NEW YORK: Six independent PR shops are forming an agency network called The Change Agencies that will focus on the black, Asian-American, Hispanic and LGBTQ communities.
Launching on Thursday, the network includes Chino Chapa Communications in Dallas; New York’s MuchPR; PRecise Communications in Atlanta and Miami; Washington-based RenewPR; Mahogany Xan Communications in Phoenix; and Storieology Communications in Maui, Hawaii, and San Francisco.
"[RenewPR president] Ben Finzel thought about the idea maybe early last year," said Alexis Davis Smith, president and CEO of PRecise Communications. "He was on a panel talking about diversity in PR which, as you know, has been a topic in our industry for many, many, many years. From there, he came to me and said, ‘You know, there really isn’t a network of multicultural and LGBTQ PR services like there are other for other [specialties]."
Preliminary discussions about creating the network took place in early 2018, Smith said. The group started talking more seriously about the idea last May and worked out the legal and contractual details in fall 2018.
The network will provide services that Smith said are difficult to find at large agencies and holding companies.
"There are a lot of players in the cultural space, and we see a lot of major agencies and international firms saying they are offering [these services]," she said. "What happens, more often than not, is they only have one person or two people focused on multiculturalism, inclusion and diversity."
Smith added that the network will also feature a combination of services that are often found only on a piecemeal basis at smaller independent agencies.
"When it comes to the smaller shops, the benefit of the network is that while most of us say we do multicultural comms, most are specialists in one specific area," she added. "My firm is one of the few traditional PR firms that has offered services focused on African-Americans and U.S. Hispanics from the very beginning. Most shops usually do just one, African-American, Hispanic or Asian."
LaTricia Woods, founder of Mahogany Xan Communications, said there is a business need for the network’s services.
"From my vantage point, I see the demand as being extremely prevalent," she said. "It seems that a new story hits every couple of weeks that focuses on a company making a communications faux pas that has negatively impacted a diverse segment of the population."
Woods added that she hopes the network will help businesses understand the financial benefits of addressing diversity and inclusion.
"As a business owner, I want companies to understand the economic power of diverse communities and how that power will continue to increase in the coming year," she said. "That power has a voice and that voice is screaming to be heard and recognized by mainstream society."
Finzel said member agencies will reach out to current and past clients to educate them on the network’s capabilities. With a list of potential clients to target, he said the network will also offer services to large PR firms and holding companies.
Smith said that there are no immediate plans to add other agencies to the network, but Finzel noted there is a chance it could bring on capabilities.
"We’re starting with the four key sectors [LGBTQ, black, Hispanic and Asian]," he said. "Maybe we’ll expand that, but for now, we’ll focus on what we know, who we know, because we have and are living those experiences."