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How social mobility is being improved in public relations

The lack of representation in the public relations industry has been highlighted as an issue since the 1990s. It is critical to ensure that our work is inclusive, empathetic, and representative. Unfortunately progress over the past 30 years has been limited.

PR has a problem

A CIPR Research Report published in January called Levelling Up the Public Relations Profession by Stuart Baird at Baker Baird and Elizabeth Bridgen at Sheffield Hallam University, reported that when the industry talks about diversity it gravitates towards race, gender, sexuality, disability, and protected characteristics.

It ignores issues such as geography, social class, accent, and education. It also ignores intersectionality which compounds to create a double disadvantage.

The UK public relations industry contributed £16.7 billion to the UK economy in 2021. It employs 99,900 people according to the PRCA Census 2021.

The PRCA reported that a fifth of respondents attended an independent or fee-paying school versus seven percent of the population. This represents a diversity gap of practitioners from a lower socio-economic background of almost 13,000. We cannot claim to represent the organisations or the public that we serve unless this imbalance is addressed.

The Language of Discrimination Report published by Creative Access and FleishmanHillard UK in February suggested that more than three quarters of people working in the creative industries feel they must change their accents at work to be taken more seriously.

Finding solutions

Sarah Waddington CBE and I set up Socially Mobile as a Community Interest Company with the goal of addressing inequality in the public relations industry. It’s an issue close to home. We’re both from a working class background, attended comprehensive schools, and benefited from council grants to attend university.

The aim of Socially Mobile is to deliver management training to public relations practitioners from lower socio-economic backgrounds and under-represented and under-served groups including ethnic minority practitioners, the LGBTQ+ community, women returners and those with disabilities.

Results so far

We recenly published our first Impact Report. In 2022 Socially Mobile supported 47 public relations practitioners from diverse backgrounds in developing their management skills via a ten week executive education course. 46 students successfully graduated from the course.

A quarter of graduates have been promoted or have had a new job opportunity since graduating from the programme. Three quarters of graduates report a positive impact on their career.

Three in five graduates say that the programme has had an immediate impact on their work in terms of confidence, a contemporary understanding of public relations practice, and development of management knowledge.

All Socially Mobile students with fully funded places, who successfully graduate, receive CIPR and PRCA membership for a year to support their continued development. Every student who graduates receives a place on the AMEC Foundation in Media Measurement and Evaluation Course.

Socially Mobile has sufficient reserves to cover its operational costs for 2023, but will shortly kick off a fundraising drive for 2024. We’ll share highlights from the first year of operation and its vision for the next ten years during a webinar from 1-2pm on 31 March. Please register via Eventbrite.

For further information about Socially Mobile or to apply for a place on an upcoming programme please visit the website or contact Beth Thomas at beth.thomas@sociallymobile.org.uk.

Written by Stephen Waddington, founder of Socially Mobile

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