NEW YORK —  As PR agencies roll out plans to combat inequity, employees — from senior execs to entry level staff — are calling out firms with their own set of demands through an online petition drive.

Hold The PRess, which in its first week garnered 144 petitioners, is lobbying the industry to come clean by providing their number of Black employees, including executives; accounts that are Black-owned businesses; and diversity & inclusion action plans.

Demands also include: expanded recruitment, training and support of Black employees; restructuring of agencies that have less than 30% Black and persons of color in executive roles; creation of equal pay policies; and increased accountability among others.

Launched by four Black women who work in PR — Sade Ayodele, Nysah Warren, Fatou Barry and Enoma Owens — Hold The PRess was created in response to agencies early responses to recent civil rights protests, which organizers called “tone-deaf and out-of-touch messages on their social media channels as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

“These statements appear inauthentic and disingenuous as many of these PR agencies do not lift the voices, do not promote, and do not hire enough Black women and men leading to Black people having to create their own agencies,” the initiative said on its website. 

Over the last two weeks PR firms including FleishmanHillard, Weber Shandwick and Edelman, as well as WPP, have started formulating and implementing action plans to address racial inequity. Other grassroots initiatives have also emerged including The Blueprint from MBE PR Pros; A Call for Change from Black members of the ad industry; and the PRovoke Media’s effort asking firms to make 10 commitments that can advance diversity.

Organizers continued to say, “According to Harvard Business Review’s analysis of the federal labor statistics, it found the PR industry to be 89.7% White, 8.3% Black, 2.6% Asian, and 5.7% Hispanic or Latinx. These stats are mind-blowing and leave little-to-no room for upward growth in roles and see less and less Black people at senior and executive positions.

“Enough is enough.”

Hold The PRess said in the coming weeks they will be presenting their lists of asks and demands to several agencies across the country and will amplify their plans for next steps. As companies share their plans and next steps, Hold The Press will be posting them on Instagram (@holdthe_press) said Warren, one of the organizers, who is a Taylor account executive.

“The mission of this initiative is to shed light on changing our industry for the better. Get their attention. Spark change. We all have powerful voices to be used, so let’s use them,” the website said.

You can access Hold the PRess’ statement and petition here.

You can access news and information on PRovoke Media's diversity & inclusion channel here.