Diana Marszalek 01 Jun 2021 // 6:50AM GMT
NEW YORK — A year ago last week, George Floyd’s murder unleashed calls for massive change, adding urgency to PR agency initiatives to become more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive — making it time to take stock of the progress that’s been made since, in keeping with PRovoke Media's call for accountability.
The PR Council did some of the legwork earlier this month, when it polled 43 members on a range of topics such as whether they had made a public commitment to increase Black representation in all levels of staffing (33% had, 59.5% a work in progress, 7.2% haven’t started); established a supplier diversity program with stated goals (11.9%, 54.7%, 23%, 9.5% don’t have it in their plans); and audit agency policies and culture to make sure they’re more equitable and inclusive (31%, 59.5%, 9.5%).
“Achieving demographic targets has not been as successful as agencies planned, and while it is tempting to blame the massive talent wars in the industry, it's clear that the PRC and our member agencies have to do more to bring diverse talent into the industry, particularly beyond the entry level,” said Kim Sample, the organization's president.
“The data reveals that all firms have not made a commitment to be accountable to meet DE&I goals — as a firm and within their leadership teams. The PRC urges members to publish their progress internally and externally, and to tie performance compensation to meeting DE&I goals,” she said.
In addition, agencies by and large are not generous with their diversity numbers, making tracking the state of the industry difficult. According to the PRC, 32.5% will publish a DE&I report internally, 47.5% will publish internally and externally, and 20% will not publish a report at all.
Employee-led initiative Hold the PRess uncovered agencies' reticence last year when the grassroots group called on the PR industry to come clean by providing their numbers of Black employees, including executives; accounts that are Black-owned businesses; and diversity & inclusion action plans. Whether agencies will be more open to releasing updated figures by August 1, the one-year deadline Hold the PRess set last year, remains to be seen.
Taylor, one of the agencies we contacted, said that summer date is when it will be making its diversity numbers public, and encouraged the rest of the industry to do the same. Edelman, Golin, H+K Strategies and Allison+Partners did not respond to our request.
“We understand that recruitment is only one part of the battle, and we hope to challenge agencies, those who share their data and those who did not, to cultivate environments that are conducive to the growth of BIPOC employees,” Hold the PRess said in a statement. “In our conversations around ‘What It Is Like to Be Black in PR’ we did find that while this past year did raise awareness, many issues still exist in the workplace for Black talent. Beyond recruitment, there are other issues like retention, microaggressions in the workplace, pay equity, and promotion opportunities that need to be addressed to ensure retention and success of diverse employees. We look forward to moving our mission forward, evolving the conversation and applying pressure for companies and PR agencies to continue to create change for the better, beyond this moment.”
A range of agencies, however, did provide the updates we requested this week. Their responses, largely verbatim, are below.
Weber Shandwick shared an update on its DE&I journey in February 2021, which can be viewed here. The report showed marginal improvement from the year before. In that update, Weber Shandwick provided US workforce diversity data for 2020, which it committed to doing at the beginning of every calendar year.
The agency provided information on a number of the actions it had taken, including: auditing systems and processes to root out bias; strengthening its pipeline of diverse talent; and education and training on a range of topics, including unconscious bias, microaggressions, cultural competency and "Understanding the Black Experience in America,” a session specifically designed to review the history of Black people and racism in the US.
Weber Shandwick made a $1 million pro bono commitment to support organizations that fight racial inequity and is currently partnering with organizations on promoting health equity in the US, supporting Black businesses in the UK and educating school children about racism in Germany.
Said President & CEO Gail Heimann: “The journey toward a truly diverse, equitable, inclusive, anti-racist organization is just that — a journey. While we still have much work to do, I strongly believe we’ve made important, foundational progress in the past year that will shape a fairer work environment for our people and will propel our ability to drive change through our work and in communities around the world.”
Last June, BCW published its 2020 Inclusivity Pledge outlining the steps it planned to take to make BCW a more inclusive, equitable place to work. Since then the agency has:
- Embedded inclusive leadership and bias management into the firm’s leadership development program, which help train managers to be better, more inclusive leaders.
- Leveraged Employee Resource Groups to lead initiatives that have client, career, culture and community impact across the organization. The groups produced a social justice resource guide and a gender inclusivity campaign.
