5 tips for recruiting and retaining diverse PR talent

It’s crucial for every organization to employ a wide range of voices. Here’s how you can find and hold on to talented African American communicators.


In the PR industry, the desire to diversify has moved far past a trendy opportunity and become a dire necessity for the positive advancement of field.

Recently, there has been a particular focus on the underrepresentation of African American professionals that both enter and stay in the field. Given that over 43 million people in the US population were African American in 2018 (13.4% of the US population), it is essential to have communicators that are fluent in culturally-specific communication practices in order to properly reach this audience.

There has been no shortage of national campaign blunders where it appeared that valuable (and logical) input from employees with diverse backgrounds was absent, such as Pepsi’s and Dove’s missteps. Attracting and keeping African American PR pros in the field is more than a polite gesture toward equality, it is a necessary effort that could help your organization save millions.

You don’t have to look far to see the opportunity offered by diverse communicators, such as what Moss Hendrix, an African American pioneer in PR, did for Coca-Cola in the 1950s

Here are five points any organization should consider to recruit, hire and retain African American communicators:

1. Be authentic in your recruitment process.

Recruitment should be strategic and intentional.

The term “diversity” has become a workplace buzzword in the past decade. However, half-hearted efforts should not be pursued just to meet a quota.

This type of cosmetic diversity could have serious reputation ramifications as minorities who are hired might feel ill-treated. Further, negative experiences sometimes travel faster than positive coverage. Instead of adopting diversity efforts to be on trend, organizations should have an authentic, long-term plan that focuses on inclusivity and equality in ways that positively advance the company’s culture.

2. Collaborate with a historically black college or university (HCBU).

One of the biggest opportunities to recruit African American employees is to work with HCBUs to build relationships with students before they enter the field. This collaboration can include providing internships, workshops and mentorship programs to students. Currently, HBCUs graduate more African American students nationally and largely contribute to the percentage of college-educated African Americans in the field.

While recruitment methods should be varied, these organizations offer a huge opportunity for corporations, agencies and nonprofits in PR to find diverse talent.

3. Be strategic about inclusivity measures.

Depending upon the type of organization and its capacity, strategic inclusivity efforts could include mentorship programs, organizational-wide gatherings and/or mixers—and opportunities for confidential feedback. Opportunities like mentorship programs within a PR job could help break down barriers between internal groups and help minority employees feel included.

4. Make sure your company culture embraces diversity.

Company culture is a crucial part of how any organization satisfies and engages employees to contribute exceptional work. Organizations hiring minority PR professionals should, as a part of your strategic hiring plan, assess their culture and how welcoming and inclusive it is of diverse persons, ability levels and cultures.

The goal should be to hire diverse PR pros and provide an opportunity for them to work in your organization for as long as possible. Organizations with poor and non-inclusive company cultures usually have high turnover and minority employees often leave on unsatisfactory terms.

This can damage the image and reputation for your organization—which can prove costly in the long run.

5. Combat resistance to diversity in the workplace.

Resistance to diversity in the workplace is a legitimate dilemma that disrupts diversity efforts in many fields, including PR and communications. Organizations can combat this resistance by investing in their company culture and being strategic about inclusivity through efforts like required diversity and inclusion workshops/trainings.

It is important to educate all current and future employees on the ways diversity among co-workers can foster a better work environment and achieve business objectives. It is equally important to have disciplinary plans in place for cases where discrimination threatens an organization’s reputation. Minority PR pros must be properly recruited, strategically included and equally protected by your organization.

Dr. Candace Parrish is an assistant professor of communications. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.


6 Responses to “5 tips for recruiting and retaining diverse PR talent”

    Kennedy Morillo says:

    I am a 22-year-old woman of Spanish, European and African American descent. To me, inclusivity and diversity are the two most important aspects that an organization can make significant. When wanting to reach a wide audience, it is important to have a representation of every culture in your organization. I really enjoy the points the author made especially the point about not hiring a diverse staff for the sake of what it looks like from an outside perspective. While hiring a plethora of people is a good thing, it becomes unjust when it isn’t for the right reasons.

    Candace Parrish says:

    Janice, Thank you! Also, thank you for your insightful Forbes articles that have certainly helped highlight the need for D&I in every industry.

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