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More organisations need to take action to increase diversity in public relations, says Victoria Harrison-Cook, head of media at TFL

I love working in PR. I love the adrenaline of having to respond to short deadlines or dealing with an unexpected issue where the company’s reputation is at stake. I love the variety; one minute needing acute analytical skills to understand complex information and the next tuning into your creative mind, coming up with cost-effective and impactful ideas that will change what audiences think, feel and believe. I love the fact that it’s a really agile profession; good at thinking on its feet, great in a crisis and full of positive enthusiastic people with great ideas that can bring about change.

Where is the diversity?
But there’s one thing that frustrates me. It’s the fact that we’ve been talking about the need for diversity in the industry for decades and there’s little evidence of any change. The PRCA census shows that 89% of the industry in White British. Even when you look at London, where you would expect the proportion of people from diverse backgrounds to be higher, 71% of the industry is White British. That’s even more shocking when you consider the fact that 40% of Londoners are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) group.

Give people a break
We know that having a diverse workforce leads to more creativity, innovation and performance. As PR professionals tasked with reaching diverse audiences, how can we possibly expect to be truly effective unless our teams are made up of talented diverse people? Whilst I do think more needs to be done to educate young people at school, about what communications and public relations is, the lack of diversity in our profession, isn’t because people from BAME backgrounds don’t want to work in it. I know that to be true because I’ve met so many bright talented people, with so much motivation and ambition to get their break in the industry.

Action not words
At Transport for London, we run the Stuart Ross BAME press office internship to give people that break that will help them get their first job in PR. It’s hugely rewarding to witness the PR professionals they become but we also gain so much from their talent and creativity. I’d like to see (and hear) more organisations tackling the issue to make the industry more diverse so that we can become a stronger and more effective industry, bringing about change rather than just talking about it.

Written by Victoria Harrison-Cook, head of media at Transport for London, who has been recognised with an MBE for her services to increase diversity in the PR industry

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