Michael Bush looks at PR's continuing push for more work force diversity
Ask a multicultural PR pro about the state of diversity in the industry and you’ll likely get the same answer you’d have gotten three years ago: We’re getting better, but we still have a ways to go.
John Echeveste, partner and cofounder of Valencia, Perez & Echeveste Public Relations, says firms have good intentions, but they need to do more than talk.
“We don’t see the level of personnel within agencies, especially at the senior levels,” he says. “There are very few people of color in management posts at the major firms. I think [they] need to go where the bodies are.”
Echeveste cites geography as a key obstacle. “Many firms are based on the East Coast and they’re not doing enough on the West Coast where there are larger num-bers of Hispanics and Asian Americans,” he adds.
“The candidates are out there, but agencies have to go beyond their usual spheres and talent pools.”
Bill Imada, chairman of IW Group, sees more Asian Americans than Hispanics or African Americans working in large agencies – a trend he feels will continue.
“I think Asians are a lot more inclined to take jobs in PR [now] because there’s no longer a stigma attached to it like there was 15 years ago,” he explains.
Imada has witnessed an increased effort by the major holding companies to create a more diverse workforce within their PR firms, but he and Echeveste both say corporations are way ahead of agencies on this front.
“[Agencies are] making an effort,” Imada notes, “but corporations have leapfrogged two to three times beyond the PR industry, which continues to be predominantly older Caucasian men and women.”
Cristina Alfaro, manager, external communications at McDonald’s, says creating a diverse workforce is one of the company’s priorities. As an example, she cites its internship programs designed to cultivate PR talent, adding that as interest in multicultural marketing grows, finding talent has become a bit easier.
“Interest in the field is growing and so is the budget,” she says. “We’re starting to attract more people who see the importance of the market. When I talk to those studying communications, they have more awareness of opportunities in multicultural communications.”
Sheri Leonardo, VP of human resources at Ogilvy, says the level of diversity is getting better, but PR does not put as much emphasis on it as other industries.
“There are organizations trying to get the information out that there are diverse persons truly looking to get into PR,” she says, “but it’s got a ways to go.”
While Leonardo acknowledges that the industry bares a portion of the blame, she says multicultural organizations and groups could also be more visible.
“When you see things on diversity, you see things that are focused on seminars and sessions discussing how to go after them, but when you get there, it’s really not about finding talent, it’s more about valuing the diversity,” she says. “Regardless of the industry, 10 to 15 years ago when you started hearing about diversity, I thought we’d be much further along nationally. I don’t know too many companies that have gotten it right.”