The Role of Diversity and Inclusion in PR
The PR profession is at the forefront of connecting with diverse audiences, so the significance of embracing diversity and inclusion within the industry cannot be overstated. We take a look at what diversity and inclusion means, why it matters and how it can be successfully embedded in the workplace. Mona Patel, Head of External Communication at Metro Bank, talks to us about the commitment her organisation is demonstrating to grow its diverse colleague base and shares her thoughts on diversity in the wider PR world.
What is diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace refers to initiatives and practices that aim to create a work environment where individuals from various backgrounds, identities, and experiences are not only present but are also respected, valued, and included. These concepts go beyond mere representation and involve fostering a culture that embraces and celebrates differences, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed within the organisation.
Diversity encompasses the range of differences among people, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, physical abilities, and more. It recognises the uniqueness of each individual and the collective strength that comes from a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and talents.
Inclusion refers to the active and intentional efforts made by an organisation to create an environment where all individuals, regardless of their differences, feel valued, respected, and included. Inclusive practices involve breaking down barriers, fostering collaboration, and ensuring that every employee can contribute their ideas and perspectives without fear of discrimination or exclusion.
Why do diversity and inclusion matter in PR?
Diversity and inclusion are not just ethical imperatives but strategic advantages in PR, enabling the creation of more effective and culturally sensitive communication campaigns.
A diverse and inclusive PR team is better equipped to understand and connect with the varied demographics of the audience it’s trying to reach. If you're running a campaign to target a group of people who all have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, wouldn't you want a diverse group of colleagues alongside you to ensure that the campaign resonates authentically with different communities, cultures, and perspectives?
The same applies when communicating with your stakeholders; if you can relate to them and they can relate to you, they're far more likely to listen to what you have to say. When you've got people with different views and experiences brainstorming together you come up with fresh ideas that would never have crossed your mind if you were stuck in a homogenous bubble!
Inclusive PR practices help to avoid bias and stereotyping. A diverse team is more likely to recognise and challenge assumptions, ensuring that communications do not unintentionally pigeonhole or alienate certain segments of the audience.
The business side of diversity and inclusion in PR
When you've got a diverse and inclusive team, you're much more likely to attract and retain top talent from a broad range of backgrounds and professionals, especially younger generations, who seek workplaces that prioritise inclusivity. You'll have access to a deeper pool of skills, experience and perspectives which can only make your work better. When your employees feel included and valued, they're far more likely to stick around and give their best effort. That's a win-win for everyone involved.
We get the impression from some agency leaders that they don’t really think diversity is that important. There is also a perception from some senior comms leaders that hiring non-graduates, for example, isn’t the best idea, as ‘graduates will surely have learned something over their three years at University’.
We say diversity IS important. We have had candidates turn down roles as ‘there are no other women in the business’ or they have rejected interviewing with a company because ‘everyone is white and male’. Beware as the imbalance of your comms agency or comms team means candidates will say ‘no thanks’. Don’t kid yourself that it’s not important if you want the best talent. You have no idea how many people will not even consider working for your business because there is little diversity, poor gender balance and everyone has a redbrick degree! Times have changed and attitudes to hiring need to change with it.
Clients recognise the importance of diverse markets, too, and want PR agencies to represent them who understand and can navigate the complexities of reaching diverse audiences. The same goes for key stakeholders of in-house comms teams. A diverse PR team positions an agency to meet and exceed client and stakeholder expectations.
When you show that you value diversity and inclusion, it sends a message not just to clients but to everyone you do business with, that you're a forward-thinking, socially responsible organisation. This can only boost your credibility and appeal. So, bottom line, diversity and inclusion aren't just nice-to-haves in PR, they're must-haves if you want to succeed.
How to create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture doesn't happen by accident - it takes intentional effort and strategic planning. One key area to focus on is recruitment and hiring practices. Make sure your job postings are inclusive and reach a diverse audience, and consider using blind hiring processes to reduce unconscious bias.
Some of our clients are strong advocates of ‘blind recruitment’. This is where we (as the search agency) strip CVs and interview reports of anything that may consciously or unconsciously bias the reader. For example, removing names, nationalities, places of education, sporting achievements, hobbies etc. The companies who have been hiring this way have found that they have a more diverse and exciting workforce thanks to this approach.
Once you've got a diverse team, employee resource groups and mentorship programs can help foster a sense of belonging and support. These groups can provide a platform for employees from diverse backgrounds to share their experiences and connect with each other.
You can also offer training and development opportunities that address unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive leadership. This will help create a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed. By implementing these strategies, you'll be well on your way to building a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusivity.
Best practices for promoting diversity and inclusion in PR campaigns
When it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in PR campaigns, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, avoid stereotypes and tokenism like the plague. Don't just use diverse faces or voices as props or tokens to check off boxes - instead, genuinely incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences into your messaging. Second, use diverse voices and representations in your campaigns. This could mean featuring people from different racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientations in your ads, social media posts, or press releases.
Finally, make sure your messaging is culturally sensitive. Take the time to research and understand the nuances of different cultures and communities, and tailor your messaging accordingly. By following these tips, you'll be able to create PR campaigns that truly reflect and celebrate diversity and inclusion.
Advice from senior comms leader, Mona Patel
Last year we interviewed Mona Patel, Head of External Communication at Metro Bank and her dedication to equal opportunities in the workplace was notable through her work as an ambassador for The Diversity Project, a cross-company initiative championing a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive UK investment and savings industry. We spoke to Mona again to ask her some questions about diversity at Metro Bank and in the wider PR world.
We wanted to know why it is so important for the public relations industry to foster diversity and inclusion. Mona summed it up brilliantly. “The PR industry is responsible for communicating to and with a wide range of audiences, so we need to understand those diverse audiences in order to communicate effectively.”
Discussing the framework to embed diversity at Metro Bank, Mona told us “We have an ambitious strategy to further improve the already industry-leading diverse colleague base at Metro Bank. Our colleagues are representative of the ethnic minority mix of the UK workforce and almost half of our colleagues are female. But we cannot be complacent and are committed to moving the dial even further.”
So, what actions can a company take when seeking a more diverse workforce, we wondered? Mona’s advice is clear. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that one size fits all – especially when it comes to ethnic minority colleagues. Each group has vastly different experiences and can bring all sorts of input to the table. If the table isn’t big enough maybe you need a bigger table?”
Great analogy, thanks Mona!
In summary, diversity and inclusion in PR are crucial for effective communication and building trust. As PR professionals and organisations it's your responsibility to take action and make diversity and inclusion a priority, not just a tick-box exercise. As Mona says, “If the table isn’t big enough, maybe you need a bigger table”. Let's commit to creating a workplace culture that values and celebrates diversity and produces content that resonates with diverse audiences.
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