Advocacy Diversity Thought Leadership

Steps in the Right Direction on Diversity

Nearly 95 percent of respondents to PRWeek’s 2008 Diversity Survey felt the public relations industry should follow the ad industry’s lead and institute more robust programs to recruit and retain diverse talent.

This is a bit curious for two reasons. First, the advertising industry was recently taken to task for its lack of ethnic diversity. And second, PRSA and others have made and are continuing to make a serious commitment to ending the industry’s diversity problem.

The goal of PRSA’s Diversity Committee  is to reach and involve members from a broad spectrum of groups that includes, but is not limited by, gender, ethnicity, race, age and sexual-orientation, and to provide all members with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today’s diverse marketplace.

Last year, the Diversity Committee continued to engage in various activities to drive diversity and inclusion within the Society and the broader public relations industry, and had some notable successes along the way.  For example, our participation at the PRSSA National Conference’s Career Development Exhibition and Resume Enhancement session focused particularly on aiding minority candidates. In addition to our presence at that conference, committee leaders also served as diversity resources for the speakers bureau, and authored an article on diversity for PRSSA’s FORUM newspaper.

Also in 2008, we helped to lead a multi-city Public Relations and Marketing Strategies Tour, a joint initiative between PRSA and Hispanic PR Wire that provided participating PRSA Chapters across the country with professional development resources for multicultural practitioners. These 60-90 minute mini-workshops featured insights, tactics and tools for execution and measurement of successful multicultural public relations programs.

In addition, the Diversity Committee created a microsite for its “PRSA Diversity Today” podcast series, which features in-depth and frank discussions that delve deep into the moral and business value of diversity in today’s ever-changing business climate.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to these podcasts, please visit the site and feel free to propose show ideas and  guests, or to offer other suggestions.

Of course, the Diversity Committee’s work is complemented and enhanced by the efforts of local PRSA Chapters. Last year, PRSA’s Chapter Diversity Awards recognized the Greater Fort Worth, Miami, Orange County and Wichita Chapters for outstanding programs and activities aimed at increasing our industry’s diversity.

In 2009, we will drive Chapter diversity leadership engagement to a new level. We have expanded the committee membership to six task force leaders and 22 supporting members, in addition to the 38 diversity chairs at local Chapters around the country.

Another goal is to continue building on last year’s momentum, especially with the “PRSA Diversity Today” podcast. This year, we engaged the very talented Dr. Rochelle Ford, Ph.D., APR, as program host. Dr. Ford is a nationally know diversity expert and author of the monthly column “Diversity Dimensions” for Public Relations Tactics.

We also will continue to update and enhance the diversity section of the PRSA Web site, offer our support to students through PRSSA, and take our Public Relations and Marketing Strategies Tour to new Chapters and Districts, including Nashville and Sacramento.

All of this is in no way meant to imply that public relations does not have a problem recruiting and retaining diverse professionals; or that we are doing enough in this regard; or that we have been successful in creating a more diverse public relations industry. Clearly, we do; we aren’t; and we haven’t.

Still, the past few years have seen dedicated and earnest attempts to address the public relations industry’s diversity problem. It’s a step in the right direction. And every journey begins with a single step.

Sonia Sroka is the 2009 Chair of PRSA’s Diversity Committee and vice president of Hispanic Marketing at Porter Novelli. She may be reached at Sonia.Sroka@porternovelli.com.

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