reasons. I want to work with big companies who have the resources to connect with communities of color to help them flourish and close the gap of inequality. It’s a lofty goal, but I know there are people out there that want the same thing. I want people of all backgrounds to have a seat at the table if they choose. But we need more allies to speak up and act out against our industry only being 10 percent people of color. Does that reflect society, which is 17.8 percent Hispanic or Latino, 13.9 percent Black, 5.7 percent Asian and 2.6 percent mixed race, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data?
Why is this infuriating? Because it’s the same people pointing out the obvious. It’s the same people voicing their concerns, speaking up for the disenfranchised and pointing out the disconnect. There aren’t enough people of color in the room and this industry shift is dependent on just a few folks that are lucky enough to be at the table. We need allies to join in the conversation and make some noise beyond those that are expected – POC.
Representation is the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone. It will take people of all backgrounds to change the advertising industry from its dismal 10 percent number. In order to cultivate a pipeline of potential candidates, everyone must make inclusion a priority. It must become innate and a part of a companies DNA and culture. I truly believe that in order to best serve our clients, for those that work in an agency, or to best serve customers for those on the corporate side, we need to have a team that reflects the audiences that we want to reach. And even more so, we need to hold ourselves accountable.
“If you are at a firm that doesn’t have the representation of your clients’ communities, how are you going to serve clients and help them have conversations that are authentic with those communities.”
This video gave me hope as all of the interviewees are prominent Black leaders in PR and their visibility will encourage more students and recruits to follow the PR path. That’s the thing, we want to have insights and input from people of all backgrounds to better inform our clients and reach multiple audiences. But having a seat at the table also means younger employees can see themselves long-term as a part of your organization and see a pathway. Representation symbolizes an organizations commitment to inclusion and if this isn’t visibly clear internally, you can’t fake it or hide it from people externally.
I thought this quote from Andrew McCaskill, SVP of Global Communications at Neilsen, summed it up loud and clear:
“Change will happen when Black folks on the corporate side say to their agencies, until your team that is going to service my account is reflective of my companies culture, reflective of our consumer base, you are not going to get our business.”
Inclusion is a mindset and I’ve been very passionate about this since I started my career in PR. It’s something that I believe is just scratching the surface of its true business impact. I look forward to the day when audience engagement takes a new form and inclusion is an integrated part of every companies DNA. This will be my life’s work.
Peace & blessings,
Song of the week: Get Free by Major Lazor