EDITORIAL: Diversity training in PR must run deeper

This year's PRSA conference in San Francisco reflected the organization's commitment to diversity with seven workshops focusing on multicultural affairs. More than one attendee mentioned that this was probably a record number, but whether that was praise or pessimism was hard to tell.

This year's PRSA conference in San Francisco reflected the organization's commitment to diversity with seven workshops focusing on multicultural affairs. More than one attendee mentioned that this was probably a record number, but whether that was praise or pessimism was hard to tell.

Despite the growing interest from corporate America and talk within the PR ranks about the importance of minority consumers, the conference was a reminder that multicultural is still marginal in the larger scope of public relations. While PRSA organizers should be commended for the good intentions of the workshops, diversity cannot be only a horizontal effort to include more variety - especially if the organization is committed to diversifying its membership. It must also be a vertical effort at depth of knowledge and relevance. Simply including seminars on multicultural issues is too close to lip service if those offerings don't address the needs of specialty practitioners, rather than provide overviews of basic ideas. For those who work with ethnic or non-mainstream programs, were the workshops advanced enough to provide new insight? Did they delve into the questions and problems that multicultural experts face? Did they truly offer attendees the chance to gain new skills and ideas? Where media relations seminars focused on specific topics, such as "Surviving Gotcha Journalism" and "Facing the Media in a Crisis," multicultural media relations offerings stuck with more simple topics such as "Effectively Working with Minority and Alternative Media." To be sure, it's a worthwhile topic. But probably not enough to encourage ethnic and minority specialists to attend the conference. Because as any multicultural PR practitioner will tell you, relevance is the key to success.

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