Racial Diversity in Comms: How to Hire & Retain People of Color All the Way to the Top

October 6, 2020
By #FridayForum Team Member Shruti Sharma
Racial Diversity in Comms: How to Hire & Retain People of Color All the Way to the Top

At our “Recruiting Top Diverse Talent” #FridayFriday on Oct. 2, PRSA Silicon Valley Board Member Elsa Kebede sat down (virtually) with The LAGRANT Foundation Chairman & CEO Kim Hunter to talk about racial diversity in the workplace. And why the industry’s approach to equitable change is not enough.

While many companies talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, recruiting and hiring practices for people of color are progressing at an unimpressive pace. According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the PR industry is 89.8% White, 8% Black & African American, 1.4% Hispanic American and 0.4% Asian American. These percentages are even farther apart when it comes to senior level professionals or executives.

If you want different points of view at the table you can’t have everyone there look like you,” Kim said. So how can we move the needle on this disparity?

Brands/Companies Plan and Commit

To make a true impact on the bottom line, brands must take action with a long-term plan. The key is to make a lasting commitment to threading diversity and inclusion not only in culture and hiring practices, but also as a central piece of the business model. With this mindset, brands can map out goals and plans for recruiting and retention that are feasible and beneficial to the business.

For example, through a partnership between HP Inc. and The LAGRANT Foundation, the two companies recently launched Technology + Social Innovation, a three-year program to support early-career professionals in journalism, communications and digital content creation.

To drive action behind diversity and inclusion efforts, Kim explained it must be framed as a business goal and tied to compensation. This technique is frequently used by businesses to raise revenue, sales, or other initiatives important to the company. By making diversity, equity and inclusion a business priority, the lens through which industry leaders and many others engage will have to change.

How Do People of Color Change the PR Agency Landscape?

In response to PRWeek’s “Hold the Press” coverage on diversity data for agencies, Kim Hunter dug deep to question where people of color are placed in the organization. “Are they on the senior leadership team? Are they on the operating team? Are they on the board of directors, leading a practice, or reporting to the CEO?” he asked. “How does the individual actively change the landscape of your agency?”

If those questions lack answers, Kim said it’s imperative to own up, embrace it, and take action to change the situation. On the other hand, if the agency is already taking action, it needs to share this publicly to show it has gone beyond recruiting diverse talent to having success retaining them.

Early-Career Professionals Must Engage and Solve Problems

Kim advises those who are early in their career to take the industry head on by getting engaged in this issue and solving problems. He explained that generating value for the team and/or company should be a focus in the first few years of a career. Using the situation to create change is how to get started.

Watch Forum replay here.

More about The LAGRANT Foundation here.  

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