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PRSA Leadership Commits to Improvements in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Jul. 2, 2020

In the midst of these very turbulent times, a variety of urgent voices and constituencies are rightly telling the world that changes need to be made to address decades and decades of social injustices and systemic racism. At PRSA, we’ve found ourselves looking inward and reaching out across the full spectrum of our membership to learn more about your experiences, your struggles personally and professionally and to further understand the many concerns that are of critical importance to you.

What you have shared with us publicly and privately has been difficult to hear, but we are heartened by the grace you’ve shown in wanting to move forward to create meaningful progress. Our commitment is to do just that, and we are pleased to share definitive steps we are taking today to address areas where we know we can and should do better.

Two essential themes are driving these emerging plans:

PRSA has a lack of diversity across our membership and leadership that cannot continue if our organization is to not just grow but evolve.

The time for talk is long past. The time for action is now, and we commit to the following:

Improve Diversity of Board of Directors

We have asked the Governance Committee to closely reexamine our Bylaws and to recommend amendments that can help remove barriers that have kept Board leadership out of reach for so many of our members, particularly our members of color. Our current Board is among the most diverse in the organization’s history, and we must continue to be disciplined in our recruitment of candidates and outreach to marginalized communities. Members who share a commitment to PRSA’s mission, with experience in the profession and effective managerial skills, are the hallmarks of a good board candidate, and we will work to ensure members who fit this description are given an equal chance to serve in leadership roles, including at the highest level of PRSA.

Increase Committee Participation

We need to engage more members from diverse backgrounds with our national committees to ensure a range of perspectives and fresh ideas are represented. This includes Black members, members of color, members from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as members immersed in the work of multicultural communications. Committees serve as an important pipeline of future leaders, and we must proactively ensure these underrepresented communities are among PRSA’s committee structure. We’ll also be creating additional opportunities for members to learn more about roles and responsibilities and the application process.

Expand Delegate Representation

The annual meeting of the Leadership Assembly is among the most important events within PRSA and the delegates chosen to represent the membership need to reflect a variety of demographics and experiences. We are asking Chapter leadership to reevaluate how they choose delegates and consider the ways in which they can bring new voices and members of underrepresented communities into the process and open up the conversation to different populations across the communications profession.

Deliver on Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan

The three-year D&I Strategic Plan, published earlier this year, is a transformative guide that will drive improvement in areas where urgent change is needed most. The plan builds on research and investments by the Board that began in 2019 and calls for an expansion of tools and resources across the organization to help build an inclusive community that connects and champions all members no matter their race, gender identity, color, sexual orientation, national origin or any other factor. We are already delivering on its objectives and earlier this week published a new D&I Toolkit that provides best practices and will help accelerate success and scale our efforts throughout PRSA and the industry.

Develop Programs to Further Guide New Professionals

We must create new opportunities to mentor members along a successful career growth path and will be launching a pilot program to support new professionals of color. This initiative expands upon past programs established by the College of Fellows and creates a comprehensive process to build more substantive and effective relationships. The program will launch this quarter and be available to the entire membership by the end of 2020.

Strengthen Relationship With HBCUs and HSIs

Our PRSSA students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) need more advocates and resources to help bridge the gap between racial inequality and career advancement. Working closely with the faculty advisers at these institutions, PRSA will forge a deeper bond and connection with students interested in pursuing a career in communications and become a better ally to our future leaders.

Launch Training at the National and Local Levels

PRSA will provide unconscious bias training for all PRSA staff and Chapter, District & Section leadership this year and continue the instruction annually. We will also host professional development courses for all members focusing on D&I in the workplace and communicators’ roles in leading the conversation internally and externally for their organizations.

Pledge Support to Diversity Action Alliance

Along with the PRSA Foundation, PRSA is an active member of the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) and has fully committed to the tenets of the coalition’s goals and objectives. Rooted in a mission to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communications and public relations profession, the DAA will provide transparency into the industry’s progress and hold stakeholders accountable and ensure we’re all working toward fulfilling our commitments.

The steps above are not the final word on this subject. Instead, it is the beginning of an ongoing conversation that will influence how this organization lives and breathes for the sake of its members. The Board recognizes the valuable work of the D&I Committee and we look forward to delivering on our strategies and tactics. This is an essential turning point for PRSA, and we are committed to building a more diverse and dynamic organization, community and profession. Actions speak louder than words, and we look forward to working closely with all of you to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change.

T. Garland Stansell, APR
2020 PRSA Chair

Michelle Olson
2020 PRSA Chair-elect

Debra Peterson, APR
Immediate Past Chair

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Karen Mateo  
Chief Communications Officer
(212) 460-1454

Rod Granger  
Director, Content and Integrated Communications
(212) 460-0307