Society members agree PR assignments for black firms must extend past multicultural work

CHICAGO: African-American-owned PR firms need to work together to garner more PR assignments that reach beyond simply doing multicultural work for corporate America, said Robert Dale, president and CEO of RJ Dale Advertising & Public Relations.

CHICAGO: African-American-owned PR firms need to work together to garner more PR assignments that reach beyond simply doing multicultural work for corporate America, said Robert Dale, president and CEO of RJ Dale Advertising & Public Relations.

Dale spoke Friday at the opening session of the annual convention of the National Black Public Relations Society in Chicago.

In the 17 years his Chicago-based firm has done public relations, Dale said he has never received an RFP from a public company for a general PR assignment. However, he has received such RFPs from government entities.

Corporate America is stereotyping African-American firms, calling on them only to handle African-American- focused PR work, Dale and others at the session agreed.

"We're not recognized as serious practioners of public relations and it's our responsibility to overcome that," Dale said.

Pat Tobin, president of the society, said major PR agencies also need to do more than simply talk about diversifying their employee and management ranks.

"I'm tired of getting the crumbs from their table," she said in an interview with PRWeek following the opening session.

Paul Davis, president of the society's Chicago chapter, said he has begun meeting with major agencies in Chicago on the diversity issue and he's considering issuing diversity report cards for agencies to have benchmarks for how well they are diversifying.

"We are far too creative and skilled as a profession not to figure this out," Davis said. "I'm very optimistic here in Chicago. We want to create a model" that can be copied in other cities, he said.

Dale and other speakers at the opening session told young African-American PR professionals in attendance to concentrate on improving their communications and general business skills.

"This is a wonderful time for the astute communicator but what we do have to have is a commitment to lifelong learning. You must have that to be effective in communications," said Cheryl Procter-Rogers, president-elect of PRSA and regional corporate affairs director with Home Box Office.

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