Program slates reluctance to aid minorities

LOS ANGELES: PR agencies want more minority employees - but they won't hire or train them.

LOS ANGELES: PR agencies want more minority employees - but they won't hire or train them.

This was the verdict handed down last week by Lagrant Foundation president Kim L. Hunter, who is frustrated by the industry's lack of support for a program designed to boost the presence of minorities in the communications field.

Starting in 1999, the foundation, which Hunter claimed is the first of its kind in the US, will annually offer scholarships to 10 minority college and graduating high school students pursuing a degree in a communications-related field. Winners will also receive help in finding summer internships and participate in professional development workshops for skills.

Attempting to find potential contributors, Hunter contacted the top 25 PR and ad firms in the LA area, as well as many major US corporations.

While several of the corporations expressed interest and made donations, few ad agencies and not a single PR firm responded.

'I think this says a lot about the industry,' said Hunter. 'There are almost no colored people in the industry, and none in bottom-line positions of leadership. The few (minorities) who work in PR look around and see no one who looks like them, except the receptionist.'

While the primary long-term goal is to increase the presence of minorities, Hunter said the foundation's first task is to heighten minority knowledge and awareness of the industry. 'People of color hear about PR, but don't have any idea what it is about,' he explained.

Hunter challenged his colleagues to act. 'Firms talk about how difficult it is to find and train people of color, but it isn't like you can go to a major university and say, 'Give me all your African-American communications students.' This isn't going to happen overnight.'.

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