Doing Better in Supporting People of Color in PR

Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA

June 6, 2020

The nation is at a breaking point as protests force us to face racial inequity and social justice. We believe in action. In that spirit, we compiled this list of ways you can work to create the reality the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests demand.

How PR Practitioners Can Promote Change

  • Be an ally, regardless of race. In PR we talk about the importance of listening and then tailoring campaigns to meet the needs of audience. Do that. Listen to what is being said—inside and outside of your normal circles—and be supportive. Support can be spoken, donated or appear as an act large or small. Be overt in your role as an ally, and make sure the world knows where you stand.
  • Recruit talent, develop talent, retain talent. We need people of color in our industry. You’ve heard the stats of our racial makeup for PR practitioners shows poor representation, but have you looked at them? The PR industry is 90% white. That is worth repeating: 90% white. We can’t achieve our core mission of communicating and engaging our publics if we don’t come close to matching their demographics. Talk to high school students and recruit diverse candidates into the profession. Mentor college students from communities of color. If you’re in the position to hire diverse employees then do it. If you work with practitioners from communities of color, provide mentorship and be inclusive. This is on us. If PR stays 90% white, we have failed.
  • Use your talents for good, not evil. Be the moral compass of your organization and ensure your employer’s words and actions align in moving toward progress. With all the corporate statements posting across social media, hold your organization accountable to those promises. Actions speak louder than words, so be the advocate in your organization.
  • Speak to all. A component of your corporate style guide should cover language of inclusivity.
  • Align manifestos with action. Corporate manifestos of change and promise are everywhere. Make them more than pretty words used to cover ugly hate. Treat that manifesto as a PR plan and get to work. Send strong signals that the manifesto was more than just an Instagram post and start to fix your own house. How many people of color are on your board of directors, used in promotion materials, employed by your company? What actions are you doing to move equality forward?
  • Educate co-workers about cultural sensitivities, implicit bias and other training opportunities as a part of your internal communication program.
  • Continue to counsel your organization by modeling two-way communication. We all need to listen. Do an inventory. And then act. The center namesake Dr. Broom would have us talk about the importance of being an open system. Have permeable boundaries, focus on a real exchange and adapt to a change in the environment around you.
  • Know the difference between diversity and inclusion. I’ve heard the two teased apart by saying diversity is when you invite someone to a party, and inclusion is when you ask that person to dance. So stop standing there, and get inclusive.

How PR Faculty Can Promote Change

  • Scrub your syllabus. Are you using inclusive language? How many readings or assignments highlight successful cases, scholars or professionals from communities of color?
  • Show their faces. After you updated course content to highlight achievements from people of color, put a picture of that person in the slide deck for the lesson. Reiterate to your students—especially those who are from communities of color—that there are positive role models in our industry who paved the road for their successes.
  • Invite guest speakers from underrepresented groups into your class to give a guest lecture or come in for a class Q&A. Make sure your students can see others like themselves in our industry.
  • Be an ally and support communities of color in your classroom and with budding scholars. Promote the work or research of your students. Then take that allyship to the classroom. The topics and case studies you talk about and the way you lead discussions in your classroom are times when you can do the work of an ally. Don’t let inappropriate comments go unchecked. Correct biased language and remarks during discussions.
  • Teach your students to promote diversity in their work. When you’re talking about messaging, website design, flyers - whatever - teach your students to have an eye for diversity. The messages and faces used to promote their future employers shouldn’t just speak to the audience they have, but curate a more diverse one. Pull up websites, look at flyers and talk about how PR could do better.
  • What’s in a name? So much! When you write exam questions or case studies, try to use names that are diverse. This isn’t without danger though - don’t push an ethnic name into a scenario where the actor plays into a negative stereotype. Make that actor the hero.


How PR Students Can Promote Change

  • Get in there and start creating opportunities for yourselves and your peers in communities of color. Don’t give up if you’re a person of color and can’t find other people like you in class or in the companies where you want to work. Be the trailblazer and show the world your value.
  • Challenge the status quo, be it your professors, your internship or your friends. You can respectfully ask questions that drive at both diversity and inclusion. If your professor hasn’t scrubbed the syllabus to incorporate contributions from people of color, then find examples on your own and bring them up during a class discussion. Model the behavior you want from others.
  • Be an ally and champion your peers. Share internship opportunities, swap resumes or cover letters for editing, practice interviews with one another. Helping someone else succeed does not mean your friend gets the prize over you. In nearly every case of peer mentoring, you enjoy benefits as well.
  • Be inclusive. This isn’t lip service or checking a diversity box. Really embrace people of color in your group work in class, club meetings, study groups and happy hours after an exam.

There are so many more worthwhile ideas of ways you can act and make a difference. If you have something you want to add to this post, tweet it to us @broomcenter.

This post will be continually updated as great comments and tweets come in. This a listening, living & relevant set of tactics.

