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How did we get here?
As strategic counselors, we are the conscience of an organization. While
pressure mounts for us to fulfill our clients’ mandates and meet quarterly
expectations, it is our job to raise the uncomfortable questions we may not
have the answers to, and to think deeply about the long-term impact of our
organization’s actions and inactions on issues relating to racial inequality, the
coronavirus pandemic, the economy and crime and safety.
In my PR Branding Campaigns class, we explore trends before they reach their crescendos. Over the past two spring semesters, between 2017 and 2019, my students and I explored issues related to diversity and inclusion, social purpose and corporate sustainability with a special focus on identifying the S in ESG, which stands for environmental, social and governance.
Inspired by Champions: The Diversity Distinction in PR Awards
The PR industry has a problem. We know the statistics. And we’ve talked about it. A lot.
Eighty-three percent of PR employees are white, found a recent study authored by CCNY professor Angela Chitkara. Meanwhile, despite the fact that 71% of PR employees are female, men hold 70% of top industry positions.
Diversity and Inclusion in the PR profession: The Case for Change
In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Angela Chitkara, PR track director at the City College of New York, the author interviewed 18 CEOs from the top 100 global PR agencies. Thirteen of the CEOs were men and five were women; 17 were white and one was Latino. She found that there wasn’t even consensus on the meaning of diversity and inclusion. Four of the respondents defined diversity to specifically include gender diversity while nine defined it to include only race and ethnicity. Even worse, most of the CEOs conflated diversity with inclusion.
The biggest epiphany the author found is that employees in PR who don’t feel a sense of belonging leave by the mid-level mark, and most agencies admitted that they did not dedicate resources to building an inclusive culture. The problem is not unique. The legal, technology, and architecture professions also face similar challenges.
Angela Chitkara changed the game by shining the diversity & inclusion spotlight directly on the CEOs, focusing on how involved agency leaders are in their organization’s D&I initiatives. Her research includes a ground-breaking study that features interviews with 16 CEOs and two former CEOs of major PR firms. By bringing to light how various CEOs define diversity and inclusion, their personal levels of involvements and their approaches to solving the problem and the metrics they use to evaluate change has given the industry much-needed insight to move this hugely important conversation forward in meaningful ways.
The world is finally catching up to Angela Chitkara. When the former journalist started urging diversity and inclusion in public relations back in 2016, she did not exactly find a receptive audience; one executive trashed her disruptive research as “fake news.”
Mr. Floyd and My Dad: Moving from Exclusion to Inclusion
My parents came to this country in the late 1960s and poured everything into their kids. They prepared us to be exceptional and have range. This meant we were exposed to everything. They wanted us to be as comfortable in a boardroom as we are with friends or someone on the street. My parents' goal was to put us on equal footing in life and the workplace. We would not be judged by our skin color or gender, but on pure merit. Education and years of preparation would be the ultimate equalizers for us to realize our dreams, they believed.
However, they didn’t prepare us to play the game, or navigate politics. Fitting in is the name of the game. Typically, a family member at dinner, or an insider, such as a mentor or a sponsor, offers this sort of informal guidance. It helps clear a pathway for an employee to succeed in the workplace.
Franklin Templeton Employee Firing Reflects Emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion
The firing of a Franklin Templeton employee accused of launching a racist tirade against an African-American man in New York City reflects the new corporate emphasis on diversity and inclusion practices, with the goal of becoming more attractive employers, observers said.
According to a Harvard Business Journal article by Angela Chitkara, there is a significant need for PR agencies to create diverse and inclusive working environments that reflect the people and communities they serve.
Angela Chitkara (2018) found that the issue is because potential hires may not be aware of the profession, the pay isn’t competitive compared to fields, and, if hired, they may not have the training/mentoring they need to advance from entry-level positions.
Muck Rack Survey and Webinar: Most PR Pros ‘Confident’ Advising on DEI but Lack Budget and Training
uck Rack, the leading Public Relations Management (PRM) platform, today published their State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in PR study with a corresponding webinar that will be held today at 1pm ET. Conducted in partnership with lead researcher of The World in 2020 Project, Angela Chitkara, and advised by Columbia University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Robert Y. Shapiro, the survey sheds light on what motivates PR teams to launch DEI initiatives, and what necessary context those initiatives are missing.
PRSA Strategies & Tactics: Angela Chitkara on Meaningful Research
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
The ability to choose careers, explore cultures, meet people, realize my dreams and challenge the status quo. The topic of diversity and inclusion has been the backdrop of my life. Similar to my students, I am the child of immigrants made up of a family investment of dreams and sacrifices. My parents poured everything into their kids. If I was not provided access, opportunity or mentoring, then I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Today, I get to wake up every morning and work with people I love, respect and admire, immerse myself in meaningful research, and engage in innovation in the classroom with brilliant, hard-working students. And, every now and again, I get to be a disrupter and turn things upside down. Life is good.
The biggest hurdles faced by PR pros when pitching stories to diverse audiences are a “lack of lived experiences” (23 percent), “lack of understanding” (13 percent) and “lack of context” (10 percent). However, 35 percent said that they don’t find pitching to diverse audiences challenging, and 10 percent said that they don’t pitch diverse audiences.
When it comes to who takes the lead on setting the tone for responses on DEI-related issues, only 13 percent said they look to leadership. Significantly more turn to mission and brand value (39 percent) or their own opinion on the “right thing to do” (35 percent) to inform their decisions.
