A new year is upon us and with the start of the year comes the promise of a fresh start in our personal and professional endeavors.
As your new Chair, I have the privilege of helping to guide the roll-out of PRSA’s new strategic plan, which is accompanied by a number of exciting priorities for 2014. One of the strategic underpinnings of the plan – and an issue that has long been a focus of PRSA, as well as our friends at the PRSA Foundation – is to seek opportunities to advance diversity within the profession.
It’s no secret that ethnic and racial minorities are under-represented in public relations, but the actual numbers are staggering. According to the PRSA Foundation, fewer than 10% of PR pros are African American or Hispanic vs. 30% of the U.S. populations (and growing to more than 50% by 2050).
I expect that I don’t need to tell any of our members that increasing diversity is critical, but there is value in reviewing the reasons why. Diversity enriches our perspective, improves our ability to support the organizations we serve and society, strengthens our businesses in a competitive global environment and allows us to better reflect and serve a diverse population.
I’m using this blog post to shine a spotlight on the issue of diversity, including some of the great work that has been done, the innovative programs that are now in place and the tremendous opportunity that stands before us. I hope that many of you will join me in making one of your resolutions for 2014 to help advance diversity within our profession.
I’m fortunate to succeed great leaders who have been prominent advocates on the issue of diversity.
Due to the hard work of these leaders, PRSA’s Diversity Committee, and the team at PRSA HQ, the groundwork has been laid so that we all have a chance to make a tangible impact. This is a year for us to “walk the talk” on the issue of diversity.
2014 PRSA Diversity Initiative
My predecessor, Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, is one of these leaders who strongly advocated for diversity in the profession during his tenure as Chair and CEO. In October, Nall announced a new initiative aimed at African-American and Hispanic college students to help raise awareness and increase interest in the profession. PRSA will be creating a digital toolkit to educate students at Historically Black Schools and Universities and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Chapters about how to enter the profession and be a successful practitioner.
Advancing Diversity within Your Local PR Communities
A first step is to get educated on how you can help make an impact. The PRSA website includes a page dedicated to the issue of diversity, which includes tools and resources to help chapter, section and district leaders enact positive change at the grassroots level. I strongly encourage you to spend some time on our diversity page and explore opportunities on how you can take tangible steps in enacting positive change within your own community.
Supporting the PRSA Foundation
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with PRSA Foundation President Lou Capozzi and am inspired by the incredible work that the Foundation has done and the opportunity to build on that success in the year ahead. Some of the pioneering programs that the Foundation has created or awarded grants for include:
- A partnership with the United Negro College Fund to strengthen the PR programs at historically black colleges and to attract more students to those programs
- A bilingual media writing course for Hispanic students
- A summer apprenticeship program for high school students where the kids get hands-on public relations experience
- Outreach to guidance counselors at inner-city high schools and community colleges to help them understand the exciting careers their students can pursue in PR
- Research studies on the obstacles minorities face in joining and staying in PR, and best practices for success
- Scholarships and awards – Awards (more than $30,000 each year) to encourage and support outstanding students, especially minority students, studying public relations
As PRSA members, I encourage you to visit the PRSA Foundation web site and explore these programs in further detail, including looking at how both you and the organizations that you represent can lend support. At the very least, I encourage all new and renewing members to check the donation box for the PRSA Foundation and pledge your support – ever dollar counts.
Taking Action Now
Please join me in making this year one in which you “walk the talk” on the issue of diversity. The groundwork has been set and there are opportunities now for you to help make an impact in advancing diversity within our profession. Go to the PRSA’s Diversity page and the PRSA Foundation home page to find out how you can make a difference today.
Best wishes to all of our members on a great year in 2014…
Joseph Cohen, APR, is 2014 Chair of PRSA.