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August 5, 2014 Transcript of #CommsChat on diversity in PR

Last Monday on #CommsChat we were joined by a host of guests that included @MattCartmell from the PRCA, @AJMRoss from the CIPR, and @cgrinyer chair of the CIPR diversity network. We delved into some of PR’s dirty secrets – its lack of racial diversity, gender inequality and the invisibility of disability in the profession. While we recognised the positive steps being made, all agreed that there is plenty more to be done to create an industry that is truly representative of the public it serves. See some of the highlights below:

  •    It’s a question of authenticity – we won’t be able to communicate with the diverse public if we’re all white and middle class
  •  Writing as a British African, I think the noticeable lack of diversity in PR is to do with the perceptions of PR as a profession
  •  Surely the only reason is that it’s the right thing to do? It’s the only ethically defensible position
  •  PR is not seen as a ‘traditional’ career path for a majority of ethnic minorities. Its an abstract career to explain.
  •  Agree-generational differences in workplace play a part. Millenials will not tolerate&see the business imperative of diversity
  •  I’d like to see more senior BAME PR practitioners step up to be mentors to grads/apprentices

Read the rest of the conversation here:


  1. Have to catchup on this evenings looked a good’un! in

  2. : Comms has a diversity problem because there is a lack of awareness of the profession. Role models. agree 100%

  3. I know a lot needs to change and it has been slow, but sometimes I think we don’t acknowledge there has been progress

  4. Great discussion on diversity in PR, great to see so much interest & enthusiasm out there! Thanks for hosting it

  5. Liked getting involved in tonight. One step closer to diversity in PR…

  6. Change is negligible, Karan. Progress, like the pace of changing mindsets, is painfully slow.

  7. Here’s the manifesto that Ignite produced with guidelines for diverse recruitment:

  8. Splendid as ever – lots to come from + in next few months on diversity in public relations, stay in touch!

  9. Hopefully we will see the fruits of all the good work being done in the near future. Good night from me, feel free to keep ting!

  10. surely PR Degree is just one in a range of options – we need all to stay diverse and authentic in our comms

  11. The hour is up! A huge thank you to all our guests tonight, and to everyone who contributed

  12. If any of you are interested in the work of with tackling diversity in PR, please get in touch

  13. A PR degree helps you “know” what to do. It can’t guarantee that you will do it well.

  14. Final challenge to senior people on here tonight -sign up to new PRCA mentoring programme? Tomorrow. =Mouth

  15. I believe that adversity breeds character. It is those who rise above and standout through genuine creativity.

  16. And in-house teams should drive, influence diversity across organisation where not happening

  17. a PR degree SHOULD put you 3 or 4 steps ahead of the rest of the graduate competition though? shouldn’t it?

  18. You’re right but guidelines stress the importance of the issue + encourage right questions to be asked

  19. yes, digital done properly can be v inclusive…and inclusive websites usually rank higher on SEO, little known fact!

  20. A degree can’t prove your drive, willingness to learn or overall aptitude. take risks on the ones who want it the most.

  21. Diversity has to be embedded in to all strategies and not “a nice thing to do”…

  22. it goes back to having advocates in the industry working with their communities with the support of their employer

  23. inhouse comms teams often perform better due to diversity implemented throughout the company

  24. What if your Inhouse is tunnel visioned? Sometimes diversity is “that one guy in the corner.”

  25. Hi Matt, Ignite produced guidelines for diverse recruitment. Guidelines raise awareness, but don’t change mindsets.

  26. In-house teams can definitely contribute by employing people who reflect environment/ society in which we operate

  27. Why aren’t top PR agencies aren’t recruiting students with PR degrees?! None are Russell Group and there’s 30+ of them!!!