Doing Better in Supporting People of Color in PR
Doing Better in Supporting People of Color in PR

The nation is at a breaking point as protests force us to face racial inequity and social justice. We believe in action. In that spirit, we compiled this list of ways you can work to create the reality the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests demand.

How PR Practitioners Can Promote Change

  • Be an ally, regardless of race. In PR we talk about the importance of listening and then tailoring campaigns to meet the needs of audience. Do that. Listen to what is being said—inside and outside of your normal circles—and be supportive. Support can be spoken, donated or appear as an act large or small. Be overt in your role as an ally, and make sure the world knows where you stand.
  • Recruit talent, develop talent, retain talent. We need people of color in our industry. You’ve heard the stats of our racial makeup for PR practitioners shows poor representation, but have you looked at them? The PR industry is 90% white. That is worth repeating: 90% white. We can’t achieve our core mission of communicating and engaging our publics if we don’t come close to matching their demographics. Talk to high school students and recruit diverse candidates into the profession. Mentor college students from communities of color. If you’re in the position to hire diverse employees then do it. If you work with practitioners from communities of color, provide mentorship and be inclusive. This is on us. If PR stays 90% white, we have failed.
  • Use your talents for good, not evil. Be the moral compass of your organization and ensure your employer’s words and actions align in moving toward progress. With all the corporate statements posting across social media, hold your organization accountable to those promises. Actions speak louder than words, so be the advocate in your organization.
  • Speak to all. A component of your corporate style guide should cover language of inclusivity.
  • Align manifestos with action. Corporate manifestos of change and promise are everywhere. Make them more than pretty words used to cover ugly hate. Treat that manifesto as a PR plan and get to work. Send strong signals that the manifesto was more than just an Instagram post and start to fix your own house. How many people of color are on your board of directors, used in promotion materials, employed by your company? What actions are you doing to move equality forward?
  • Educate co-workers about cultural sensitivities, implicit bias and other training opportunities as a part of your internal communication program.
  • Continue to counsel your organization by modeling two-way communication. We all need to listen. Do an inventory. And then act. The center namesake Dr. Broom would have us talk about the importance of being an open system. Have permeable boundaries, focus on a real exchange and adapt to a change in the environment around you.
  • Know the difference between diversity and inclusion. I’ve heard the two teased apart by saying diversity is when you invite someone to a party, and inclusion is when you ask that person to dance. So stop standing there, and get inclusive.

How PR Faculty Can Promote Change

  • Scrub your syllabus. Are you using inclusive language? How many readings or assignments highlight successful cases, scholars or professionals from communities of color?
  • Show their faces. After you updated course content to highlight achievements from people of color, put a picture of that person in the slide deck for the lesson. Reiterate to your students—especially those who are from communities of color—that there are positive role models in our industry who paved the road for their successes.
  • Invite guest speakers from underrepresented groups into your class to give a guest lecture or come in for a class Q&A. Make sure your students can see others like themselves in our industry.
  • Be an ally and support communities of color in your classroom and with budding scholars. Promote the work or research of your students. Then take that allyship to the classroom. The topics and case studies you talk about and the way you lead discussions in your classroom are times when you can do the work of an ally. Don’t let inappropriate comments go unchecked. Correct biased language and remarks during discussions.
  • Teach your students to promote diversity in their work. When you’re talking about messaging, website design, flyers - whatever - teach your students to have an eye for diversity. The messages and faces used to promote their future employers shouldn’t just speak to the audience they have, but curate a more diverse one. Pull up websites, look at flyers and talk about how PR could do better.
  • What’s in a name? So much! When you write exam questions or case studies, try to use names that are diverse. This isn’t without danger though - don’t push an ethnic name into a scenario where the actor plays into a negative stereotype. Make that actor the hero.


How PR Students Can Promote Change

  • Get in there and start creating opportunities for yourselves and your peers in communities of color. Don’t give up if you’re a person of color and can’t find other people like you in class or in the companies where you want to work. Be the trailblazer and show the world your value.
  • Challenge the status quo, be it your professors, your internship or your friends. You can respectfully ask questions that drive at both diversity and inclusion. If your professor hasn’t scrubbed the syllabus to incorporate contributions from people of color, then find examples on your own and bring them up during a class discussion. Model the behavior you want from others.
  • Be an ally and champion your peers. Share internship opportunities, swap resumes or cover letters for editing, practice interviews with one another. Helping someone else succeed does not mean your friend gets the prize over you. In nearly every case of peer mentoring, you enjoy benefits as well.
  • Be inclusive. This isn’t lip service or checking a diversity box. Really embrace people of color in your group work in class, club meetings, study groups and happy hours after an exam.

There are so many more worthwhile ideas of ways you can act and make a difference. If you have something you want to add to this post, tweet it to us @broomcenter.

This post will be continually updated as great comments and tweets come in. This a listening, living & relevant set of tactics.