EDITORIAL: The entire PR industry should follow the PRSA's lead and back up 'diversity' talk with real action

The PRSA has made increasing diversity one of its top three priorities, addressing a growing concern that the profession is not doing enough to attract and retain the best people from all races, ages, cultures, and backgrounds.

The PRSA has made increasing diversity one of its top three priorities, addressing a growing concern that the profession is not doing enough to attract and retain the best people from all races, ages, cultures, and backgrounds.

Frankly, it's something we hear many people talking about today, but what anyone is actually doing about it is not always apparent. Clearly, it isn't an easy problem to solve. As noted in this column before, PRWeek also aims to identify and highlight influential professionals of diversity, with varying degrees of success. The same is true for the industry as a whole. That's why it was refreshing to speak recently with Ofield Dukes, who chairs PRSA's diversity committee, and talk about the pragmatic rationale for workforce diversity, beyond the rhetoric. The absence of real action in solving the problem is caused in part, he explained, by a failure to recognize the business reasons why multicultural staffing is important. PRSA's diversity mission statement quotes a national business publication that defined the issue this way: "Diversity management, while based on cultural change, is a pragmatic business strategy that focuses on maximizing the productivity, creativity, and commitment of the workforce, while meeting the needs of diverse consumer groups." So the principle makes sense, but PRSA is also encouraging its chapters to provide practical guidance to members. Examples of how this is playing out are popping up across the country. Georgia PRSA's goal is to more than double its minority membership by 2005, and it has created a program to create a mentoring program for students. It will also hold professional development events with the Black Public Relations Society of Atlanta. Chicago PRSA plans to sponsor career workshops in local schools and establish a scholarship program for minority students studying PR. The Los Angeles chapter is creating a diversity award to recognize organizations that are successfully building and championing a multicultural workplace. These efforts are laudable and realistic, and it seems that the PRSA has generated some momentum in its ranks. Beyond that organization, the entire industry must now ask how much it really believes in the benefits of diversity. If so, why is the profession not top-of-mind for many young minority people when they consider their career options? The PR industry is clearly not doing all it can to attract these candidates - and keep them. So what are we prepared to do about it? 2004 PRWeek Awards are on the horizon The entry kit for the 2004 PRWeek Awards can be found in this week's issue. Now is the time to identify your best campaigns and most outstanding individuals, and put them forward for consideration by our esteemed group of judges. The PRWeek Awards are the highlight of the year for the profession, celebrating the most significant accomplishments and professionals out there. We know that entering the awards is not easy - nor should it be. But the effort is worthwhile, as it demands that you define what "good" PR really is, and who is really making it happen. For more information about the Awards, e-mail awards@prweek.com.

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