More than half of agencies ignore Hold the PRess diversity data request

‘This industry has long had a diversity issue, and so we are not surprised that some agencies are not ready to take the step into true, measurable change,’ said cofounder Nysah Warren.

Hold the PRess cofounder and Taylor account executive Nysah Warren
Hold the PRess cofounder and Taylor account executive Nysah Warren

NEW YORK: More than half of the PR shops contacted by Hold the PRess have ignored the group’s call to share workforce diversity statistics and their plans to cultivate and retain Black talent.

Twenty-eight agencies have responded fully since Hold the PRess began contacting PR firms in early July, asking for agency-wide breakdowns of their staffs’ racial makeup and plans to address a dearth of diversity. 

The list of agencies that did respond includes Edelman, Golin, Weber Shandwick, DeVries Global, DKC, Archetype, Zeno Group, Hudson Cutler, Finn Partners, SKDKnickerbocker, Ruder Finn, Taylor and W20.

However, 58 of the 108 agencies contacted by the group ignored its request for organizational diversity breakdowns by the July 31 deadline. Hold the PRess also asked for each agency’s number of Black staffers and people of color in executive roles; number of Black-owned and POC-owned client accounts; and plans to propel Black and BIPOC staffers in the office. 

Hold the PRess cofounder and Taylor account executive Nysah Warren said she was not surprised by the lack of a response. 

“We knew the numbers would be low,” she said, via email. “This said, for the agencies that responded and shared their data, we are happy to see this level of transparency for which we can hold them accountable as time progresses.” 

Six agencies responded without supplying the requested information, while 10 replied but offered incomplete data, statistics with no action plan, a plan without statistics or holding-company-level data as opposed to individual agency numbers. Six PR shops asked for more time to respond, and Warren said she expects them to follow through. 

“This industry has long had a diversity issue, and so we are not surprised that some agencies are not ready to take the step into true, measurable change,” said Warren.

Hold the PRess is also planning to release 10 key lessons learned from the initiative, as well as data from the agencies it has not made public. It is also planning to follow up with firms next year, if not sooner, to track changes.

“We plan to compile agency stories from Black employees to share as a means for transparency, but also to educate agencies on cultural implications that stem from a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the office,” Warren said. “Outside of this, we are continuing to lock in ways to help agencies increase Black and [people of color] representation at all levels, but overall we are continuing to strive for a more transparent industry that is actively working to ensure true diversity is reflected.”

Hold the PRess was founded by Warren along with Sade Ayodele, director of Taylor’s digital sports group; Fatou Barry, founder at the PR Girl Manifesto; and Enoma Owens, account executive at Connective Agency.

Ayodele said last month that the group’s raison d'être is to inspire PR firms to live out the missions they presented on social media in solidarity with Black Lives Matter following George Floyd’s death in police custody. 

“Thirty days after you posted a black square, what have you done?” asked Ayodele.

Hold the PRess merged with 600 & Rising, a similar group focused on driving diversity in the creative industry, at the end of July. However, the two groups diverged this month shortly after 600 & Rising president Nathan Young resigned and the group reorganized, with plans to rejoin forces once a new president is named.

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