- Launched BCW Polycultural Consulting Unit, which helps clients understand, connect with and move diverse stakeholder audiences communications and campaigns that are culturally relevant and promote DE&I.
- Audited and recalibrated policies, practices and processes covering recruitment and hiring to development and advancement to mitigate bias and ensure equity for all. Also audited and revised hiring statement and job descriptions to include more inclusive language and to identify and mitigate biases.
- The BCW Talent Acquisition Team developed a comprehensive candidate tracker database to ensure the business is following our commitment to source and interview 30% underrepresented talent for each open role.
- Committed to increasing mid-senior level Black employee population by 2022.
- Improved accountability and transparency at the leadership level. Progress against hiring, retention and growth goals is reported to North America senior leadership on a quarterly basis.
In February, FleishmanHillard announced a DE&I plan to put DE&I at the center of the agency and mobilize its community. To begin the plan’s activation during the first quarter of 2021, FleishmanHillard has:
- Hired diverse colleagues for 40% of open positions (as designated by “Race” in the United States EEO data).
- Developed a DE&I Taskforce, comprising 17 leaders representing all regions, that supports and guides its DE&I work.
- Incorporated 110+ colleagues into DE&I practice True MOSAIC, and counseled 85+ clients on DE&I journeys.
- Hosted six internal #LosetheWhisper sessions to share and learn about other perspectives.
- Conducted unconscious bias and inclusive leadership training for 370 colleagues this year.
- Contributed 24,400+ hours of pro bono service, the equivalent of more than $5.1 million in fees, to its communities through FH4Inclusion since its launch in 2016.
The firm added diversity champions to lead DE&I efforts locally; 36% of the agencies’ offices have a diversity champion, including 100% of our Americas locations.
Persons with disabilities were elevated in DE&I conversations. President & CEO John Saunders made a commitment to the Valuable 500 on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, joining the only global CEO community dedicated to radically and positively transforming the business system for those with a disability.
Juneteenth became a permanent global holiday.
The agency reports:
- A 58% increase in the number of Black employees at Zeno in the US, representing 9.6% of all new employees hired since June 2020.
- 23% of leaders (VP and above) identifying as ethnically or racially diverse. An EVP of DE&I joined Zeno’s global leadership team.
- 86% of US employees participating in implicit bias training led by Dr. Bentley Gibson, founder of the Bias Adjuster.
- 100% of Zeno employees having DE+I goals as part of their performance assessment.
- $135k in pro bono work benefiting three organizations: Year Up, the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Lagrant Foundation.
- 48% of Zeno’s influencer partners are diverse, compared to 26% in 2020, with Black influencers accounting for 17% of that growth.
CEO Barby Siegel: “As I look back on the last 12 months, I am grateful for the way our people came together, stepping up to take on the hard work that is required to make real change, believing in our collective ability to be better and stand up for what is right. We made a series of commitments and initiatives to help fight systemic racism and build a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive firm – and are holding ourselves accountable to making progress. But, there is still much more work to be done, to ensure that diverse talent is more prominent and more elevated at Zeno and the industry overall. We will not waiver in prioritizing this important work - pushing ourselves and others to do what is right and what is just.”
Real Chemistry (W2O Group)
Head of diversity, equity & inclusion Marcia Windross: "The past year has driven an awakening and period of intense, needed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. At Real Chemistry, we are on this journey for the long-term — driving action and making commitments to hold ourselves accountable for progress. In the past year, our actions resulted in increasing our total non-white employee representation by 3% and our non-white Board/C-Suite representation by 5% (from 2019 to 2020).
"This positive progress is a result of several strategies, including improving people processes through the adoption of tech-enabled solutions that allow for better tracking of key data (e.g. hiring, compensation, promotions) and reducing potential bias in job descriptions. We’ve also joined the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA), committing us to making an impact on the industry by adopting best practices, championing the cause, and tracking our diversity data. And we’ve expanded ways for us to impact the broader community and improve health equity through pro-bono partnerships with groups such as the Black Coalition Against Covid. All of these efforts are part of our mission to make the world a healthier place for all.”
