This is part of a series of blog posts celebrating our 50th anniversary, all of which address the question: What does the future of the PR and communications industry look like?
When I was little, I wanted to be the same as everyone else. As a mixed-race kid at a school of mainly white children I was really aware of being different and I didn’t like it. I did loads of things to help ‘fit in’ including asking my Indian dad not to pick me up from school as it often meant insults in the playground the next day. Fast-forward 25 (ish) years and thankfully I appreciate how powerful and wonderful difference is, but also appreciate that the industry that I’ve chosen to work in needs to do more to embrace it. We all know good PR reflects the audience it’s talking to, so I believe it’s the agencies that are able to really make their teams a true representation of the public, that will still be around in 5, 10, 25 years’ time…
Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s proven that diversity impacts the bottom line, for the better. So how can we make something that we all want to do and that could help deliver success and profit, become more of a priority?
I think the answer is mainly two-fold; rewarding the right behaviour and finding ways to help broaden the talent pool. So, clients asking agencies to share their diversity credentials during the pitch process or RFP process, is a valuable way to elevate well-meaning conversation into action. The more that happens and the more the benefits are tangible, the more diversity will become a real focus.
In addition, the more mentee/mentor schemes, opportunities to go into schools rather than universities (when there’s often already privilege at play), the more we’ll see great people from all walks of life and backgrounds through the door. Alongside more ways created to connect with those who perhaps find the academic structure a challenge, are from families on lower incomes, or lack the confidence to consider certain types of jobs or careers.
This allows the opportunity for us to inspire and develop young people at a valuable time, so that they have the confidence, determination and skills to help shape the future of the industry for the better and turn well-meaning conversations at agency boardroom level into real actionable outcomes.
But we need to remember that it’s not just about BAME and gender, there’s a whole load of other diversity issues we need to address, neurodiversity, disability and age as a start. I remember in my PR early days thinking where do all the over 40 PR people go…?!
Now to be clear, I’m not saying the best ideas only come from people that exactly represent the audience they are aimed at – we all should be experts at understanding and unpicking a brief and who it’s targeting. However, the opportunity to have input from someone that represents the group of people on the brief, over some desk research and a few reads from an out-of-date Mintel report, makes good ideas into great ones.
Ultimately, I hope that the future of PR is a world where we don’t have to champion diversity, because it’s the norm and that there are a load of established ways to sustain the momentum –because the future is bright, if the future is diverse.