WASHINGTON: Avoiding the topic of diversity because it’s not easy to discuss won’t magically solve any of the issues plaguing the PR industry, experts agreed at an Advertising Week panel in Washington, DC.
"Be comfortable talking about what’s uncomfortable. All the [political correctness] will never get us to the table," Roberto Gomez, SVP of marketing and sales at Mosaic, said at the event on Thursday.
During the panel, Gomez and Pallavi Kumar, assistant professor and division director in the public communications division at American University, discussed some of the pervasive issues surrounding diversity – or lack of it, on some occasions -- in the PR industry.
Kumar said she "consciously" made an effort to diversify staff at American University because it’s important for students and recent graduates to "be learning from the field from someone who does look like [them]."
But those students have to be in a position to learn and the abundance of unpaid internships doesn’t do much to help pupils not economically inclined to work for experience alone.
Kumar said opportunities like those provided via fellowships by the Lagrant Foundation are at least one factor that is "really making a change."
When it comes to outreach, Gomez summarized what outreach efforts need in one word: sustainability.
"When you do any program that’s going to go out to an ethnic community, it [can be an 18-month commitment]," he said. "It’s not a one-time, get in, get the results and you’re out of there."
Gomez said Home Depot is an example of a corporation taking the extra step to connect with its Hispanic constituents by partnering with local leadership and groups and opening technical schools – with support from some tool companies – in Georgia and North and South Carolina.
"That was a true collaboration of corporation, community, and actually manufacturing working together to expose themselves," he said.