Whether it has been Black Lives Matter, Windrush or the death of Sarah Everard, the events of the last several years have seen the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE+I), permeate itself as part of the wider cultural conversation like never before. As society continues to evolve, the public has also become more sceptical of the institutions in place that serve to maintain those in the power majority. Although efforts have been made to create positions for respect and appreciation for all the differences among us, PR and the communications industry remain in the early stages of changing attitudes.
Last year, the PRCA’s UK PR and communications census for 2021 highlighted key insights, such as the industry being predominantly white (87%). And despite there being more women working within PR (67%), the pay gap isn’t in their favour reaching a low of 12.7%. Furthermore, the census also identified how PR hasn’t done enough to enable greater social mobility and diversity.
Today, the PR industry is unfortunately out of sync with the society it is supposed to reflect. During my time at A+P, there has been a conscious effort to promote DE+I to create a more inclusive working environment that ultimately allows our team to perform to the best of our abilities. However, from the metrics shown above, barriers remain that must be broken, and attitudes must change as we continue to promote and foster DE+I within our industry.
A key component to A+P addressing the imbalance in the PR industry has been required sensitivity training. As aforementioned, events such as Black Lives Matter ushered in a need for education in relation to ongoing and historical social injustices. At A+P, we’ve approached education in a few different ways -- through a diverse range of external speakers who have shared their experiences and challenges via online lessons that tackle microaggressions and collaborative workshops with external partners. These trainings have enabled the agency to expand awareness and understanding and identify tangible ways to make marginalised employees feel included.
Another key facet to advancing our DE+I efforts is ensuring voices from different backgrounds are heard and valued. Not only do a variety of opinions matter, it is also critical to our work with clients. In our UK office, we have an established DE+I committee focused on delivering bespoke activities that are engaging and relevant to our diverse cohort. By identifying ways we have fallen short – whether those come in the form of more open and honest discussions as an agency or ensuring the workforce demographic is more representative of society – these factors inform us and renew our commitment to cultivating a more equitable environment, where our team feels validated and empowered and can develop a sense of belonging.
The typical day in the life of a PR professional can feel like a million pieces moving at once, but it is still within our remit to know what drives the news agenda and the wider cultural discussion. Our weekly newsletter helps us stay on top of trending topics in the space and encourages us to have meaningful discussions. The newsletter covers a wide array of topics, such as race, gender, age, religion, LGBTQ+, disability and more, and it was an insight into intersectional crosshairs that make London and the UK such a diverse and unique society.
This is something I have also experienced as part of Allison+Pallette, one of our many employee advocacy groups that connect and empower less-represented communities within our agency. Allison+Palette specifically strives to increase awareness of racial, ethnic and cultural differences within A+P, ensuring needs are met and cultures are fairly represented internally via group chats and frequent calls.
PR is a people-centric industry, and it’s vital to bring in as many different kinds of people with different backgrounds as possible – this will ensure we have the strongest possible company culture and put forward the most strategic and creative programmes for our clients.
Currently, vast improvements must be made for the PR industry to be representative of race, gender, age or ability. From my perspective, I don’t think inequality or social injustice is something that can be fixed overnight, as it is more of an ongoing effort to make improvements that benefit our ecosystem and society as a whole. Additionally, at times it can be easy to identify an issue that makes people feel uncomfortable, But the real task is in providing the tools that will prevent problematic situations from occurring by enlightening people in the groups that make up the fabric and melting pot of society.
At A+P the ultimate goal is to make sure our colleagues feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and becoming a more equitable agency.
Iqbal Savage is an account executive who has been a part of the London team since October 2020. He supports across several consumer and B2B focused accounts and is heavily involved in the UK DE+I committee and the European Marketing Team.