PR must not hide from discussions on diversity

The New York City Commission on Human Rights may upstage September's Advertising Week festivities in New York. According to news reports, the agency subpoenaed CEOs of Saatchi & Saatchi, FCB, Grey Direct, Ogilvy, and others to testify about the lack of diversity in creative shops.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights may upstage September's Advertising Week festivities in New York. According to news reports, the agency subpoenaed CEOs of Saatchi & Saatchi, FCB, Grey Direct, Ogilvy, and others to testify about the lack of diversity in creative shops.

In a portent of things to come, Ad Age reported last week that Earl Graves Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, recently expressed during an event held by his publication, "Agencies are licensed to practice racism, not just in hiring, but also in investing in [diverse] media."

Whether ire against ad agencies means PR firms should expect the same is debatable, but clearly PR companies must do more than talk. Last year's PRWeek/Hill & Knowlton Diversity Survey revealed that about 80% of polled PR firms' staffs were Caucasian. The picture on the corporate front was about the same, though many believe that greater strides have been made in that arena.

PR pros should do what they do best and take advantage of the spotlight that is now shining on this critical issue. There is no point in pretending that this problem will remain isolated to the ad agencies just because they are bigger and have more staff.

Some have murmured that the timing of the hearings is suspiciously convenient, a PR ploy to capitalize on Advertising Week. So be it. The PR industry should make the most of the platform to highlight the profession, offering its own lack of diversity up to the public for review and appealing to bright individuals from all ethnicities and backgrounds to seek out a PR career.

We would like to see the PR industry take advantage of its superiority in reaching the public in meaningful ways by embracing, not hiding from, scrutiny on this important matter.

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