New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook has announced that he will be convening public hearings in the next three weeks to slam Madison Avenue for its near total lack of diversity. Seabrook is a man on a mission and has called the New York ad industry’s hiring practices "an embarrassment for a diverse city." In his quest, Seabrook says he intends to subpoena agencies and clients alike.
In my mind, clients are the key to solving the diversity challenge. Until they begin to mandate that agencies become more diverse, we won’t. We’ll talk the talk, undertake studies and keep our eyes open for smart, diverse candidates. But, truth be told, the average public relations firm isn’t spending a lot of its waking time figuring out how to be more diverse. Instead, we focus on staying one step ahead of our clients and competition.
We, for example, are proud of the diversity strides we’ve taken and are happy to have established relationships with traditionally black colleges and universities. But, does our workforce population reflect the greater society? Nope. Does any top public relations firm’s staff reflect the greater population? Nope.
So, before Councilman Seabrook comes gunning for the NYC PR community, here’s hoping that our clients will be a little tougher on us, and mandate that we become more diverse. Because, as we all know in our heart of hearts, diversity isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s a smart business strategy. One day soon, the McDonald’s and Coca-Cola’s are going to wake up and say to themselves, "Hey, wait a minute. Our firms are almost all white. Yet, they’re helping us market to an extremely diverse population. Maybe it’s time we found some new partners?