In an increasingly interconnected world, public relations (PR) strategies are evolving to reflect the rich tapestry of perspectives, cultures, and experiences that make up our global community. This shift toward embracing diversity in PR is not just a progressive trend; it's a strategic imperative. Research from McKinsey indicates that diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts. To communicate effectively with a diverse audience, PR agencies need to reflect this diversity within their own teams.
The issue of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an increasingly crucial focus for HR and recruitment professionals. Numerous statistics point to the changing face of the workforce in the US. For instance, groups that were traditionally in the minority are projected to reach majority status by 2045, and 48% of Gen Z are racial or ethnic minorities. In addition, companies with a diverse workforce and management team are likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts, enjoying up to 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and a 19% increase in revenue. Significantly, 76% of job seekers prefer working in diverse companies.
A closer look at the broader US population shows a steady decline in the population of white, non-Hispanic people, who are predicted to lose majority status by 2045. The US is projected to become more racially and ethnically pluralistic by this time, with one in three Americans belonging to a race other than white by 2060. In line with these trends, Generation Z and Millennials are more racially diverse than previous generations, such as Baby Boomers.
However, despite the changing demographics, unemployment rates are higher among minority groups and people with disabilities. According to 2020 Census data, the average US unemployment rate was 8.1%, while it was higher for Black (11.%) and Hispanic or Latino populations (10.6%). In 2022, 7.6% of people with disabilities were unemployed, and in 2021, the unemployment rate was 5.6% among foreign-born workers. It is also noteworthy that people with less than a high school diploma face the highest unemployment rates.
In the gender diversity context, women make up 47% of all US employees as of 2023. Yet, they continue to face challenges in terms of pay and representation. The gender pay gap persists, with women's wages amounting to 83% of men's wages. Microaggressions and sexual harassment are common experiences for women in the workplace. Despite women obtaining more bachelor's degrees than men, they are less likely to be hired for entry-level and managerial roles. Moreover, the representation of women in the C-suite is low, with just one in four leaders being women and one in twenty being women of color. Nevertheless, there are signs of improvement, such as the increased likelihood of women being hired with anonymous applications, and their growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion at senior levels.
Diversity in PR encompasses a range of dimensions, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation. A diverse team brings together a wide array of perspectives, experiences, and skills, fostering creativity and innovation. Moreover, PR campaigns designed by diverse teams are more likely to resonate with a broad audience by capturing various viewpoints and experiences.
A classic example of this is Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which portrayed women of all ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds, in stark contrast to the typical industry standard. The campaign was widely celebrated, generating a significant amount of positive PR and contributing to a significant increase in sales for Dove products.
Furthermore, diversity in PR extends beyond the immediate team to the network of influencers, media outlets, and other stakeholders engaged in a campaign. A diverse network can enhance reach, enable the crafting of culturally relevant messages, and improve trust among various audience segments. With the globalized reach of media, campaigns can no longer afford a one-size-fits-all approach. Brands can incorporate diverse voices in PR strategies to effectively engage with a multicultural audience, drive deeper connections, and foster inclusive conversations. This level of inclusivity in PR strategies can be instrumental in promoting a positive brand image, increasing customer loyalty, and driving sustainable business growth.
Diversity in PR also bolsters cultural competence, enhancing a PR team's ability to engage with different cultures effectively. This ability is especially vital in our globalized world, where businesses often span multiple countries and cultures. Cultural missteps can damage a brand's reputation and alienate potential customers.
A case in point is the 2002 advertising campaign by the fast-food giant McDonald's in China. The ad depicted a Chinese man kneeling before a McDonald's vendor to beg for a discount, a gesture considered deeply disrespectful in Chinese culture. The campaign triggered a public outcry, tarnishing McDonald's reputation in China and highlighting the need for cultural sensitivity in PR campaigns.
Moreover, embracing diversity in PR nurtures an atmosphere of inclusivity, fostering a work culture where unique ideas and perspectives are valued and celebrated. When a team is composed of a broad range of backgrounds, the potential for innovative solutions and creative problem-solving is greatly enhanced. This leads to more dynamic PR campaigns that can effectively navigate the diverse socio-cultural landscape. Also, having a diverse PR team serves as a model for audiences, demonstrating a company's commitment to inclusion and equity, and building trust with a broad range of potential customers. This trust can translate into enhanced brand loyalty and a stronger market position.
