The PR Council and Member agencies are deepening their involvement with HBCUs. Although we have long coordinated recruitment panels at select schools, we are eager to do much more to ensure that diverse students see themselves in our agencies.
We heavily recruited HBCU students to join our Agency-Ready Certificate Program, which is opening a rich dialogue with HBCU faculty and administrators.
As a next step, we will conduct a listening tour to uncover meaningful and consistent ways to take action. Current ideas include Agency for a Day programs whereby Members host contingents of students, our agency leaders speaking to classes on a more regular basis, and a stronger commitment to hiring interns and entry-level talent from HBCUs.
- Host “Day in the Life of” Sessions: What better way to convey the culture of an agency and attract quality talent than to host a “Day in the Life of Agency Professionals” webinar. Team members from multiple departments can offer webinars to bring agency life into the classroom. Format could be a prepared presentation on “modern PR” (here’s a PPT you can customize for your agency), different roles available and/or a variety of client work. Even a simple Q&A with professors and their students will promote the industry and your agency. The end goal is to create an opportunity for your agency to educate and enlighten students who may or may not be familiar with what a career in our industry looks like and how varied the sectors and opportunities are.
- Conduct Recruitment Visits: Even while we’re working remotely, we can offer virtual visits with universities. Schedule meetings with department chairs, professors and career development centers prior to hosting your own or participating in a pre-planned virtual recruiting fair to ensure job descriptions are realistic and appropriately tailored to HBCU students. An important piece of feedback from HBCUs is to make sure their students can see themselves and their skills in your JDs.
- Commit to Hiring and Training HBCU Interns: Commit to undoing the homogenous nature of our industry by hiring students and recent graduates from different sources and educational programs. Think broadly about the different roles and opportunities in your agency for an HBCU intern. Challenge yourself and your team to do away with the phrase, “We want someone to fit with our culture” and instead, figure out how your culture needs to shift to fit the needs of diverse talent. Plan ahead how you can best integrate a student who may never have had an internship, much less exposure to a PR agency – it will be worth the extra time.
- Donate PRSSA Memberships: Students and universities are struggling to pay for critical local chapter memberships that provide a realistic view of the industry and offer valuable knowledge and career opportunities to succeed in the agency world. Offer to help fund a local HBCU’s chapter and/or pay students’ annual membership dues.
- Purchase or Contribute to Tech Platform Subscriptions: Another area of challenge for HBCUs is shrinking budgets for technology tools and platforms; educational discounts from these tech providers have all but disappeared. Contact professors and department chairs to recommend tools that will be useful to learn in advance of a career in PR and supplement the cost of the platform for the school year. When you renew or purchase a new platform, maybe part of the negotiation is for a number of seats to be given to an HBCU program?
- Determine commitment level that is right for your agency: The goal of this PR Council initiative is to help our Member firms begin establishing long-term and fruitful relationships with some of the nation’s most impressive institutions. Click here to find contact information for 100+ national HBCUs so you can begin outreach, assess specific needs and start to build sustainable relationships that will inspire and attract our next generation of talent.
The below panel is a discussion with HBCU faculty and administrators. The objective of this panel was for agency leaders to engage in a useful dialogue to shape and refine mutually beneficial 2021 actions, explore collective initiatives firms can take, and forge substantive, successful, and measurable relationships with one or more HBCUs.
- Ms. Dawnette Chambers, MSIMC, Assistant Professor, PR Program Coordinator, Department of Communication, Oakwood University (Alabama)
- Ms. Ranata M. Hughes, Visiting Instructor and Internship Coordinator, School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (Florida)
- Dr. David Marshall, Professor and Chair of the Department of Strategic Communication in the School of Global Journalism & Communication (SGJC), Morgan State University(Maryland)
- Ms. Dottie Rimpsey, Mass Media Instructor, Talladega College and adjunct professor of communication, Jacksonville State University (Alabama)
- Dr. Tia C. M. Tyree, Professor and Interim Associate Dean of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Howard University (Washington, D.C.)
- Ms. Gail Boone Wiggins, Assistant Professor, Interim Chair, Department of Journalism and Mass Comm, North Carolina Agricultural &Technical State University (North Carolina)