Agency doctor: Diversity is a business issue

Having a diverse consultancy team is the only way to ensure your work resonates with the greatest number of British people

Theresa Guppy:
Theresa Guppy:

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have been asked about diversity by agency clients. This is a strange state of affairs when you consider the current profile of the sector along with the demands of modern campaigns. It seems to me a diverse consultancy team is a must and it is an issue that as sector that we are not addressing comprehensively or effectively.

It won’t come as a huge surprise that the last PR Census in 2013 showed the UK PR agency sector is overwhelmingly white (91 per cent) and British (82 per cent). While 63 per cent of the total workforce is female, only 13 per cent of board positions are held by women. A tiny five per cent of those working in the industry are over 55 years old.

Modern PR campaigns demand the execution of comms across all available channels including digital and social. This form of direct communication demands a consistent and compelling flow of content that resonates with the widest possible range of publics.

Do we really believe that a white, middle-class and female-dominated sector made up of people mostly under the age of 35 years is best placed to communicate with the public of modern Britain?

So what can be done to address the lack of diversity? 

Recruitment is the obvious place to start. Having the right team to develop, deliver and evaluate campaigns has always been at the heart of a successful agency. But the majority of recruitment strategies are focused on education, experience and skills. Very little attention is given to the ethnicity, sex, age and socioeconomic background of candidates.

Now is the time to review how you recruit and which channels you are using and consider what the changing face of the British public is going to require in terms of insights, experience and knowledge.

Addressing the lack of diversity in the sector is a long-term issue and the PRCA’s Paid Internship and PR Apprenticeship campaigns are two avenues available to agency heads. The Paid Internship encourages consultancies and in-house teams to pay interns, to ensure the opportunity to learn about life in PR is available to candidates from all socioeconomic groups. It provides all consultancies with a simple method of bringing in fresh talent for a specific project and building productive working relationships with future employees.

Considering an apprentice rather than a graduate is another way of providing yourself with an opportunity broaden the diversity of your team. We have apprentices working incredibly well at a number of our clients and it brings the added bonus of part-government funding.

Diversity really is a business issue as well as moral one.

It makes no sense to ignore the changing face of the British population and if you do you are damaging your ability to deliver the results for which your clients come to you.

Theresa Guppy is a partner at Agency People

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