LONDON — Ketchum and Ready10 no longer hold The Blueprint, the diversity standard developed by BME PR Pros, PRovoke Media has learned.

Ketchum UK was the first large agency to be awarded full Blueprint status in February 2021. The diversity mark was launched in June 2020 to promote racial diversity in the communications industry.

To achieve the standard, agencies sign up to a series of commitments – from recruitment to working culture – aimed at promoting ethnic diversity from work experience to board level, with their applications marked by an independent panel. Agencies must secure more than 70 points to secure Blueprint Ally status and 101 to secure Blueprint status. The mark must be renewed every two years and can be removed if organisations are considered to be in breach of its terms.

BME PR Pros founder Elizabeth Bananuka told PRovoke Media: "I worked with Ketchum for several years in my capacity as founder and CEO of BME PR Pros and The Blueprint. In 2021, a representative from Ketchum was invited to sit on the interview panel for the first cohort of The Xec. leadership scheme. In the midst of an industry-wide recruitment crisis, we put in place a non-poaching agreement to maintain the integrity of The Xec. The representative from Ketchum, like other panellists, agreed to this.

“In April of this year we discovered Ketchum had attempted to poach several members of The Xec. Indeed, Ketchum's HR lead confirmed in an email dated Wednesday 13 April 2022: ‘We accept the non-poaching agreement was broken’. The Blueprint cannot work with an organisation willing and able to breach its terms and capable of negatively impacting the reputation of The Blueprint or BME PR Pros. In the face of damning evidence the Blueprint judges and I made the decision to remove The Blueprint from Ketchum. Ketchum are welcome to re-apply for The Blueprint in three years' time. We wish them all the best on their diversity and inclusion journey.”

In a statement, a Ketchum spokesperson responded: “We are proud to have been the first large agency to achieve Blueprint accreditation and all the reasons we were awarded that still stand. We do not have anyone from the BME PR Pros Xec. programme on staff and we are disappointed that after five years of close collaboration and undeniable progress we are no longer working with BME PR Pros.”

PR and SEO specialist Ready10 gained Blueprint Ally status in November 2020 and has confirmed that it resigned the mark last year. Both Ready10 and BME PR Pros declined to comment.

The other agencies to so far have been awarded full Blueprint status are Hope&Glory, Manifest, PrettyGreen Group, Stronger Stories and Riot. In addition, CCgroup, Harvard, Infusion, Cirkle and Cowshed have been awarded Blueprint Ally status since the mark was introduced. In July this year, Manifest was the first agency to retain full Blueprint status after two years, while Blurred became the first agency to be promoted from Ally to full Blueprint status.

PRovoke Media is a partner of The Xec. leadership scheme, which announced its second intake last month.