How to recruit a more diverse workforce in PR

If you always follow the same, traditional recruitment practices, you may end up getting the same, traditional types of PR people. We look at different ways of seeking talent that are more inclusive and lead to a more diverse workforce.

Look at your selection and interview process
Jessica Hargreaves, group MD of PR agency PrettyGreen & The Producers: “We are committed to walk and not just talk on the issue of diversity and inclusivity. It’s a long-term commitment, which has resulted in a majority female leadership team and a workforce that is 16% BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). We are a founding partner of the Brixton Finishing School and partner with the Taylor Bennet Foundation to help support and recruit more diverse talent into the agency and industry.

“However, we continue to strive to do more and have implemented a variety of other initiatives. Most recently, we have partnered with talent-finding resource Hidden and will be using its bespoke technology to mitigate bias from the selection process. We have also introduced an inclusive interview process to recruit based on values, role criteria match and scoring. Early last year we also invested in an external diversity and inclusion (D&I) consultant to offer expert and ongoing inclusivity advice and training. Our dedicated in-house D&I committee continually implement and inspire change throughout the organisation, including recruitment.”

Team up with diversity organisations
Max Deeley, associate director at agency Platform Communications: “Viewing diversity through the narrow lens of ‘social responsibility’ won’t change the long-term status quo. At Platform, we view a diverse workforce as necessary to deliver the best client service possible.

“Diversity is essential in the creative industries because it gives us and our clients access to alternative perspectives. You can’t put all of a clients’ customers into the same box, so is the messaging we create as inclusive as it could be? Are the more creative elements of any given campaign tonally right, and are we considering all of the creative options open to us if we don’t have a workforce shaped by different backgrounds and cultures?

“We wanted to make our jobs accessible to as many people as possible to address these questions better. To do this, we work with social enterprises like Creative Access to put our job specs in front of the talented people they support from under-represented groups in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic background and disability in our industry.”

Seek out neurodiverse candidates
Aliya Vigor Robertson, co-founder of HR consultants to the creative industry JourneyHR: “With the CIPD reporting that nearly three quarters of employers do not include neurodiversity in their people management practices, it’s clear we must improve the support on offer to neurodiverse individuals. Companies should champion neurodiversity in their broader inclusion efforts in order to best support their teams, and benefit from a broad range of skillsets.

“To be more inclusive, businesses should review their hiring and onboarding processes to ensure the language is clear and accessible. Businesses can also access a more varied talent pool by offering fully or partly remote positions to attract those who feel uncomfortable in an office environment.

“However, true inclusion is more than blanket actions, leaders should work with employees to co-design support that suits individual circumstances where possible. Not only do businesses have a moral duty to promote equitable values, they risk excluding top talent if they do not.”

Encourage returners
Nathalie Agnew, founder and MD of agency Muckle Media, creator of the Returners to Communications programme, which helps people with career breaks back into the industry: “We did the PR for a 'returners to financial services programme' a couple years back and at the time I thought how much value a similar programme could bring to the PR sector. I’ve seen so many talented women leave the PR world in their 20s and 30s to start families or travel after becoming burnt out, and as a mum of three pre-schoolers myself I really understand the juggle between home and work life. I wanted to try and bridge that gap between being on a break and making the return, without it being daunting and pressurised.

“We’ve been so impressed by the 13 incredible women we’ve welcomed to the programme, and seen them flourish over the past seven weeks, when the ten-week programme ends in late March we hope to retain several returners. We would love to hear from any recruiters or brands that would be interested in meeting the remaining group, who all have lots they could bring. I’d also encourage other organisations to consider innovative ways to make their workplace more accessible to returners.”

There are many talented individuals out there who could slip through the recruitment net if you stick to tired, old recruitment practices. Thinking more creatively and inclusively when it comes to hiring is good for your business and the whole of the PR industry.