The BME Mentoring Scheme is back for a third year – offering aspiring black and ethnic-minority PR pros the benefit of expert advice and guidance from senior industry figures.
PRWeek is once again supporting the initiative, which aims to increase the number of PR professionals from ethnic minorities in top UK roles. The CIPR’s ‘State of the Profession’ 2019 report found that just eight per cent of PR professionals described themselves as non-white, compared to 12 per cent in the same survey a year earlier.
BME comms professionals can apply to receive the benefit of the mentors’ experience and expertise to boost their careers. The scheme is organised by BME PR Pros – an organisation founded by communications consultant Elizabeth Bananuka – in conjunction with PRWeek UK.
One of the mentees in 2019 was Ursalaan Khan, who moved from account executive to senior account executive at BCW during the period of the scheme.
"From start to finish the BME PR Pros mentorship scheme was amazing," he says. "Everything and everyone involved was incredible, making me feel at ease from the jump.
"Most importantly, however, having a mentor that has been through the same struggles you have/has been in similar environments can be rare, so having that person on-hand for advice is something that I can’t thank [them] for enough. I’ve made a lot of progression as well as met some amazing people through this scheme – definitely apply if you get the chance."
He was mentored by Myriam Khan, formerly associate manager, corporate communications, at Ketchum and now account director (global) at TVCGroup.
"Being a mentor with BME PR Pros was one of the highlights of my year," she says. "I was fortunate enough to meet my wonderfully talented mentee, who has been an absolute joy to know and work with. The programme has also brought some amazing peers who I didn’t know previously – my fellow mentors – into my life, and it has been fantastic forming a community with these incredibly accomplished, supportive and fun individuals, all of whom bring such new and interesting perspectives to the world of communications.
"For me, the BME PR Pros programme has successfully started to fill a huge gap in our industry – and I’m not talking about the goal of having a diverse industry, I’m talking about creating a platform that enables communications professionals from diverse backgrounds to explore their potential and challenge the bias holding them back. This is the first time we’ve had a platform of this nature, and I hope it’s just the beginning."
Effie Kanyua, director of PR and communications at Hearst UK, adds: "This scheme has been one of the best things I have taken part in professionally and my relationship with my mentee will develop past this." Her mentee was Tolu Akisanya, PR manager at The Personal Investment Management and Financial Advice Association.
"We set goals for Tolu and made a commitment, which I am so proud to say she achieved. I cannot thank Elizabeth enough for creating this [scheme] as a brilliant learning experience for both parties. Anyone who is considering applying, this will be the start of an incredible journey for you."
Eighteen mentors are taking part this year, one of whom is Book Trust press manager Sine´ad Gosai. "I’m very much looking forward to becoming a mentor; to offer hands-on support and guidance to my mentee, provide encouragement, practical advice and [acting as] a sounding board for when frustrations arise," she says.
"It will be an incredibly rewarding experience and I genuinely hope I’m able to make a difference and help someone less experienced develop their career and reach some professional milestones. There have been some fantastic mentors on the scheme so far and I feel very privileged to follow in their footsteps and help pay it forward."
HOW IT WORKS
Applications to be a mentee are open to any UK-based communications professional from an ethnic-minority background who has worked in the industry for at least six months.
The application form asks about the candidate’s experience and what they need to progress their career. Successful applicants will be matched with mentors deemed to be the best fit for their circumstances. The mentees will receive advice and guidance through face-to-face and remote meetings between April and June. The closing date for applications is Friday 14 February 2020.
Successful applicants will be notified by 8 March, and introduced to their mentors by the middle of that month. The mentoring will consist of three face-to-face meetings of 1.5 hours each over the three months of the scheme, plus a one-hour follow-up call or a face-to-face meeting in September.