For years, we’ve heard about the need for more diverse talent in the public relations profession. Yet, by looking at most agency and corporate PR teams, little progress is being made.
Realizing the need for a broader commitment, most major PR associations—led by PRSA Foundation, Arthur W. Page Society, Institute for Public Relations and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations—are expanding efforts to expand diversity and inclusion within the profession.
The PRSA Foundation has shifted most of its focus to D&I initiatives, and the PRSA board last fall made a $500,000 commitment to the Foundation so it can put significantly more dollars behind innovative D&I initiatives and scholarships.
One of those innovative programs took place last Friday at DePaul University where 126 minority high school students from 35 different Chicago high schools participated in a crash course on the role and value of public relations in business. The Foundation grant to the Midtown Education Foundation allowed the organization’s apprenticeship program to create the PRep program that featured nearly two dozen professionals and academics. Students heard about key aspects of public relations, including writing and effective communication, as well as how to build and maintain brands, and the evolving role of social and digital media. They also discussed case studies in crisis communication thanks to Brendan Griffith from Reputation Partners and Golin’s Mattie Sullivan and Scott Farrell. Raschanda Hall, president of the Chicago chapter of Black Public Relations Society of America and global director of media relations for Business Wire, concluded the program by sharing her three keys to a successful career–
Midtown’s Bob Kornecki, a long-time agency pro prior to his retirement a few years ago, worked with DePaul PR/AD alum Cam Robertson and current PR/AD grad student Valencia Seuell who coordinated the program with assistance from DePaul PR/AD instructors Jill Stewart, Don Ingle and me.
“Midtown is proud to have partnered with the PRSA Foundation and DePaul’s College of Communication in introducing the profession and practice of public relations to nearly 200 minority high school students over the past four years,” said Midtown’s Kornecki. “Some may go on to careers in the field; most will at least approach their college years with an open mind, a basic understanding of PR’s role in the business world, and a deeper appreciation for its value in building relationships and reputations.”
Observing the program was a handful of Chicago PR pros, including Jim Dudas, who said he was “blown away” by how students were so fully engaged. “This was not a typical seminar on the world of public relations,” he explained. “It was an immersion. Given their ages, I found their questions remarkably incisive and their attention rapt.”
Noting that he felt the day engendered deep and lasting impressions of the field, Jim added: “The industry owes it to itself to find a way to replicate this sort of thing not only through high schools, but in colleges offering a public relations curriculum.”