Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month in February, PRSA invited prominent black leaders in the public relations profession to offer their views and ideas for achieving greater racial and ethnic diversity in the profession. This is the third post in the series. A compilation of previous PRSA Black History Month blog posts can be found here.
At the writing of this blog, it had been roughly 24 hours since the untimely death of singing star Whitney Houston. I carry an extensive background as a trained musician and as a professional in various levels of the entertainment industry. So, I have always found the passing of any influential and prominent musician to be a very sad occurrence. But somehow, Houston’s passing struck me as being much sadder and more poignant than many. I found myself reflecting on my own contribution to my community, and to the world.
For the past three years the New York chapter of the National Black Public Relations Society (BPRS-NY) had been totally inactive. Some wondered what happened to the chapter, but never investigated. There were those who were not aware that the chapter ever existed. I was focused on my special events design and production business, but felt I had made my contribution to the chapter with years of work I had put in as a chapter member, vice president, and diversity officer on the board of directors.
Last July, it became clear to me that it was totally unacceptable that in New York City, media capital of the world, there was no active Black Public Relations Society chapter. I decided to try and re-boot the New York chapter.
Since I began the work, a number of people have asked me why I started to put effort into such a massive project. What was it that was motivating me to take on the challenge of bringing a long dormant organization back to life? I was always able to come up with plausible answers. But the truth is that I did not have the slightest idea of what was driving me, until now.
I thought my contribution to BPRS-NY was over and done three years ago. I was wrong. I thought there was nothing more for me to say. I was wrong. I thought there was nothing more for me to build. I was wrong. It is quite possible that the downfall of the organization over the past three years had to happen, just to show me how very wrong I was about having nothing more to contribute.
It took several months of planning, organization, and promotion. But, finally, on November 30th, 2011, I hosted an exciting re-launch event for BPRS-NY at the New York offices of Burson-Marsteller. Along the way, I heard from our national president, who was so very happy to hear that someone was trying to get the New York chapter back on its feet again. I heard from other public relations organizations and firms who were interested in collaborating with BPRS-NY on diversity projects. I found that we were still very much welcomed at Burson-Marsteller, our long-time home in New York City.
But most importantly, I heard from young minority professionals in the communications industry who were excited to know that an organization like ours existed, to provide them with career direction and peer connection in the industry.
So, here I am, back again, working to open up lines of diverse opportunity for the future leaders of public relations and mass communication, and working to help further enhance the success of our seasoned professionals.
There is a lot of work to do. But as a result of the BPRS-NY re-launch event that took place last November, I have found a group of very sharp and very enthusiastic local PR professionals to help in reviving the organization. I am getting valuable support in this effort from officers in the Black Public Relations Society’s national network, which I really appreciate. I am very much used to sitting at the side of the table. Now, I’m sitting at the head of the table. The support of the officers in our national network has done a great deal to help me carry out that responsibility.
On a very sad day during Black History Month for me as a musician and a professional in the entertainment and communication industries, I found myself reflecting on my contribution to my community, and to the world. For some reason, it is during the saddest times that musicians have their most profound thoughts. I was thinking that I did not have anything very special to offer to my community or to the world. I discovered that I was wrong.
Mike Millis heads MX2 Design Force, a Brooklyn, New York-based company that designs, produces, and coordinates special events in the fashion, music, and other industries.