Teneshia Jackson Warner is the founder and CEO of Egami Group, which has helped companies such as P&G, Target and Eli Lilly connect with multicultural consumers, and in 2018 became the first multicultural and Black woman-owned agency to win Grand Prix film honors at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. In 2021, Egami and Zeno Group partnered under a new model of collaboration aimed at bolstering both firms’ multicultural offerings. Warner's first book, "Profit With Purpose: A Marketers Guide to Deliver Purpose-Driven Campaigns to Multicultural Audiences,"  was widely seen as a first-of-its-kind guide to multicultural, purpose-driven marketing. You can read our June 2020 interview with Warner here. 

Three years ago, the PR industry was at an inflection point regarding DEI. Where is it now? 

Inclusion is a choice.
Three years ago, we witnessed our industry make a choice to look at the state of diversity within our profession. We asked ourselves, “Are we willing to do things differently? Are we willing to be uncomfortable? Are we willing to be vulnerable? Are we willing to be pioneers to forge new ways forward?” I believed the murder of George Floyd was the tipping point for our world to choose to create a new reality for people of color.

We watched companies decide to make highly publicized commitments and pledges to racial equity and use their resources to fight racial injustice. In fact, McKinsey reported that organizations have committed more than $340 billion to fight racial injustice — up from $60 billion in 2020. However, a 2022 Washington Post article reported that the country’s largest companies dispersed just $1.7 billion of the $60 billion pledged to support racial equity in 2020.

The lack of transparency, spending, public reporting, and the still gaping disparities in racial equity have undoubtedly contributed to the rise of skepticism, questioning of authentic commitments, and feelings of disappointment among people of color.  Are we where we want to be? Are we where we should be? These are questions being discussed on global stages, conferences, boardrooms, and gatherings. My simple answer is that we are not.

What's your assessment of the progress that has (or hasn't) been made during that time in diversifying the industry.

Inclusion is action.
In 2017, a friend encouraged me to run the New York City marathon. At the time, I could not run over a two-mile period at once. It was hard for me to imagine that I could run 26.2 miles in one day. If I had to gauge our industry’s progress, I would compare it to being in the ‘early’ stages of training for a marathon of DEI change.

Modest progress is underway. In general, agencies are making efforts to become more diverse in recruiting, retention, creating ERGs, and more. Studies show that although our industry experienced an influx of talent of color, retention numbers indicate that 'cultures of belonging' remains a challenge. 

Diverse talent within our industry heard the commitments and now wants to see continued action and impact. They are not only watching but also want tangible 'receipts' that illustrate that our industry’s efforts are genuine. There is no time for diversity fatigue.  

The PR industry was jarred into prioritizing DEI due to events of tremendous magnitude, George Floyd's murder, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Does that urgency still exist? Does the early momentum exist?  

Inclusion is an opportunity for growth.
If you are reading this and are an industry leader, what makes the speed of change ‘urgent’ in your organization? As the founder and CEO of a multicultural communications agency established 16 years ago, Egami Group, I ponder this question often. I understand far too well how the at-hand problem becomes the focus to solve now. 

Often, our industry discusses DEI solely as an issue to tackle and solve. Something we ‘have’ to do versus something we ‘get’ to do. The driver to having DEI become an urgent matter will be a mindset shift. Inclusion is an opportunity to drive innovation, creativity, and growth. As an industry, if we can shift our mindset to view DEI through the lens of opportunity, we will increase our speed of change.  Lastly, our clients will lead the way in holding our industry accountable to prioritize DEI and multicultural communications. They want to be assured that we can deliver on winning with the new mass market and achieve cultural competency to drive meaningful engagement with diverse audiences.

What do you see as the challenges in pursuing this change? Has anything surprised you? 

Include today or regret tomorrow.
One of the industry's challenges right now is combatting diversity fatigueA recent Forbes article claimed that America is experiencing diversity fatigue and that people are sick and tired of discussing DEI. Those who fall victim to diversity fatigue and choose to slow down efforts will not be positioned to win long-term.

I am writing this from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where I attended a session with global brand leaders that identified inclusion as the most significant growth opportunity. Consider this: 100% of U.S. population growth in the past 10 years has come from increases in the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native, Indigenous, multi-racial, and multiethnic population segments — with buying power worth more than $5 trillion. Inclusion efforts ensure you are positioned to win with these audiences. 

Inclusivity is an expectation of the next generation of talent that will lead our industry.
Zeno Group and Egami Group recently conducted multicultural research entitledThe New Multicultural Mandate,” which uncovered a growing generation of individuals identifying as two or more ethnicities, or "multiethnic." This is one of the fastest growing and youngest segments in the U.S. and has grown four times in the last decade, representing more than 10% of the population. This group is over-indexing as a generation on values such as social responsibility, empathy, and activism and will expect our companies to forge a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future for all.

Do you believe that true DEI in PR is attainable? 

Inclusion is our future.
As leaders, innovators, and creators, we reimagine what is possible all the time. To our industry, it is time to reimagine what is possible through DEI.

Inclusion is allyship.
As you reimagine new possibilities within DEI, don’t be afraid to pioneer and create new paths or ways of working.  Post the murder of George Floyd, our multicultural integrated communication agency experienced unprecedented demand. Our leadership team was challenged to re-imagine new ways of working to meet the demand of brands desiring to reach diverse audiences authentically. Egami Group formed an Agency Allyship with Zeno Group, challenging the traditional agency partnership model. Our vision was to create a new model of collaboration for change. This model is fueling growth for talent of color, our clients, and the industry. Through this process, we learned not to be afraid to throw out the traditional playbook and pioneer new paths forward.

So where are we now? We are faced with a choice. To keep going, or to stop? To give in to what some call ‘diversity fatigue’ or resist? To invest in DEI efforts or not? To pioneer new paths forward or remain status quo? It is all coming down to what we choose now, and I hope that through our actions, we decide to make DEI a realized vision in our industry.