Attending the annual meeting of the National Black Public Relations Society in Chicago October 1, one couldn't help but be impressed by the level of talent and the sheer love of PR evident among speakers, senior society officers, attendees, and even students who were there to learn more about their future career. This is obviously a very dedicated group of PR people.
That makes it all the more disturbing that major PR firms haven't done a better job in diversifying themselves, especially in the senior-management ranks.
Pat Tobin, the society's president, said she expects to see more and more African-American PR people starting their own firms, frustrated by the lack of opportunities they see at major agencies.
The society's Chicago president, Paul Davis, asked major agencies in attendance at PRWeek's Chicago forum earlier this year how many African Americans they had in VP positions or above - and was greeted by an awkward silence.
Major agencies may have good intentions when it comes to diversity, but good intentions aren't enough. America is a diverse and increasingly non-white culture. PR firms must reflect that to serve their clients.
Davis is considering issuing annual diversity report cards for major agencies in Chicago to hold their efforts up to public scrutiny.
We'd suggest agencies start issuing their own report cards - and making them public - to give themselves benchmarks and goals. This may mean more work in recruiting and retaining talent, but it is work that will return many times the investment.