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 as well as what Black History Month means to them.
As a member, and current Chair, of the Orange County PRSA diversity committee for the past three years, I’ve had the opportunity to see what it takes to build and sustain a strong diversity program. Success in diversity for our Chapter is based on challenging the status quo in the public relations industry and the communication community at large. I was honored when asked to contribute to this year’s Black History Month series because the opportunity provided me a chance to reflect on what makes the OC/PRSA’s commitment to diversity so successful and to offer some tips to other Chapters on how to replicate our success.
The commitment to industry diversity is not an “option” for OC/PRSA, it’s part of our DNA. For 10 years OC/PRSA has incorporated diversity into the Chapter’s annual planning. We do so by:
- Hosting an annual diversity event, whether in a luncheon format, or a half-day seminar. This event is always scheduled during the board’s initial annual planning meeting and developed by the Diversity Chair and his or her committee;
- Seeking out opportunities to partner with other committees that may have an overlapping focus, such as the Young Professionals (YoPro) committee’s mentorship program, or an event that highlights the diversity of careers in PR;
- Outreaching to diverse speakers and guests for all of our events, in addition to building our committee to reflect the values of PRSA as a whole on the diversity, inclusion and professional practitioners’ front;
- Staying abreast on the latest issues and trends within the field and specifically those related to diversity and then disseminating this information to our Chapter members via social media, email communication, our website’s Diversity Page or in person at our events.
As companies and clients across industries are recovering from the Great Recession, and once again investing in PR and communications, OC/PRSA has positioned our chapter to shape not only the conversation on diversity, but also the practitioners in the field. Our nation is facing some of the most heated conversations of our time:
- The debate on illegal immigrants, closed borders and the rights of immigrant workers in our community;
- The growing number of Veterans returning to civilian society without a safety net, and battling a variety of challenges from post-traumatic stress disorder and living with physical limitations to not having transferable skills to enter the workforce and financial pitfalls;
- The debate on marriage equality and continuing dialogues on LGBT issues including fair treatment in matters from healthcare for life partners to the right to not self-identify in the military;
- Racially motivated police brutality and continuing debates on living equally and safely as an ethnic minority in America.
It’s up to each chapter to do its part to commit to industry diversity and help shape the national conversation and standard for diversity in Public Relations and communications. In our 11th year as a committee, the OC/PRSA Diversity committee is working towards:
- Growing a diverse membership in the chapter by networking with local minority professional associations and student groups;
- Educating PR practitioners on best practices to guide conversations and communications on ethnicity, sexual orientation, Veterans affairs, physical disabilities, mental health, immigrant’s rights and other areas that shape our community;
- Providing updated resources for our members to research diversity and inclusion topics, trends and experts to help guide communications;
- Including local area ethnic media outlets in chapter media mixers and exposing our member base to a variety of diverse publications and resources.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to challenge the status quo in both the private and public sectors, as have many of my colleagues on the Chapter’s Board of Directors. From a full-service agency to a nationally recognized educational institution, my experience representing brands with unique and strong positions on society, has prepared me for this new role. On behalf of OC/PRSA, I look forward to working with the most talented practitioners in our community to further advance diversity on the local and national stages and challenge you to take a stand on PR Diversity.
Charla Jeannine Batey is an MBA candidate and communications professional based in Orange County, CA. She is currently the Communications & Events Officer for the UC Irvine Libraries and the Diversity Chair on the Board of Directors for OC/PRSA. Follow her @charlajbatey.