As a young, Black man in PR, my path to agency life was non-traditional. At 22, I am a model and entrepreneur and associate account executive at Curley Company, a boutique public affairs firm in Washington, DC. I wear many hats and am multifaceted, qualities that are not unique to me and in fact are traits of successful communicators and entrepreneurs. Here’s what it takes to attract and retain diverse talent, like me, in the industry.
Reduce barriers to entry
Post-graduation, I wanted an internship at a boutique agency with an entrepreneurial culture and found Curley Company through word of mouth, drawn by the fact the firm is woman-owned and led. In the beginning, I was worried I’d be losing my freedom by working a “nine-to-five” job. I had constantly been told in the past there was no way I would be able to run a business, model and work at an agency. I was not aware of anyone who was on a similar journey, which meant I needed to blaze a trail for myself. If I was going to join an agency, I had to find a culture where I felt supported to be my authentic self.
Actively invest in and mentor diverse talent
After a couple of months of working at Curley, I was offered a full-time position. I continued to be transparent about my entrepreneurial ventures and leadership partnered with me to create a path that works for our clients, team and me. Our president, KayAnn Schoeneman, has continuously mentored me and is accessible. I am the youngest employee and first African-American male to work at Curley Company. While I’m first, I won’t be the last. As communicators, we need to reflect the diverse voices and stories of the public. That takes actively investing time and resources in diverse talent to continue to grow and retain them.
Embrace new ways of working
Since working at Curley Company, I have worked from three different continents and numerous time zones. My agency gig and entrepreneurial endeavors align and strengthen each other because I found a company that empowers me by prioritizing an inclusive culture of collaboration and investing in growth and development. I have enhanced my writing skills, professionalism and learned how an organization is run. It’s not always about changing a situation to make it work for you but instead finding a place that recognizes your value and will empower your personal endeavors. I know I’ve made an impact, too, on clients and our team.
I urge leaders in the PR industry to create a workplace environment that cultivates growth and attracts and retains the future leaders of our sector. We can and must do better on DE&I, and not just because it’s a good thing to do, rather because it’s the right thing to do in terms of business growth, competitive advantage and ensuring a pipeline of diverse future PR leaders, both in agency and in-house.
Julian Huff is an entrepreneur, changemaker and advocate. He is an associate account executive at Curley Company.