The underrepresentation of marginalized groups in PR campaigns can lead to stereotyping, misrepresentation, or erasure of these groups. This lack of representation can contribute to societal inequities and harm a brand's reputation.
One brand that has made concerted efforts to improve representation is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. Criticized for promoting unrealistic body images and lacking diversity, Mattel launched a new line of dolls in 2016, featuring different body types, skin tones, eye colors, and hairstyles. The initiative garnered widespread media attention and appreciation, boosting the brand's image and demonstrating the positive impact of representation in PR.
While increasing diversity in PR teams is critical, it's also essential to have diversity in leadership roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2020, only 10.7% of PR managers are Black, and women, despite representing 72.8% of PR specialists, hold only 56.4% of managerial roles.
Diversity in leadership provides role models, encourages others from underrepresented groups to join the field, and ensures diversity of thought in decision-making processes. A study by Boston Consulting Group found that diverse leadership teams result in more innovation and 19% higher revenues due to innovation.
We can look to Edelman, the world's largest PR firm, as a positive example. They've made considerable strides in diversity and inclusion, with women making up 60% of their global executive committee. This has undoubtedly contributed to their success and reputation as industry leaders.
PR has a powerful role to play in driving social change. By giving a platform to diverse voices and stories, PR professionals can challenge stereotypes, promote understanding, and advocate for equity. For example, Procter & Gamble’s “The Talk” campaign shed light on conversations Black parents have with their children about racial bias, sparking a wider societal dialogue about racial prejudice.
Diverse representation in PR can help shatter the glass ceiling that marginalized communities often face, thereby becoming a conduit for empowerment. By amplifying these underrepresented narratives, PR initiatives can foster a sense of belonging and validation, encouraging societal transformation towards a more inclusive and equitable world. A notable example is the "Like A Girl" campaign by Always. This campaign challenged gender stereotypes and transformed the phrase "like a girl" from an insult into a testament of strength and resilience, sparking international conversations about gender equality. Through this campaign, Always didn't just market their products, they used their platform to advocate for social change, demonstrating the transformative power of diversity in PR.
Beyond its social benefits, diversity also offers compelling business advantages. PR campaigns that reflect the diverse reality of their audiences are more likely to resonate with consumers, increasing brand loyalty and potentially driving sales. A 2019 study by Adobe found that 61% of consumers switched brands due to poor representation, indicating that diversity is a crucial factor in consumer choice.
Moreover, diversity improves problem-solving by bringing multiple perspectives to the table. According to a report by Cloverpop, inclusive teams make better business decisions 87% of the time, and diverse teams deliver 60% better results.
Adding to this, diversity in PR enhances a brand's reputation, contributing to its overall success in today's increasingly conscious consumer market. A brand that prioritizes and respects diversity in its PR strategies reflects a company culture that values fairness, equality, and innovation. This can attract not only a broader customer base but also top talent seeking an inclusive work environment.
Take the global technology company, Apple, as an example. Their "Behind the Mac" campaign showcased a diverse range of people using Macs, including artists, students, and professionals from various ethnic backgrounds and abilities. This campaign, highlighting diversity and inclusivity, not only resonated with a wide audience but also reinforced Apple's commitment to celebrating diversity, leading to a positive brand image and increased customer loyalty.
In fact, it's a necessity. To remain effective and relevant in a multicultural, globalized world, PR professionals must ensure their strategies and their teams reflect the diversity of their audiences. By doing so, they can craft more impactful, resonant campaigns, drive social change, and achieve better business outcomes.
The journey toward diversity in PR is ongoing, requiring continual effort and commitment. However, the potential benefits — in terms of social impact, brand reputation, audience engagement, and business performance — make this journey not just worthwhile, but essential. The future of PR is diverse, and it's up to all PR professionals to embrace this future and leverage the power of diversity for the betterment of our industry and our world.
Imperium Group is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm. Founded in 2016, it specializes in guaranteed placements, creating utmost transparency for its clients. Imperium Group generates over 15M impressions a month for its clients. Its team is based out of New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
For more information about Imperium Group, please see https://navigator.imperiumgrouppr.com/.