Does Diversity (or the Lack Thereof) Matter in PR?

PRSA NJ’s New Diversity & Inclusion Committee Explores the Advantages of an Increasingly Diverse Talent Pool for Public Relations and Communications

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a hot topic within many industries today. Companies and organizations are recognizing the importance of having people of different racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, and gender backgrounds at the table.

Recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion throughout the public relations sector, PRSA New Jersey’s leadership formed a Board level committee this year to help increase the visibility of D&I standards, resources, and best practices, and to increase the diversity of our membership. Board Director Jemia Kinsey Singleton, president of Kinsey Communications in Kenilworth, NJ, serves as the committee chair.

 Jemia Kinsey Singleton

President, Kinsey Communications

PRSA NJ Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair & Board Member

 

“Although this is an issue many people are talking about,” Ms. Singleton observes, “there is still much work to be done when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workforce – especially in PR. Having diverse PR professionals at agencies and on communications teams means a wider range of ideas and perspectives reaching various target audiences”. “It also helps employers avoid the kind of communications missteps several companies have made over the years. Remember the H&M ad featuring a Black child wearing a ‘Monkey’ sweatshirt?” she says.

A lack of diversity within the PR industry has already drawn national attention. In a Fortune Magazine article titled “Why is Public Relations So White?,” Andrew McCaskill, Nielsen’s SVP of global communications, concluded, “The only people who really understand how big the diversity problem is in public relations are the people of color.” He also noted that people of color are driving markets, so it is “strategy malpractice” if the team does not understand and reflect the customer base. Bottom line: diversity and inclusion not only “looks good for business”, D&I is good for business.

Before setting specific goals and measurable outcomes, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee wanted to understand just how diverse the New Jersey chapter is. The committee conducted an online survey of the chapter’s members to gather information.

Among the PRSA NJ survey findings:

  • most of the respondents were White females ages 41-60.
  • nearly two-thirds feel there is a lack of diverse professionals within PR – and want to see that change.
  • respondents felt that D&I is a topic that deserves attention and action.

Clearly, members are interested in building a culture of diversity in PR, bridging the gender gap, and learning ways to recruit more PR professionals of color.

The D&I Committee will use these findings to develop PRSA NJ programs and training on topics, such as “Pitching Multicultural Media” and “Understanding & Curtailing Micro-Aggressions.” Committee members are also looking at ways to provide mentoring and support for college students of color who are majoring in public relations. These will remain key concerns, given other studies that indicate the industry still struggles to attract diverse professionals to PR careers.

“The fact that PRSA NJ now has a committee dedicated to this issue is to be applauded,” says Ms. Singleton. “Having more diversity in our industry will lead to a wider spectrum of ideas, unique insights, new best practices, greater sensitivity to and awareness of other cultures, and a more diverse talent pool. Ultimately, this will help enhance the field of public relations and contribute to its success.”

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