CEO Diana Littman: “At Publicis Groupe, diversity, equity and inclusion is our DNA and is foundational to all that we do. Our Viva La Difference motto means we honor and celebrate our differences. Publicis Groupe has remained committed to our Seven Actions, announced in July 2020, to drive DE&I in all its forms with ongoing measurement & accountability, strategically advancing each of our focus areas. While there has been great progress made against these commitments, we recognize there is more always to do – and we will remain committed to advancing this work.
“At MSL specifically, we are committed to creating and nurturing a vibrant work environment that celebrates, values and leverages all aspects of diversity and inclusiveness, attracts world-class talent, and serves as the industry benchmark for best practice. We have made a commitment to increasing the diversity of our workforce and it is high priority for us. Our U.S. executive team is the most diverse in the PR industry – a conscious decision that I have made as CEO to surround myself and celebrate different and brilliant points of view.
“We also have a very important body of change work that we’re doing in the influence marketing space given our leadership with Fluency. Last year we made a public commitment – the first of its kind – to address the lack of diversity and other inequalities affecting influencers who are BIPOC. Over the past year we have already:
- Added thousands of vetted BIPOC influencers to Fluency and are adding more every day
- Sponsored tuition, in full, for 1,000 BIPOC influencers to take The Influencer League’s master class
- Kicked off our Influencer Diversity and Pay Parity Study which will be announced in the coming months."
Omnicom PR Group
The group has appointed DE&I leaders at all 13 of OPRG agencies. Diversity has become a more integral part of the group’s business agenda, with chief DE&I officer Soon Mee Kim included in all CEO meetings.
OPRG has established a mentoring program under which agency talent works with members of underrepresented communities interested in joining the communications industry.
Said Kim: “What we have is a comprehensive learning journey that we’re on. It’s so instrumental in how we think, how we counsel and how we lead. We have specific education that is ongoing and that is, for many of our agencies, a mandatory part of the process.
“From a talent (recruitment) and advancement standpoint, we have a number of folks who have gotten into important positions and, one year later, leaders in more senior roles — Robert Mallet is CEO of Rabin Martin, (OPRG CEO) Chris Foster, Marina Maher president Rema Vasan and Ketchum CEO Mike Doyle, is the highest ranking leader from the LGBTQ community," she said.
Racepoint shares demographic and diversity data with industry organizations, including the Diversity Action Alliance and the PR Council. All RPG employees have completed DEI training. That includes agency-wide unconscious bias eLearning training and a privilege walk in 2020. All new employees will complete this training moving forward.
President Bob Osmond is earning his Certified Diversity Executive accreditation from the Institute for Diversity Certification, as is the firm’s HR leader. RPG has partnered with minority-serving institutions and HBCUs and foundations to source candidates.
Racepoint is a member of the Diversity Marketing Consortium, through which it supports women- and BIPOC- owned start-ups by providing more than $185,000 of pro bono services per year. The firm is diversifying its supplier base by working with minority-owned businesses for its own technology and services needs and partnering with BIPOC-owned businesses for RPG training needs and co-developing solutions for clients.
MWW has expanded its pro bono work in support of small businesses to specifically include companies owned by underserved entrepreneurs. Over the last year, the firm has invested over $200,000 in pro bono PR services across practice groups to support Black women-owned businesses. Clients included PUR Home, Yubi Beauty and R3 Score (a retainer client), and the agency is re-opening applications to bring on two new small businesses starting this summer, in addition to an ongoing investment of $5K per month for pro bono work with R3 Score.
MWW set tangible racial/ethnic diversity goals with a focus on increasing representation of people of color at every level, as well as within its supplier networks.
The agency increased participation in career fairs with diverse student populations (such as Howard University, American University, Syracuse University), expanded relationships with HBCU student/alum groups, and is actively engaging incoming entry-level professionals through free career-building panel discussions and our Gen Z insights panel partnership with American University, of which two-thirds of the cohort are racially diverse.
MWW has added KPI targets for practice leads and created a dashboard for tracking diverse hires across every level and practice.
Internally MWW engaged several diversity consulting organizations to conduct agencywide training on building an inclusive work culture and managing bias in talent management. MWW also facilitated an anti-racism roundtable and recently held our first MWW Real Voices Townhall remembering George Floyd and reflecting on progress made towards our commitments we made a year ago.