Opinion: Diversity needs a tangible approach

The European Commission has launched a project entitled 'Business for Diversity' that will profile exemplary employers from the EU as part of a compendium of best practice. Sadly, I suspect that PR firms will be somewhat thin on the ground.

Which is why in June I will be joining the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and jetting off to Trieste for the Second World Festival of PR. It's a hard life - but I assure you there's a very good reason for the trip.

The festival is organised around the most pressing issue for the international PR industry - and PRWeek has taken the role of chief media sponsor. The theme, of course, is diversity - an issue that, within PR, has suffered from a lot of well-meaning tokenism, but which in an increasingly global and complex geo-political environment has become a core business concern. I would like to think that the audience in Trieste will resemble the United Nations, but again I suspect it will be predominantly middle class, white, Christian, young and relatively affluent.

That this might be the case should in no way be read as a failing of the organisers, who have put together a remarkable gathering. The uncomfortable fact is that the audiences at such events are representative of the broader socio-demographic make-up of the PR industry, particularly in Europe.

The organisers' manifesto rightly identifies the need for 'as much diversity among communicators as exists in any environment' and to communicate the value of diversity.

And the issue has started to be addressed. Within the UK, the CIPR's diversity workforce has taken some first steps. And the event will provide opportunities for practitioners and associations to compare differing approaches with their own national set of circumstances.

The American experience will no doubt prove valuable, the US being a little further ahead than most of Europe in terms of diversity within the workforce and delivering a complex set of marketing messages to different cultural audiences - although questions need to be asked as to whether the move towards ethnic and sexual-orientation-specific consultancies is the way forward.

This gathering is a good opportunity to put this issue on the agenda.

But it becomes a great opportunity if its participants can move beyond a high-minded exchange of idealism and delegates can take away with them a tangible set of proposals for immediate implementation to actively increase diversity within their organisations.

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