PR Council Agency Members Commitment Has Never Been Stronger

NEW YORK – (April 15, 2016) — In an effort to understand the issue of talent retention among people of color within PR agencies, the PR Council commissioned a perceptions study. The purpose of the study was to explore the agency experience for PR professionals of color who are advanced in their careers and who have left jobs at PR firms within the past four years. The study sought to identify trends and barriers to career advancement and to help the industry consider ways to improve inclusion and retention at PR firms.

The PR Council commissioned the study to consider the perceptions of black and Latino professionals, specifically. Key findings from the perceptions study include:

  • Most black and Latino PR professionals feel that they are making progress in PR agencies, but great strides in key decision-making roles are elusive. Only 21% of Latino/Hispanic respondents feel that Latino/Hispanic PR professionals are making headway as key decision-makers within PR agencies, which is double the rate of African American respondents (8.5%) who feel this way about African American professionals.
  • Both black and Latino PR professionals leave agency jobs for better positions elsewhere. Based on the survey responses, the most commonly cited reason that Latino respondents left their last agency positions is that they were offered better positions elsewhere (52.9%). Among black respondents, this was the second most commonly cited reason (28.5%), with black respondents’ most commonly cited reason being dissatisfaction with compensation or opportunities for advancement (29.3%).
  • Three strategies for improving the career and work experiences stand out among black and Latino respondents. These are 1) actively recruit black/African American and Latino/Hispanic PR professionals; 2) promote more from within; and 3) increase capacity of senior staff to become more open to diverse ideas and cultures.

“Our approximately 100 plus agency members know that our industry would be much stronger with a broader and deeper participation by people of color at all levels in our companies,” says Christopher Graves, Chairman, PR Council and Global Chairman, Ogilvy Public Relations. “They also know this will take a comprehensive plan and not ad hoc efforts,” Graves explained.  “If we do not improve the existing corporate culture through much more learning & development, such as unconscious bias training, and through affinity support groups, talent of color will not stay, even if recruited.”

LM Strategies, an external diversity and equity consultancy, advises that PR agencies have several opportunities to retain and increase the presence of black and Latino mid- and senior-level professionals. Based on the research and analysis of survey and interview data, the PR Council Board is advising Agency Membership to:

  1. Start with leadership. CEO’s and leadership teams must set the vision and tone, using their influence, visibility and power to advocate for changes and put policies and practices in place. While HR professionals can provide implementation support, and chief diversity officers can manage the work, efforts to increase the presence of high-performing black and Latino professionals in the C-Suite depend on the active involvement of the CEO. Tie the advancement, promotion, and/or bonuses of senior leadership to the success of their team members, including specific targets around the success of underrepresented PR professionals who are part of a senior leader’s team.
  2. Embrace the importance of data collection and analysis. PR agencies have to collect information on hires, tenure, promotions and exits in order to analyze what is happening to black and Latino PR professionals when they enter and leave a PR firm. This data should be shared and disseminated each year to keep firms transparent. Data analysis can inform human resource action plans for each year, and play a role in how senior leaders are compensated or incentivized.
  3. Establish a support system. Develop a program for professionals to navigate the systems, culture and expectations of the workplace, as the firm takes a proactive role in addressing barriers to success. While cultural events and affinity groups may play some role in creating a sense of belonging, programs that provide executive-level coaching, introduce employees to new teams, and get talented professionals on the radar of others within the company are the most useful to retaining talent and providing career ladders for high-performing PR professionals of color.

“When there is more diversity among PR agency teams, there is more diversity of thought and better ideation. Diversity in agencies leads to greater innovation,” said PR Council President Renee Wilson. “We are supporting several initiatives within the PR Council this year to expand diversity advancement in PR agencies – among them a partnership with the Emma Bowen Foundation, a diversity and inclusion resource guide, a webinar series, and more. Additionally, we amended our bylaws for the first time in four years to emphasize the importance of strengthening the recruitment and retention of a diverse and inclusive workforce within the agencies of the public relations industry.”

Agencies must recognize that the experiences of PR professionals of color are not universal. While underrepresented groups in the United States may share commonalities, strategies that work for one community may not move the needle for others. PR firms should consider targeted strategies that take into account regional and cultural contexts.

PR firms realize that they must establish and maintain diversity to remain competitive in an increasingly diverse society. This perceptions study shares specific challenges faced by black and Latino PR professionals and makes recommendations for the ways in which PR firms can address those challenges. The PR industry has reason to be optimistic that the current trends can be reversed if proactive strategies are put in place.

The research protocol was designed to gather the perspectives and experiences of a wide sample of black and Latino professionals who are advanced in their careers in public relations. In support of the perceptions study, ColorComm served as a partner of PR Council, and LM Strategies, to ensure extensive participation of black and Latino PR professionals in the study.


The PR Council, established as the Council of Public Relations Firms in 1998, is the U.S. trade association representing America’s leading firms practicing publics relations. Its members are the premier global, mid-size, regional, and specialty firms across every discipline and practice area. The PR Council’s mission is to advocate for and advance the business of public relations firms by building the market and the value of firms as strategic business partners. For more information, visit


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Sara Ghazaii

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