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National Survey of Multicultural Public Relations Practitioners Reveals Barriers to Diversity

Posted by Elena del Valle on June 9, 2005

Women Owned/ Managed Agencies Lead the Way Achieving Diversity

 New York, NY, June 9. 2005 — A 2004-2005 study of Black and Hispanic public relations (PR) practitioners in the United States reveals significant dissatisfaction with the PR profession’s commitment to diversity, perceived pervasive discrimination, and widespread concern that multicultural practitioners are relegated to a slow professional track.  The findings also indicate that women-owned / managed firms have a significantly greater commitment to and success in retaining multicultural practitioners, compared to their male counterparts.

 The on-line survey was conducted in October 2004 and January 2005 by Lynn Appelbaum, APR, associate professor, chair, Department of Media & Communication Arts at The City College of New York, and Rochelle Ford, Ph.D., APR, assistant professor, Advertising and PR Sequence Coordinator, Howard University.  RF Binder Partners was the underwriter.

“This is a wake-up call for the PR industry to take significant steps to address diversity,” said professor Appelbaum.  “While we have begun to talk about how to diversify our workforce, industry professionals and HR staffs must take action if we are going to effect meaningful change.  The industry may want to look to women-owned firms for leadership in this important area.”

 “This study gives a snapshot of practitioner perceptions and experiences, and while the news is not all bad, organizations need to work to alleviate the double standards and racism practitioners feel they face in order to attract and retain talent,” said Dr. Ford.

Job Satisfaction

Survey results indicate that job satisfaction among Black and Latino professionals is lower than job satisfaction among the general PR practitioner population, with only 45.8% of the respondents feeling satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, all things considered.  Additionally, Hispanic practitioners experience significantly lower levels of job satisfaction than Blacks.

Work-Related Racism

Respondents consistently report that they have experienced incidences of racism in their careers – 54% experienced subtle discrimination by current or past employers and 40% experienced overt discrimination.  The most common problem (reported by 62%) was having to be more qualified for positions than Caucasian American counterparts.  Additionally, 60% feel multicultural practitioners are put on slow moving career tracks, and 56% feel that multicultural practitioners are frequently relegated to menial tasks.
Nearly half of all respondents reported that they are treated unfairly in the workplace. In 9 of the 18 racism measures, Hispanic practitioners reported significantly higher levels than Black respondents.

Workplace Integration

Despite these negative experiences, multicultural practitioners feel that they are integrated in the workplace and do not see themselves as being relegated to only multicultural clients.  Two thirds note that their projects receive a lot of attention outside their organizations, 72 % interact professionally outside their ethnic group, and 58% interact socially with Caucasian Americans.


Importantly, nearly two thirds agree or strongly agree that they have been mentored by one or more PR practitioners, who made a difference in their success; nearly 84% had at least one white male mentor and 87% had at least one white female mentor. 
Recommended Action Steps

 Multicultural practitioners identified several strategies for professional organizations and employers to take to improve the industry’s diversity initiatives: provide diversity and management training for staff and managers, actively recruit at universities with high minority enrollment and at conferences and job fairs that target minorities.

Survey respondents identified three major areas for PR associations to play in promoting diversity: create a campaign geared toward recruiting multicultural practitioners getting the message out earlier to youth; offer development opportunities to diversity professionals; and assist businesses with recruiting competitive diverse candidates.

Survey Design

The survey was designed to provide feedback on multicultural PR practitioners’ experience in the workplace, assess discrimination issues and the PR industry’s diversity initiatives, and identify strengths and weaknesses of membership in race-neutral professional organizations, such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), compared to racially-based membership groups, such as the Black Public Relations Society (BPRS) or the Hispanic Public Relations Society (HPRS).  The survey also sought ideas from multicultural practitioners to help the industry chart a plan of action to improve diversity within the PR industry.
The sample includes members of multicultural PR organizations: National Black Public Relations Society and its New York, Washington, DC, Chicago and Atlanta chapters; Hispanic Marketing Communication Association Miami Chapter; and PRSA’s multicultural communication section members. Recipients were invited to forward the survey to non-member multicultural practitioners. Findings are based on 132 completed surveys, about a 10% response.

The press conference is a major initiative of the Diversity Committee of the Public Relations Society of America- New York Chapter (PRSA-NY). The committee’s co-chairs are Lester Davis, Executive Director of Marketing at CommCore Strategies, Inc and Lilly Loh, Director of Business Development & Marketing at Hill & Knowlton.  Complete survey findings and analysis can be obtained at the City College of New York web site:, or