In 2011, the PRCA PR Census revealed that 92% of the industry was white, with only 8% of PR practitioners being from an ethnic background. Two years later in 2013, hardly any change had been made with 91% of PR practitioners being white and 1% of professionals in the PR industry each being black British and Asian. This is clearly not reflective of modern British society, where over 14% of the population are of BAME origin. With limited ethnic representation, this can only be detrimental to the PR industry as it won’t be as easy to engage the growing BAME community in campaigns.
The first time I saw these statistics, I was shocked. Although I was aware of the PR industry being very competitive, I didn’t realise that the difficulty is enhanced for someone like myself. There are some reasons I have come to the conclusion of why this is. First, many ethnic minority parents particularly from West African and Asian backgrounds, are not aware of how lucrative a career in PR can be. In fact, most don’t understand what PR is. They expect their children to pursue more well known careers such as doctors, lawyers and engineers as those are the jobs that can bring respect to the family, household and community. Another reason is that a majority of internships are unpaid. It is huge shame as it restricts the majority of people coming into PR because they are unable to afford this luxury. In my personal experience, although I come from a background that is far from rich, I have been fortunate enough to have had some support from family. Also, in my unrelenting pursuit for a career in PR, I have willingly made major sacrifices and was prude enough with my finances to save enough money to support myself and take on unpaid internships for a limited time. Although, my situation seems drastic, there are people that don’t have others to support them so have to turn to other industries that will pay them.
With 40% of the population in London alone being of an ethnic background, it is important for brands to understand their customers and client needs so they are able to determine key messages and communicate them to the relevant stakeholders effectively. A workforce that represents this number helps resolve possible barriers that can occur when communicating to certain stakeholders.
Some schemes and programmes such as the Taylor Bennett Foundation, TFL’s BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) press office internship and the PRCA’S diversity group network are currently doing something to battle this problem. However, the PR industry needs to do more more in tackling this problem.