WASHINGTON, DC: In an effort to get more PR firms to hire minority professionals, the Black Public Relations Society (BPRS) has invited 25 CEOs of top PR firms to a reception next week in Washington. But while representatives from many of the industry’s largest firms are expected to attend, black PR leaders are skeptical the event will effect any meaningful change.
WASHINGTON, DC: In an effort to get more PR firms to hire minority
professionals, the Black Public Relations Society (BPRS) has invited 25
CEOs of top PR firms to a reception next week in Washington. But while
representatives from many of the industry’s largest firms are expected
to attend, black PR leaders are skeptical the event will effect any
’Corporate America does a fine job,’ said Lagrant Communications founder
and president Kim Hunter. ’PR agencies do a horrible, horrible job. They
talk a good game but don’t give a damn about diversity.’
’That’s just not true,’ countered Peter Himler, an MD in
Burson-Marsteller’s NY corporate practice, pointing to his firm’s
recruitment efforts at black universities and hosting of the BPRS’ NY
chapter meetings. Added Shandwick Public Affairs chairman and CEO Jody
Powell, ’Active and aggressive recruitment of minorities is a real
priority, but there is certainly room for improvement.’
Despite the profession’s current desperation for top people, BPRS
president Ofield Dukes believes that blacks are not being hired ’at the
level of their potential’ by PR agencies. He said that many senior jobs
are available but black candidates are often not given serious
consideration by either agencies or search firms.
’I hate to be blunt, but it’s racism,’ added Lon Walls, president of
Walls Communications. ’Firms are not very comfortable with having large
numbers of African-Americans in PR. We just don’t make it into major PR
Walls pointed to a handful of colleagues who left highly visible TV
careers to work at PR agencies. He claims they are not being used,
respected or treated as well as their white counterparts.
Next week’s BPRS reception is designed to familiarize large agencies
(which commonly bid for and win big-dollar federal contracts with
minority components) with some of the profession’s best-regarded
Dukes said the large firms often claim that they can’t find minority
firms with whom to partner.
However, Hunter - whose firm is a part of the Arnold Communications and
Porter Novelli-led team that won the multimillion-dollar American Legacy
Foundation anti-tobacco account last year - said that being tapped as a
partner doesn’t ensure that you’ll receive any meaningful work. ’It’s
been one year and we haven’t been given one assignment,’ he said.
This week, Hunter’s foundation, The Lagrant Foundation, will present
scholarships to 10 minority students pursuing college degrees in PR and
related marketing fields. In his quest for funds, he had no trouble
getting large donations from corporations like Nissan North America. But
he said that for the second straight year, major PR firms (with the
exception of Hill & Knowlton) gave him the cold shoulder.