LONDON — The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has launched its Diversity and Inclusion Guidelines, the latest step in its work to improve the diversity of the PR and communications industry.

The guidelines were developed in response to the PRCA’s commitment to improve diversity within the UK industry, after its PR Census 2016 revealed that the industry is still 91% white and 83% British. The census also found that 64% of the industry is female but the gender pay gap in 2016 was £9,111 in favour of men. Only 2% of PR and communications practitioners consider themselves to have a disability and 85% of the industry describes themselves as heterosexual.

The recommendations range from monitoring diversity metrics through employee surveys and equality impact assessments; introducing fair and transparent recruitment practices; and offering structured and paid internships and apprenticeships.

The report also offers guidance on how organisations can manage a diverse workforce, including senior leaders spreading the message that they embrace diversity; training around appropriate behaviour and unconscious bias; mentoring for employees from disadvantaged backgrounds; and reverse mentoring for senior leaders so they can better understand those from diverse backgrounds.

Pema Seely, chair of the PRCA’s Diversity Network, told the Holmes Report: “It’s good to have a diversity and inclusion policy but that’s not enough: change has to be driven from the top and bottom of an organisation, and this takes the desire for change we can see in the industry and puts it with some practical steps. One of the things I personally feel is that businesses often worry about what’s right and wrong and that can stop them doing anything. It’s such a broad topic, from women to pay to race to socio-economic background, and the important thing about this document is that it helps to make it more manageable and gives practical guidance.”

She added: “Bright young people want to work in modern and inclusive environments. Simply put, people want to come to work knowing that they will learn and develop. For me, diversity is a key part of that, otherwise we will have the same people, with the same ideas, and ultimately the same results. If we want to attract and retain the very best talent, it’s something we need to address urgently.

The report outlines the business case for improving diversity, quoting the findings of McKinsey’s 2015 Diversity Matters research, which found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform, and companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. (In McKinsey’s 2018 follow-up report, Delivering Through Diversity, this has risen to 21%.)

The PR industry has hitherto struggled to introduce effective diversity initiatives. PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: “The consensus in the industry is that diversity must improve and we are providing the industry with clear steps to make that change. Businesses must address diversity as a priority for their business to grow and ultimately for the industry to grow. We cannot perform our roles as communicators if we are not representative of the UK’s changing demographics.”

Case studies from agencies and organisations including Cicero Group, Forster Communications, Golin, the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Dynamo PR, which this week launched its “blind” recruitment process, are included in the report.

The guidelines have cross-industry support. CIPR president Sarah Hall said: “The PRCA’s work on diversity and inclusivity takes the industry another step forward. Our State of the Profession research highlights the need for this work and we look forward to collaborating to drive real change.”