This blog is provided by the IPR Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Contributing writers host a podcast, “The Future of PR Looks Like Us,” which explores diverse voices that have shaped the industry.

Diverse representation is essential within the PR industry. Involving people from every walk of life for the industry and profession can “enhance creativity, innovation, problem solving, productivity and profits” (Man, 2020). A study of 366 organizations from varying industries in Canada, the U.S., U.K. and Latin America similarly discovered that gender diverse and ethnically diverse companies were respectively 15% and 35% more likely “to have financial returns above the national industry median,” making diversity a market differentiator (Hunt et al., 2015). On top of that, developing a DE&I strategy meets the demand of a substantial part of the emerging workforce (Tallo, 2020; Kochhar et al., 2016).

We had conversations with four Toronto-based communicators to discuss how to build a more diverse PR industry:
●      Fatyma Khan, senior communications lead, Ontario Brain Institute
●      Meaghann Cox, manager or communications, Rogers Sportsnet
●      Jeannette Holder, senior communications specialist, CAAT Pension Plan
●      Mubashira Farooqi, communications fellow, FleishmanHillard HighRoad

These leaders taught us that diversity is an ongoing process, but if we use our voices and encourage others to do the same, we can keep the process moving. They suggested several ways to build up diversity, including: confronting biases, building relationships on trust, and providing safe spaces and support.

Emerging PR professionals are now entering the realm of a changing and evolving industry.  Those who are already in the profession are laying down bricks to build a stronger foundation of diversity.

Here are some ways we can help build a stronger, more diverse PR industry:

Confront biases
Inequities and biases are seen from a new perspective and PR professionals are now using their voices to help guide and navigate others in creating more equitable and inclusive workplaces.  Women for instance, are prepared to challenge the status quo, and Fatyma suggests this can be done by confronting biases and “nudging” executives to bring their attention to inequalities.

Use your voice
BIPOC practitioners should use their voices and understand the value they bring, according to Mubashira. Too often there is a fear they will not be heard over so many other voices, but people are listening, more now than ever before.  Let us not be afraid to engage in conversation and recognize that everyone has a voice.

Build relationships on trust
Trust is fundamental in any relationship. For many professionals, success depends on the level of trust established when addressing issues with employers, clients and the general public. As Jeannette states, trust is the currency we use.

Merit matters
Recruiters should not be checking a box when considering someone for a position in public relations and communications.  As much as diverse candidates should be considered at all times, it is also important that the right people are placed in the right jobs.  There are many qualified individuals entering the PR industry with the skills and education needed to produce quality work, matching findings from McKinsey & Company that diverse talent are often highly skilled with advanced degrees (Hunt et al., 2015).  They should be hired on their merit and accomplishments.

Safe spaces, support and understanding
We recognize there will always be more ways for work to be done.  This is not an overnight fix.  Biases, resentment, fear and misunderstanding are not easily undone, but we are proving more and more that it can get better.  Understanding the value of diversity, we can constantly improve the safe spaces and support we give. “It’s crucial … to create spaces where diverse practitioners feel safe, included and empowered to do their jobs effectively” (Carrington, 2020).

There is a clear movement towards diversity, equity and inclusion in the public relations industry.  We all need to be part of that movement and we can start by having conversations without fear and discrimination.  Tell your story and listen to others.  From students entering the PR pipeline to the seasoned professionals who are leading the way, we all have a responsibility to contribute to inclusive, diverse and welcoming workspaces.

Man, J. (2020, November). Diversity in Canada. Diversity.Social.

Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2015, February 2). Diversity matters. McKinsey & Company.

Tallo. (2020, October 21). The survey is in: Gen Z demands diversity and inclusion strategy.

Kochhar, S., Gaines-Ross, L. and Honan, B. (2016, December 6). Millennials at work: Perspectives at diversity and inclusion. Weber Shandwick, KRC Research and Institute of Public Relations.

Carrington, S. (2020, September 13). Does PR have a diversity problem? Canadian Public Relations Society Toronto.

Sarah Heiman
B​efore Heiman started at Centennial College, she graduated from Western University with an honours degree in media in the public interest. She tailored her education to focus heavily on activism, learning about marginalized communities and anti-racism work. This passion led to her experience at non-profits organizations writing blog posts, assisting with fundraising events and social media.

Twitter​: @SarahHeiman98

Daisy J​ohanna Uy​
Uy has cultural acumen from her 10 years of corporate experience in Asia, North America, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania. She holds a B.Sc. in chemical engineering from the University of San Carlos, Philippines, and completed anti-racism and bias training with Brownicity, an American grassroots initiative. Twitter: ​@IAmDaisyU

Charmaine Blair​
With years of corporate, business and hospitality management, Blair has worked and volunteered with not-for-profit organizations throughout her career, committed to supporting diversity and inclusion. A recent graduate of the special event planning program at Centennial College, she returned to complete her studies in public relations. 

Twitter: ​@charblair2

Rebecca Moe​
Moe holds a bachelor of social science from the University of Ottawa. Her background in outdoor recreation has allowed her to apply her passion for using policy, curated experiences and relationship management for building inclusive and safe spaces for people to experience growth.

T​witter: ​@moe_re_becca


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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