That lack of direction from the top can also be seen in the fact that only 41 percent of respondents said that their organization allocates budgetary resources for PR toward DEI issues. In addition, more than half (53 percent) say that their organizations do not require DEI training.
International Women's Day Is A Reminder To Keep Pushing Forward
Organizational structures were not designed for those outside of the dominant culture, says Soon Mee Kim, Porter Novelli's leader of global diversity and inclusion.
Angela Chitkara, assistant professor in the Branding and Integrated Communications program at The City College of New York, addressed the need for PR agencies to be more diverse and inclusive in Harvard Business Review.
“We may not have all the answers, but we need to raise the questions about changes happening in our society and culture. PR professionals counsel some of the biggest multinational corporations. We conduct environmental scanning by understanding the changes in our culture and society, as well as issues that matter most to our multicultural stakeholders and audiences through their lens. If we truly want inclusion, that means we need more women and diversity at the table to join the conversation.”
Fortune Magazine, RaceAhead- How to diversify public relations agencies
Angela Chitkara, the director of the Branding + Integrated Communications (BIC) program at The City College of New York (CCNY), begins this important piece with a trip down memory lane. Remember the coolest monkey of H&M, Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad and the black woman who turned white selling Dove products? PR agencies need to become more diverse to be able to better assess how the ad campaigns of the brands they serve will be received in the marketplace, she says. For this piece, she interviewed 18 CEOs who lead top firms thirteen were men, seventeen were white, and one Latino – to learn their D&I challenges. Her five-point plan is a blueprint for any enterprise, frankly, but number three got my attention: “Enlist the support of middle management to communicate how team diversity boosts organizational performance,” she says.
Huffington Post-Aha Moments Critical To Achieving Diversity And Inclusion
As CEO of Porter Novelli, a global communications firm within Omnicom Public Relations Group, I often meet with other CEOs from across our industry. There is universal agreement of the moral and business imperatives to diversity. We agree that when our talent mix represents those across gender, race, ethnicity, religion, generation, sexual orientation and social economic background, we drive better thinking and creativity. Last May, Angela Chitkara, professor at City College of New York along with the Holmes Report released survey findings from interviews of 16 CEOs in the public relations/communications industry that support this point.
PR Agencies Need to Be More Diverse and Inclusive. Here’s How to Start.
One of the biggest risks to a company’s reputation is a tone-deaf advertising campaign. PR practitioners need to be keenly attuned to what their brands’ strategies are and how their campaigns can be perceived by stakeholders and a broader audience — but they’ll be hard-pressed to do so if they don’t become more diverse and inclusive themselves. However, racial and gender representation in the industry remains skewed. Interviews with 18 CEOs of top global PR agencies reveal some of the ways they’re responding to the intensifying spotlight on diversity and inclusion. Many agencies have made progress reassessing their recruiting efforts, and are now working toward developing more-inclusive work cultures.
Social Risks From Lack Of Diversity & Inclusion Loom As Communications Challenge: Study
The study, authored by researcher Angela Chitkara and edited by communications consultant Michael Marinello, found that — in an age of transparency and accountability — the lack of diversity and inclusion policies is no longer considered just an internal company problem, but can have a negative impact on business.
Chitkara envisions public relations professionals moving into a more strategic counselling role as they will be called upon to assess social risks for brands and corporations as pressure mounts for more disclosures and accountability involving diversity and inclusion. What used to be considered non-financial assets are now material risks to brands and organizations as per her co-authored article published in August 2019 with strategic communications veteran Michael V. Marinello.
The Material Impact Of Social Issues And The Age Of The Activist Consumer
CEOs are becoming more concerned with the way their companies/brands are impacted by the dramatically changing atmosphere around social issues. The age of activist investors has given way to this new era of “the activist consumer.”
They are operating in a world where diversity and inclusion, socio-economic inequities and generational shifts, are part of the same equation. And the sum of these components are factoring into the decision-making process of customers, partners and consumers, and most importantly employees and potential hires. What a company says (and stands for) versus what it does (and how it acts) has never mattered more, and never been more scrutinized.
'If You Don’t Have Inclusion, People Run Away': PR CEOs Face Up To Diversity Challenge
I would recommend that everyone with a stake in the industry's future reads it. Because it clearly underlines that lip service is no longer enough for PR firms that are still dominated, particularly at the upper levels, by a homogenous demographic set. As Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga said in Davos earlier this year, "if you come from the same backgrounds, you’ll have the same blind spots and miss the same trends."
According to a recent Muck Rack survey, The State of DEI in PR, 74 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about their organization’s commitment to DEI. However, only 53 percent said DEI training is required, and 40 percent said their organization’s budget did not fund DEI. The survey, conducted in partnership with DEI researcher Angela Chitkara of The World in 2020 Project, shows enthusiasm exists, but the industry still has a long way to go.
Diversity and Inclusion Remain Essential During the Pandemic, Co-authored with Soon Mee Kim
During COVID-19, as companies and organizations focus on business continuity, some leaders are wondering as a McKinsey report considers: Is diversity and inclusion (D&I) a luxury or a necessity? The answer goes beyond business or morality. As PR pros, what is our responsibility as strategic counselors as we aim to connect with those who matter most?