DR. ARLO BRADY CEO, freuds and The Brewery
THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN FROM THOSE PAST & PRESENT
The Black Lives Matter issue has touched us all. From the moment of George Floyd’s shocking death on May 25 at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, our world has been confronted by issues of diversity, race and division.
Where once society chose to look away, today the fault-lines that run through all aspects of our lives have been laid bare.
As individuals, we’ve all had to scrutinise our own actions, as well as those of the organisations, businesses, clubs and social groups that connect us.
In situations like these, it’s often easier to reach for conclusions, than accept the shortcomings in our own understanding. It’s only when we begin to drill down into what has worked, and what hasn’t, that we can begin to understand how to take a direction that will really make a longstanding difference.
This new digital journal is part of that process by helping to explain the individual journeys of those black PR professionals who make up our industry. Statistics tell us only half the story, and can be easily misinterpreted. The reality is that lived experience tells the rest.
The industry we work in is closely tied to power and power structures, meaning white men from a particular background often dominate. However, the nature of that influence is changing, and a lot of agencies have yet to respond to that shift in power structure and dynamic.
There are many compelling accounts of the journeys made by our contributors, but I was struck by the observation of James Mercer, a director at Social Media Misfits, who explains that fitting in is not solely the responsibility of the person trying to fit in, but the responsibility of the organisation to make people feel welcome. Something we have not done well as an industry.
Josh Burrell also mentions the value of programmes, like the Stuart Ross BAME Internship scheme, (named after a former TfL director of news), that seeks out motivated and enthusiastic people, giving them the opportunity of a career in an industry not best known for its diversity.
It’s important to also mention the wonderful work of the Taylor Bennett organisation, led by our contributor Melissa Lawrence which has also been significant to promoting change in our industry, while producing ambitious young talent like Dolapo Akinbolagbe.
This journal also presents an opportunity to learn from employees past and present.
PR agencies do not work in isolation, so it is important to recognise that these changes need to be replicated by a change in client demand, with former Facebook CMO Antonio Lucio among those who have been leading the call for greater diversity in agency partners.
At freuds, we are already working on instituting unconscious bias, microaggression and allyship training, as well as changes to mentoring, internship and a talent D&I charter.
But no matter the impact internally, we should also remember that the greatest impacts are through our work. One reason I’m delighted that we’ve been able to play a part in the creation of Lewis Hamilton’s eye-catching and pioneering development of the Hamilton Commission, which has already shown boldness and brilliance in its pursuit of the big issues.
We are a tremendously influential industry, so it’s often our output that counts when it comes to changing public perceptions. While allyship is vital, the best and biggest projects can also attract a different type of talent, while changing what the world views as acceptable.
I encourage people to read the articles that follow and open their minds to what needs to be done.