Editor’s note: In August, PRSA will celebrate PR Diversity Month by focusing on the diverse communities, people and practices that comprise the public relations profession. We will also be providing advice and insight on how to build a better PR industry through diversity and inclusion. We’ve invited PR practitioners and thought leaders to offer their insights on various diversity and inclusion topics important to the PR profession. Follow the series and join the discussion by using the hashtag #PRDiversity. For more information on Diversity Month activities visit the Diversity Month section of the PRSA site.
Diversifying Public Relations For A Multicultural Society
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with several public relations practitioners at various levels of their careers to discuss our experiences and the importance of diversity in the public relations profession. PRSA and the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee are committed to implementing a host of initiatives to deliver much-needed information and a message of welcome to underrepresented groups whose voices and talents are sorely needed in the PR profession.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 8% of public relations professionals are African American, while representing approximately 12% of the overall adult U.S. population, and only 5% of public relations professionals are Hispanic/Latino, while members of this group are approximately 13% of the population. Other minority groups are also underrepresented in public relations.
We live in a multicultural society, and public relations professionals serve a diverse client base. We need more practitioners who represent the people we serve, who can build bridges within communities, spark new thinking, tap into new resources, and assume leadership positions that will encourage more young people to step forward and embrace public relations as a career.
As a public relations practitioner with an extensive background in education, I am elated to take this opportunity to reach out to college students and give them the information and encouragement they need to consider a career in public relations.
If you want to embrace an exciting career, and can relate to any of the following attributes, skills and interests, then public relations is just right for you:
- You enjoy meeting new people, taking on new challenges, and being where the action is. You can easily be front and center as well as behind the scenes—as long as you are giving your all to what you believe in.
- You have earned a well-rounded education, and your intellectual prowess enables you to talk about a wide variety of subjects with a wide variety of people. You realize that this is an asset, because your future employers will think of you as someone with management potential.
- You take pride in your writing, and find this mode of expression empowering, purposeful and rewarding. Self-expression is meaningful to you, whether you are writing or speaking. You’re a good listener, too, because you are interested in what others have to say.
- You’re a team player, whether you’re on your college sports team, in a school club, a professional association, or working as an intern in a Fortune 500 company. You know the importance of working well with others to achieve a common goal, and putting your best foot forward at all times.
- You’re a strategic thinker who has a broad knowledge base, creative energy, and a “can-do” attitude. You adapt to change well, and like to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
- You read both local and national newspapers and magazines, whether online or in print. Staying current in both world and local events helps you to understand how your future client or employer’s work fits in with broader trends. You enjoy reading what reporters are writing about, and why.
- You’ve taken social media engagement to a whole new level. You understand its power to engage, influence, and enable you to become a thought leader in your area of expertise.
When I was in high school and college, I would have related to the above list, and found my way to a public relations career sooner! I was raised in a bi-racial household in a blue-collar town in New Jersey. “Back in the day,” I attended school-hosted career fairs for various professions, but was disheartened when I noticed that very few professionals looked like me. I pushed on, determined to use my writing ability and intellectual curiosity to carve a niche for myself. I was fortunate that I found my way with the help of family members and mentors. There may have been some classmates of color like me, however, who took the pamphlets, then turned and walked away from those career fairs feeling as I had felt: underrepresented and left out.
I don’t want that to happen to any student, ever again. Today, there are industry leaders who more fairly reflect the multicultural society in which we live. However, we still have a long way to go, and lots of work to do—especially in the field of public relations.
Here, now, is a Call-to-Action for everyone reading my blog post: college students, corporate and public relations agency influencers and practitioners, business leaders, teachers, college professors, parents, and everyone invested in attracting new talent to enrich the public relations profession. Connect with PRSSA chapters, encourage students from all backgrounds to apply for internships at your firm. Develop strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives to expand your recruiting efforts. Seek out opportunities to mentor and empower one another—each one, teach one, to quote an African American proverb.
As we celebrate Diversity Month, let us explore what it means to have a public relations profession enriched by a balanced blend of professionals from all walks of life—those new to the field, and senior leaders alike, who can work together to serve their clients and raise the bar.
Sheila M. Tartaglia, MA, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee Officer, is Chief Operating Officer of Tartaglia Communications, LLC, based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @SheilaTartaglia.