Black PR advocacy group eyes disruption and transformation

Newly appointed National Black Public Relations Society president Neil Foote outlines strategy to solve lack of diversity in PR.

LOS ANGELES: The National Black Public Relations Society has appointed Neil Foote president and released a diversity action plan aimed at disrupting and transforming PR.

The plan includes four commitments hammered out following a summit in Washington, DC last October, relating to jobs and small business, training and education, alliances and partnerships, and thought leadership.

The summit was attended by PR pros from organizations including Coca-Cola, the Atlanta Hawks, Wells Fargo, Edelman, Golin, MSLGroup, Mitchell Communications, Syracuse University, and the PR Council.

Foote said the transformation will come when there is more diversity across the industry, particularly in the C-suite. "Disruption," he added, "is coming up with creative and new ideas that really jump-start this effort that have not been tried or tested in the past."

Potential deliverables include training webinars focusing on furthering one’s career. "We’ll be able to track via involvement, assessing how members end up advancing their careers along the way," said Foote.

Other objectives include more NBPRS members having their voices heard, in publications or at discussions or webinars. On jobs and advocacy, he will look to increase opportunities for students and professionals at various levels.

Foote also said various options for fostering greater diversity in PR include the "pipeline aspect," or supporting from an early stage diverse employees’ pathways to leadership or honing the skills of employees farther along in their career so they can move up the ranks.

Mentorships and opportunities to network are also crucial, he added. The society outlined such objectives at the October summit in its white paper, 2015 State of the PR Industry: Defining & Delivering on the Promise of Diversity.

Foote succeeds Richelle Payne as president of the society. He spent the past eight years leading his own firm and serving as principal lecturer at the University of North Texas’ Mayborn School of Journalism, according to LinkedIn.

"Diversity is a common thread in my work experience and a passion I’ve had my entire career," he said.

There has been progress in moving the needle on diversity over about a 10-year span in terms of "proactive plans putting diversity as a core element," said Foote, "but there’s work left to be done, like diversifying at the executive and C-suite level."

That focus "plays off a direct concern from some of our individuals to not only create jobs and opportunity, but also create some templates or provide for successful strategy," added Foote.

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