Danny Rogers: Improving diversity is next step for industry

Last week Ignite, the diversity in PR networking group, launched a 'manifesto for change', calling for the British PR industry to take immediate steps towards increasing diversity.

Danny Rogers: Improving diversity is next step for industry
Danny Rogers: Improving diversity is next step for industry

Ignite has a strong point. Last year's PRWeek/PRCA Census also showed that despite the industry now employing more than 61,000 professionals, only eight per cent of all practitioners came from a black or minority ethnic (BME) background - of which a quarter were black African or Caribbean.

In this sense the PR industry is failing abjectly to reflect the society from which it recruits and profits. According to the Office for National Statistics, 37 per cent of Britons are from a BME background.

Perhaps we should not be too surprised. Other media and marketing industries are similarly staffed. The 2011 IPA Agency Census revealed that ten per cent of the advertising industry was from a non-white background.

But this is not healthy. Greater diversity of background, experience and viewpoint can only be a benefit to the comms sector. And of course the BME community is a powerful and growing consumer group, which should be engaged effectively in corporate, consumer or employee campaigns.

Ignite's manifesto, entitled Igniting the case for diversity and inclusion in public relations, offers employers practical advice on improving diversity. It advises on better recruitment and creating a more inclusive working environment.

And as Ignite founder Bieneosa Ebite pointed out last week, the diversity challenge facing PR is about more than ethnicity. There is an equally poor representation of people with disabilities, and - as the recent PRWeek Power Book showed - women are significantly underrepresented in the top echelons of the profession. Even the recent unpaid interns scandal - where PR firms tended to exploit graduates with wealthy parents - highlighted the profession's tendency towards homogeneity.

It is often argued here that the British PR industry is becoming a significant creative powerhouse. I would argue that these innovative and entrepreneurial powers could only be enhanced by a more diverse, dynamic workforce.

The good news is that the CIPR and the PRCA are backing the Ignite manifesto, which has also had major support from such industry luminaries as Insight Public Affairs' John Lehal and The Red Consultancy boss Mike Morgan.

As Morgan - originally a working-class lad from Liverpool - told me: 'The past 20 years have seen regionality and class biases in PR overturned - this wider diversity is the next plank of progress'.

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