The era of the PR clique must end

There is one line in Sunjay Kakar's opinion piece last week that, for me, summed up the crux of the diversity in PR issue - and the severe lack of it.

Pick up your skinny latte and roll with the changes, says Jessica Huie
Pick up your skinny latte and roll with the changes, says Jessica Huie
Anyone alert enough to recognise societal shifts will realise that it's not about ticking politically correct boxes, it’s about agencies recognising that this era demands consultants from a variety of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, in order to be effective. 

Last year saw more than half a million new businesses started and the individuals at the helm of those enterprises come from a more varied demographic than ever before. 

PR has a tradition of operating within a comfort zone of archetypes often ill-equipped to relate to, let alone communicate effectively, the message which is their own clientele’s objective. 

Looking at the argument at its most basic, a conglomerate of minds, backgrounds and experiences make for potent teams, ideally suited to deliver forward-thinking strategies and campaigns for present day society and the client opportunities it represents.

It’s not about hiring outside of the society set simply for the sake of it; it’s about ensuring that your team has the ability to empathise with the cultural nuances and values of the individuals you seek to represent because, presumably, effective representation is a key factor at the heart of any successful campaign, isn’t it? 

Ego has a lot to answer for. 

Many agencies believe their own marketing spiel. They are so convinced of their power as a machine that they behave almost as though clients are privileged to have them as their communications agency. 

This disposition may work in the short-term but, ultimately, PR is a service, and our role is to keep the client’s objective not our agency’s motivation, at the heart of our strategy. 

Fail to do this and there will be repercussions.

Several years ago I recall the high profile 90th birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela in Hyde Park. 
Ticket proceeds were being donated to Mandela’s charity, 46664.

The PR agency handling the star-studded event had steamed ahead, granting sought-after golden circle tickets to journalists at high-end glossies and showbiz press. 

Not one member of the ethnic press was on this VIP list. 

Of course, there was an argument for ensuring the titles with the broadest reach and largest influence got priority access.

But considering the late Mandela’s standing within the black community, leaving out the media that consistently covered the his political movements, week-in-week-out, even when the A-list did not figure in the story, was a serious failure.

To fail to stay true to what Mandela, whose very essence was unity, inclusion and authenticity, was about was a serious and potentially damaging oversight. 

People were upset. 

Of course we can’t be too mad at the agency because the reality is the importance of ensuring the niche, but key, ethnic media were considered was presumably floated way above the consultant’s heads. 

Given the chance, brilliant careers will be made by individuals who have travelled alternate roads to those stereotypical of the sector. 

If PR doesn’t pick up its skinny latte, cast off the shackles of its clique and smell the coffee soon, it may become as outdated and ineffective as some of the mind-sets that operate within it.

Jessica Huie MBE is the founder of JH Public Relations 

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