Players in the PR industry aren’t typically the face of the conversation around representation, rather by our very nature, we operate in the background, helping brands and businesses push for change and create more organizational equity. As a society, we recognize when diversity is reflected and lacking within high-visibility areas such as entertainment, sports and politics. It’s not hard to notice an increase in BIPOC representation on a network or an uptick in female leaders in professional sports management roles; we see it on our screens. Not only do we have a front row seat that allows us to see and hear the individuals in this industry, but we’re also constantly being fed information about their lives and backgrounds.
We don’t see the faces of publicists or marketing leaders, and we are much less likely to know their personal stories. However, we know the need for diversity is equally as important here as it is everywhere else.
When it comes to the role of women in PR, it’s clear that the communications industry has come a long way since the Mad Men era. Notably, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of women in leadership roles, and a decrease in the negative “bossy” undertone that historically came with that achievement. Young PR professionals can name several women that hold visible leadership positions in the industry. There is always more work to do, but hopefully this signals a systemic shift toward true inclusivity, one that reaches far beyond gender identity to equally consider a complete range of social identities.
We know inclusivity advances us as individuals and society, so let’s look at the far-reaching impact of full representation within the industry.
Different perspectives and new ideas
Representation brings different perspectives that allow others to see things through a new lens. We approach situations based on our backgrounds and experiences, and a lack of diversity severely limits our capabilities as an industry. Without a broad range of adequate representation, strategies are built with blinders on. “Bigger picture” is a familiar phrase, but you can’t truly see the bigger picture without having several unique points of view. When you give everyone an equal chance to contribute based on how they see things, the brainstorms will change for the better.
Brands can’t ‘fake it ’til you make it’
The need for brand messaging to be authentic has never been so critical. Consumers can tell when a brand is “faking it” and are quick to call out disrespect. Client growth opportunities depend on unlocking new audiences with fresh, hyper-targeted messaging. Whatever a brand is saying, it must be authentic to resonate. The only way to achieve authenticity is when a diverse group of individuals are contributing to ideas and given the chance to lead.
Building kinship and points of connection
Diverse backgrounds also provide an avenue to easily connect with someone. Whether it’s internal or at a potential client meeting, these points of connection are quickly made when we identify with someone similar. Shared experiences are great icebreakers, making people feel more comfortable to lead and speak up, resulting in high quality ideation and strategies.
Everyone has a unique set of talents waiting to be tapped into, and representation from all walks of life increases the opportunity for these skills to be utilized. Let’s look at moms as an example. Women are inherently more likely to be empathetic and community-oriented, two very important leadership skills. While there are plenty of dads out there holding things down, moms are primarily responsible for managing the family and home. It’s a big workload, and they tend to be fast, efficient decision makers at home or in the office — another quality we like to see in our leaders.
Expanding the industry talent pool and pushing for equal opportunity isn’t just the right thing to do on a human level, it’s the smart thing to do for all parties. When everyone has a seat at the table, the thought level is elevated. Individuals, brands and the entire PR industry will win.
Dara Busch is co-CEO of 5WPR.