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Target for BME diversity in public relations underestimates issue

The public relations profession should represent the public that it seeks to engage. Regional employment data suggests it has further to go than previously recognised.

Analysis published by #FuturePRoof suggests that the UK public relations profession needs to work harder to tackle diversity.

Karan Chadda overlaid regional employment data for the public relations industry against UK population data and concluded that for the profession to truly represent the public, 19 percent of practitioners should be from a BME background.

Chadda is founder of Evolving Influence.

“No ethnic group has a greater proportion of creative or talented people but when you walk into a room full of public relations people, at best one in 12 of them will be BME. Our goal should be to get that to one in five,” said Chadda.

Chadda says that the concentration of practitioners in London and the South East means that the generally accepted target of 13% represents a considerable shortfall.

The CIPR’s State of Public Relations 2017 report, found eight percent of respondents identified as black, Asian, mixed or other. PRCA data from 2016 suggest nine percent.

“The integration of ethnic diversity figures with regional demographics provides a valuable layer of sophistication,” said Pema Seely, Co-Chairman, PRCA Diversity Network.

83,000 people work in public relations in the UK according to the PRCA 2016 Census. The gap between the current level of eight or nine percent BME practitioners, and the level of 19% cited by Chadda, is around 8,000 people.

I’d urge you to read the #FuturePRoof essay for the full analysis. Chadda’s regional model isn’t highly sophisticated, but it’s far more sophisticated than existing data in public relations.

“Public relations’ progress on this issue has been inexcusably slow for years. Whether the target is 13% or 19%, the fact remains the industry has collectively failed to make any meaningful steps towards addressing the issue,” said Koray Camgoz, PR Manager, CIPR.

The Taylor Bennett Foundation is an important initiative founded in 2007. Its goal is to encourage black, Asian and ethnic minority graduates to pursue a career in communications and address the gap.

In ten years more than 170 black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates have been through its traineeship programmes. A further 500 have been through a graduate assessment day and have received detailed feedback on their performance to help with their job search.

Taylor Bennett Foundation CEO Sarah Stimson believes that even Chadda may be understating the case.

“With the 2021 census looming, we would expect to see an increase in the number of BME people living across the UK.”

“The 2016 National School Census showed that more than one in four school children under 10 years old are from a non-white background. We need to prepare for when those children will be entering the workforce in the next 8 to 15 years.”

#FuturePRoof is a community founded by my partner Sarah Hall, to promote the value of public relations as a management discipline. Its second book, #FuturePRoof Edition Two, a crowdsourced series of essays on issues facing the public relations industry, was published in September 2016.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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