My remarks were entitled, "Creating a future-driven vision" and argued that we, as PR pros, need to keep a half-step ahead of the multiple, simultaneous marketplace changes going down or risk being swept aside as irrelevant. In the talk, I touched on everything from the rise of the corporate purchasing manager and the ‘consumer as king’ phenomenon to digital marketing ‘best practices’ and diversity (or lack thereof) in our industry.
Blogging and diversity were the ‘hot’ topics of the day. We went back-and-forth on digital best practices and agreed that blogging provided an ideal way with which to engage in new and different conversations with ‘consumers.’ That said, everyone agreed that digital ROI remains elusive to say the least.
When it came to diversity, one attendee thought my call to action was outdated and said ‘affirmative action’ was yesterday’s news. He believed it was time for us to "move on." I responded by saying that, while his comments may reflect what’s happening (or not happening in Canada), it definitely doesn’t translate south of the border.
In my opinion, the PR industry has done a very poor job of diversifying. Collectively, we don’t even come close to reflecting the society in which we live. Nor do I see any overt, proactive initiatives that will dramatically change the landscape. I believe that’s because our clients aren’t driving the discussion. Until they insist that their agency partners become more diverse (or suffer losing their business) we won’t do so (or, we’ll take our sweet time getting there).
Maybe the PR industry needs to be taken to task a la what our advertising brethren are going through. Beginning on June 17th (which happens to be the start of ‘Advertising Week’), a gaggle of ad agency honchos will be subpoenaed to testify before NYC’s diversity hearings and explain why their shops are so lily white. It should make for great ‘copy’ as an ad guy might say.
Here’s hoping our industry can get its act together and start taking real, concrete steps to becoming more diverse. And beyond leveling the playing field in terms of skin color and ethnic backgrounds, we also better wake up and figure out how to recruit more young men to our ranks. One of PR’s dirty little secrets is that fewer and fewer guys are entering the field. If we wake up one day and find ourselves an all-white, all-female industry, how will we possibly make the case for being relevant to 21st century marketers? And how long will it be before some group of media-hungry politicians hauls some of us before public diversity hearings to defend the indefensible?