The Blueprint – more agencies win racial diversity 'kite mark'

Stronger Stories has become the second agency to be awarded The Blueprint kite mark for its commitment to racial diversity, with Cirkle and Ready10 gaining Ally status.

Elizabeth Bananuka: The Blueprint process is 'tough, and deliberately so'
Elizabeth Bananuka: The Blueprint process is 'tough, and deliberately so'

Stronger Stories, Cirkle and Ready10 secured their accolades after completing an application form, which was marked by a judging panel, detailing their existing commitment to diversity within their businesses and the industry.

Launched in June, The Blueprint aims to promote racial diversity in PR and comms. Awarded agencies sign up to a series of commitments, from publishing diversity data to tackling ethnic and gender pay gaps, aimed at encouraging diversity from work experience to boardroom. Applicants must secure more than 70 points to secure Ally status and 101 points to achieve The Blueprint status.

In response to Black Lives Matter, Brighton-based Stronger Stories set up an anti-racism review into its operational processes. As a result, it appointed a diversity and inclusion (D&I) officer, implemented significant D&I training and rewrote a number of policies.

The social enterprise marketing agency works with a D&I recruitment consultancy and has committed to blind recruitment processes. It recently became employee-owned to address the lack of ethnic diversity in its leadership team and ownership.

Guy Pattison, chief executive of Stronger Stories, said: "If I could choose one storytelling superpower that would give me next-level empathy and insight, fresh creativity and new ways to solve problems, I’d choose diversity. The biggest hurdle is owning your privilege and mistakes. But defeating that 'inner villain' isn’t hard when The Blueprint shows you the way, and your work can have a more positive impact on the world as a result. Who doesn’t want that?"

The Blueprint is led by Elizabeth Bananuka, founder of BME PR Pros, who said: “We created The Blueprint to ensure talented black, Asian, mixed race and ethnic minority PR and comms pros could get the careers they deserve, and for agencies that genuinely value diverse talent to benefit from their talents.

"It’s tough, and deliberately so. It is for agencies committed to diversity and ready to introduce sweeping measures to create workplaces that nurture and support individuals from diverse backgrounds. This is not for the bandwagon-jumpers or those looking for a cheap PR fix: it’s for those that want to do the deep, unfashionable work, from releasing diversity data to tackling gender and ethnic pay gaps.

"I applaud Stronger Stories, Cirkle and Ready10 for signing up to The Blueprint commitments. They are clever, exciting and interesting businesses clearly committed to diversity and inclusion and deserving of The Blueprint and The Blueprint Ally mark respectively. I can’t wait to see what they all do next.”

Stronger Stories joins Manifest in achieving The Blueprint status, while Cirkle and Ready10 join Blurred and InFusion Comms as Blueprint Ally agencies.

Employee-owned Cirkle was commended for having a a deep commitment to social justice and social inclusion, working with charity Career Ready to get young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access to workplaces and mentors. The agency has delivered ‘What’s PR?’ sessions to 60 students at Luton Sixth Form College, run week-long virtual work experience programmes, and taken part in year-long student mentoring schemes.

Cirkle chief executive Ruth Kieran said: “The Blueprint is not an award to be ‘achieved’, but signals a fundamental decision by agencies to dismantle and challenge old assumptions, practices and processes that may have appeared to ensure parity, equality and inclusion, but have not gone far enough to deliver real, positive change. As an agency, we are fully aware that we are by no means diverse – yet – but we are committed to changing the status quo and encouraging true allyship within our industry. We are working hard to make these changes, and are exceptionally proud to be given this status.”

David Fraser, founder of Ready10, said: “We are humbled to have been awarded Blueprint Ally status, but we see this as the end of the beginning rather than the completion of a process. There is a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we deliver on the commitments written by Elizabeth and her team, and we believe we have the people and ideas in place to implement them.

"This has been an incredibly tough process and required a huge amount of analysis, discussion and, of course, commitment. That’s a good thing and will help hold us to a higher standard than ever before on making sure our agency is a place where people from all backgrounds can prosper and develop.”

The Blueprint has four application rounds a year – the deadline for the next is midday on 3 December. Applications can be requested via the website. The scheme will be open to in-house teams from March 2021.

The Blueprint is part of a series of initiatives to be rolled out by Blueprinted and BME PR Pros over the next two years aimed at promoting ethnic diversity in the industry.

The Blueprint judging panel consisted of Henry Rowling (founder, Flying Cars innovation agency); Sasha Daly (advocacy and influencing consultant); Olivia Danso (writer and Blueprint project manager) and Nyree Connell (healthcare policy manager and Blueprint strategy advisor).

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