Advocacy Diversity

Diversity Matters: Addressing Public Relations’ Diversity Deficit

Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month in February, PRSA invited prominent public relations professionals to offer their views and ideas for achieving greater racial and ethnic diversity in the profession. This is the sixth post in the series. A compilation of previous PRSA Black History Month blog posts can be found here.

A major highlight of my Fleishman-Hillard career was the privilege of not only knowing our co-founder, Al Fleishman, but calling him a mentor and friend. He was a man of many gifts: A great instinct for communication. A sharp, strategic mind. A big, big heart. He, along with his friend and business partner, Bob Hillard, became a pioneering force in public relations.

But Al’s greatest passion extended well beyond our profession. He was a great champion of diversity in all its forms. He was recognized as a tireless fighter for human rights who devoted much of his life to supporting the less fortunate and to helping people communicate with and understand one another better. It was a commitment that played out in many ways — from Al’s relief effort with European refugees after World War II, to his lifelong involvement with the nation of Israel, to his work with at-risk young men and women on the streets of St. Louis.

So, when we needed a name for an ambitious new diversity initiative at our firm, we didn’t have far to look.  We were proud to announce earlier this year the launch of the Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship initiative. Under this program, we are reaching out to both ethnic and non-ethnic colleges and universities to generate a pool of qualified minority applicants at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Our offices across the United States are working with university faculty to identify talented communications students to compete for 6- to 12-month paid fellowships with benefits. Upon successfully completing the program, fellows who meet our hiring specifications will, depending on business conditions, receive an offer of a full-time position. Recruiting is already underway, and we hope to award the first fellowships this summer.

This program is more than a tribute to a great friend and PR icon. It’s a timely reminder in the midst of Black History Month that we all need to renew our commitment to expand the diversity of our profession.

I salute PRSA’s longstanding pledge to make this organization and our industry more inclusive and welcoming to public relations professionals of all cultures, races and backgrounds. That commitment is a tremendous gift to us as professionals and to our clients. Each of us strives to bring the very best services and solutions to our clients. Increased diversity can only strengthen our ability to do that, enabling us to offer solutions that are richer, smarter, more complete.

I share these thoughts, not to suggest that our firm has found the true path, but to further the conversation about how we all can work to make our profession better. The Al Fleishman Diversity Fellowships are part of a broader initiative. It’s an effort we call Diversity Matters, and it’s built on four objectives:

  • Retain and recruit diverse talent with the knowledge, experience and passion to effectively meet our clients’ needs.
  • Invest in sustaining a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects our clients and the stakeholders they serve, as well as the global marketplace.
  • Shape a culture that is more welcoming of ethnic diversity in all of its forms.
  • Encourage others in our industry to address the overall “diversity deficit.”

Does your organization have a similar effort underway? What are your diversity objectives? How are you measuring your progress? Are you involving your clients in the process? Your communities?

I’d love to hear from you. And I hope this post serves as one more opportunity for us to share best practices on how we can ensure that, all across our profession, diversity does indeed matter.

Dave Senay, APR, is president and chief executive officer of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.

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