PR pros vital in diversity coverage

As a senior PR practitioner with a focus on companies that utilize diversity as a best business practice, I have learned a great deal about what makes them successful.

As a senior PR practitioner with a focus on companies that utilize diversity as a best business practice, I have learned a great deal about what makes them successful.

Companies that excel in diversity management know that attracting and retaining diverse employees is critical to gaining entry into lucrative new markets. They also realize that stakeholders must grasp how diversity directly impacts the bottom line. Yet the reporters I deal with often seem to miss the importance of diversity in the business landscape.

Today's business leaders understand that diversity is not a trend, but rather what America has become. We have all seen name brands that ruled just a few years ago become obsolete because they ignored the changing face of the marketplace while other brands were paying attention. One iconic American company, at the suggestion of a Latino employee on its diversity council, added the name "Chicharrones" to the packaging of its pork rinds, a snack popular with Latino customers. The small acknowledgement increased sales by millions.

I am happy when reporters call me for help, even though they frequently need lengthy briefings on the basics of diversity management, but I wish they'd get up to speed and try to get the facts right.

A senior management reporter at the top national daily needed help understanding client survey data for a special diversity section. After I spent several hours helping the reporter, he said the entire section was cut from the story because, although he understood the data, his editor didn't. Despite careful explanation, another reporter at the top financial wire service failed to grasp stock index numbers proving diversity management excellence's link to shareholder value - and got it wrong.

Reporters say they want hard news, so what's the problem? Are they dismissing diversity as too soft for their business news readers?

Until the business case for diversity gains more traction with the business media, it's the PR pro who must help reporters make their case by arming them with credible data and clients who can educate without preaching.

Ironically, the current news cycle is helping reporters connect the dots with clear examples every day of what can happen when Oprah gets dissed by HermŽs or how a lack of diversity in upper management can impact the responsiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a disaster.

It will take patience, thoughtfulness, and the willingness to keep on pitching and use timely news pegs. By positioning yourself as the go-to source and recommending top diversity experts beyond your clients, journalists will begin to keep you top of mind.

Encourage them to scratch a little deeper, and they will start to find the kind of ammunition that will convince their editors that this "soft stuff" is the "hard stuff" that is impacting America's bottom line and will determine the nation's ability to thrive in an increasingly diverse global economy.

If that's not news, I don't know what is.

Rachelle Pachtman is president of Pachtman Communications in New York.

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