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Diversity in Public Relations: Why We Need It

Jan 15, 2015 5:11 AM / by Gaby Berkman & Caitlyn Keating

This Monday marks the observance of Martin Luther King Day-- a good day to reflect on diversity and acceptance in all aspects of life, including the world of public relations. While unfortunately PR has had its struggles with diversity (take gender diversity for instance: 85% of PR professionals are women!), it is an industry that can greatly benefit from endeavoring to be more diverse.

Diversity is an initiative supported by many in the PR industry, but I’d like to add a few reasons of my own on why I think diversity should be encouraged in our industry. Here are five ways diversity benefits PR practice:

Creating and open and credible workplace. Sadly, the field of PR is still lacking in diversity. African-Americans and Hispanic Americans make up only 10% of all PR professionals. In a profession that represents the views of multiple stakeholders, this needs to be changed. Potential employees, clients and partners will do their due diligence to research your company and current clients. Many will be scoping out its commitment to being a truly diverse work environment. Promoting diverse talent in business outlets such as Hispanic Business or Black Enterprise will attract diverse employees and clients.

Providing multiple view points. Especially important in crises, taking a multifaceted approach to looking at one singular issue will benefit both your response and the client’s reputation. The more approaches on how to respond, causes of the crises, etc., brought to the table, the better the response to the issue will be. Uber, for example, has had many crises on its hands recently, and has been bashed on its lack of direct responses. Having actual, human Uber employees respond from the onset will have helped Uber’s response and reputation.

Better understanding customers. By 2042, more than half of US consumers will be ethnic. For those of us in PR and marketing, it is essential that we understand that the US is already well on its way to becoming one of the most pluralistic and multicultural nations in the world. It is no longer acceptable to pigeonhole folks of a certain background to work with only their background – instead, consumers will develop a deeper trust and connection with brands who understand them from a variety of social, political, economic and cultural backgrounds. In turn, agencies should be staffed by people with diverse backgrounds.

Enhancing client connections. In today’s interconnected world, PR agencies and consultants can work with clients based anywhere in the world. Working with clients based in other countries is an exciting learning experience – it allows you to really get to know the traditions, taboos and nuances of that country’s media landscape. With that comes the need to be open and understanding of other cultures in every way – ranging from their work culture and vacation time to religious traditions and holidays.

Delivering insights into trends. According to Market Research Insights, African American males have been consumer retail trendsetters for quite a while. Not only are they more into fashion, they are also not afraid to take fashion risks and are more likely to base part of their sense of identity off of their style and image choices. Nike has done a great job tapping into this demographic with their $2 billion per year Jordan Brand subsidiary, as they recognize that lifestyle, health, a celebrity image and being portrayed in a positive light all combines create to brand trust and influence. Identifying who sets the trends is the best way for PR folks to capitalize on these and join the conversation in the appropriate outlets.

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