  28. Agree clients NEED demand diversity of talent for meaningful changes within the comms industry happen. This isn’t philanthropy

  29. Start asking “how diverse are we as a company” and think bigger than creatives… Think audience, purpose, reach

  30. remove barriers for blind/VI, deaf/hearing loss, ban small fonts & poor colour contrasts, think web/digital access

  31. When clients start asking agencies how diverse they are, then things will change quickly. Inhouse can make a big difference

  32. We need move beyond stereotypes/labels. Identities mixed. Possible to be british&ethnic minority and have multiple identities

  33. We’ve mentioned recruitment a lot – is there anything that can be done from the client-facing side of things?

  34. put inclusion at the heart of every campaign. Ask who is our target audience and how are we going to reach them

  35. Ha – sadly Russell Group recruiting is still ingrained in some PR quarters.

  36. I’m not even embarrassed I had to Google what it was! If/when I’m an employer, absolutely won’t play a part

  37. As industry need verifiable standards & guidance senior practitioners about how to progress careers & deal day to day challenges

  38. there isn’t a PR degree that exists from a Russell Group uni (I think!) – so there’s a talent source…

  39. advocates who can articulate what their profession entails goes a long way to enticing people into careers like

  40. . good point Sarah – need visible role models who are proof of what can be achieved.

  41. also employ team members based on true competencies not immeasurables, such as a big contact book/industry connections

  42. RT : broaden horizons when recruiting – we are working on diverse recruitment guidelines that will help!

  43. Improve diversity: here’s one to put the cat among the pigeons: quotas on grad intakes?

  44. Disagree short term fixes/tokenism. Corps need invest individuals, promote &progress practitioners based on diversity of talent

  45. pay interns a living wage to do an honest days work – only option to open up access to everyone

  46. under-represented possibly because PR messages, channels and designs advertising roles are not always accessible or inclusive!

  47. I know. It is a good and valid point. It’s a long road with a lot of progress needed

  48. I’d like to see more senior BAME PR practitioners step up to be mentors to grads/apprentices

  49. Employers need to show recruiters a genuine commitment to diversity – not just pay it lipservice

  50. So let’s move on to solutions: T4: What can communications teams do to improve their diversity credentials?

  51. wasn’t having a pop – was using the question to raise issue of lack of disabled people in PR…its shocking!

  52. Good point, people with disabilities are also underrepresented

  53. I agree there are lone warriors,we have been talking about issue for decades.Less than 1% industry ethnic minorities

  54. Until we realise in our industry that “diversity” is more than race and gender… We have a lesson to learn ourselves

  55. also the work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation – hugely important to changing staid outlooks and processes

  56. Yes, it’s a case of putting all the pieces in place, one by one, and change will definitely come

  57. hooray for the millenials…but we need some more action now!

  58. think PR’s behind the scenes nature prevents public role models you see in other industries. How do you remedy that?

  59. interesting you mention “blind”…how many visually impaired/blind PR people do you know?

  60. Agree-generational differences in workplace play a part. Millenials will not tolerate&see the business imperative of diversity

  61. there are dinosaurs, there also too many agency heads doing too much client work and not enough business management.

  62. Perhaps because employers still take what they consider to be the ‘safe’ option and conform to type

  63. it’s a long game, but major activities such as the PR apprenticeship, the work to get interns paid, will have a snowball effect

  64. is not also the role of the recruiter to say “you need a diverse outlook in your team!”

  65. Improvement: I’m not so pessimistic. PR’s more diverse than a decade ago. Need more but don’t be blind to progress

  66. LOL we do have a leadership problem in PR, not enough diversity at the top…too many white males, where are the rest?

  67. However is pretty much right – “dinosaurs” at a senior level can be biggest barrier to delivering workplace change

  68. We wish more of our clients asked how we make sure we attract a diverse range of candidates for a role

  69. but delivering this is a long burn – you won’t see results in a few years time – but in 5, 10, 15 years…

  70. As an industry have not committed&invested in diversity beyond lip service and corporate mission statements

  71. explaining what the career trajectory could look like. In other industries you know where the career path is going

  72. . Agree but industry will have 2 work hard 2 sell itself – competing against other industries!

  73. Improvement: dare I say it- still “dinosaurs” at senior level?

  74. agreed. Does PR invest enough in proper, professional management?

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