Public Relations

#FuturePRoof: Edition Four

Hello, dear readers. It’s been a while since I’ve been here but what better reason to be back blogging than to talk about the latest edition of #FuturePRoof.

Edition Four – Celebrating BAME Talent – is the next instalment of crowdsourced essays collated by Sarah Waddington tackling topical and poignant issues affecting the PR industry. An what could be more topical than “an uplifting look at BME talent”.

The first #FuturePRoof book featuring only BAME talent, Sarah explains: “This was never meant to be a book about ‘black issues’, which are in fact cultural and societal issues, not black or BME – just like pay inequality isn’t a women’s issue. This was always to be a forward-thinking look at best practice within public relations, with the purpose of reasserting PR’s value to business.”

It’s a challenge from Sarah and the other authors to look at our (perhaps unintended) behaviours and the consequences of these. It’s a collection of words to inspire change.

But, as Sarah sets out in the outset, it’s about our industry too – from audience targeting to partnership working, community building to the psychology of decision-making, social media to leadership.

For this blog, I’ve picked out a few of my highlights, from a book of so many, just a handful of chapters that really stuck in my mind (and trust me, I could write pages on this, but I’ll let the contributors to #FuturePRoof do the talking).

I’d urge you to get a copy to read them all, it’ll be worth every minute of your time.

Chapter 01: Our approach to improving diversity and inclusion is broken

“How can diversity in PR be on the decline when it seems to be a so called ‘hot topic’ in the industry?” asks Julian Obubo. Why is something so talked about not invoking change?

We can’t just accept the fact that 91% of the industry is white (according to the CIPR State of the Profession report). We need to be asking why black people aren’t choosing a career in comms.

“Fixing diversity will require sacrifice. It will demand a mindset and behaviour shift that goes well beyond the office” states. Julian. There are so many layers to this issue that there are no ‘quick fixes’, as he highlights.

We can’t expect HR initiatives, reports highlighting issues, or other people to fix this for us. It starts and ends with all of us.

Chapter 04: My allies never post black squares

“Unlike others, I am less inclined to accord you the title on the basis of a photo that may have been screenshotted and neatly cropped for the metrics and optics” Harriet Small Okot opens with.

Allyship is something we should strive for. But it’s not as simple as signing a petition, posting a black square or abstaining from social media for 24 hours – “allyship is rooted in the practice of acting, learning, listening and yielding one’s privilege, rather than guilt or a sense of being a saviour … Embrace mistakes as an opportunity to grow.”

Thank you, Harriet, for sharing four dimensions for us to consider: intentionality, preventability, fault and locality. Please read Harriet’s chapter to see what she means by these, they were particularly helpful points of guidance for me.

She also suggests that we all diversify the content that we consume – something I will endeavour to be conscious of from now on. Particularly on social media, we can find ourselves in an echo chamber and the issues that need are attention are seemingly not there.

Chapter 08: How NHS Blood and Transplant approached partnership working to normalise organ donation

This one was always going to jump out at me. Not only is it something I really support, but I’ve been wowed on more than one occasion by NHS Blood and Transplant’s campaigns, social media activity and creativity.

“We regularly see a direct link between stories appearing and spikes in people registering as organ donors, but these stories don’t impact people across different ethnic groups in the same way” writes Andrea Ttofa.

So, it was clear they needed to do something different to raise awareness amongst minority ethnic communities. The Government provided funding for a BAME organ donation campaign, and NHSB&T launched the BAME community investment scheme, offering pots of funding to promote donation in these communities.

This lead to people seeing and hearing people from a similar background to them, making the changes happen. And it prompted some improvement in BAME donation rates.

We can all take something away from this – if what you’re doing is not working, change it. If your audiences aren’t listening, ask yourself why. Listen and act.

Chapter 11: ‘To bias or not to bias’: the science behind bad decisions

“PR and communications specialists can make or break a person’s decision-making process” writes Annique Simpson, “but with this power comes responsibility.”

Taking us on a whistle stop tour of the psychology of decision making, Annique explains the importance and usefulness of representative heuristics in PR – for example “older people don’t use social media” – but warns that we could miss diagnostic information with such sweeping statements.

You should read the chapter to learn more, it’s a really interesting one, it takes you through different types of bias and really made me think. I’ll be revisiting this one for sure, and doing my own research into this topic.

Chapter 14: Are radio stations still a valid PR tool?

“Many clients and public relations agencies fall into the trap of believing radio is dead. Or if not dead, dying and that audiences are not reached this way” explains Evadney Campbell MBE.

And while the listenership of radio generally had been on the decline, the COVID-19 pandemic changed this. “Whether it will be sustainable is yet to be seen” Evadney adds, and quite rightly suggests it depends on your target audience.

Why does she think radio is so important? It’s no longer “the piece of equipment that sits on the sideboard”, it’s on our phones, tablets, laptops. It’s available at a click, wherever you are.

Finding the right platform and the right stories, and radio is still a valued media outlet.

This blog wouldn’t be complete without a mention for Elizabeth Bananuka, the inspiration behind it, as Sarah explains in her introduction. The Blueprint is Elizabeth’s initiative to help organisations attract, retain and nurture diverse talent. And is something worth checking out thisistheblueprint.co.uk.

Get #FuturePRoof: Edition Four here.

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