Tag Archives: PR industry

Riding the diversity tsunami – why a diverse workforce make business sense.

It’s always nice to feel you’re on the side of the angels.

It felt pretty good to hear that we were at the beginnings of a “diversity tsunami” at yesterday’s launch of the CIPR‘s report into diversity in the PR industry. If this piece on the public’s response to the UK advertising landscape is to be believed it may even be true – after all, something’s got to change:

almost two-thirds of people in the UK feel the ad industry does not represent them, and almost two-fifths say advertising characters and messages fail to reflect British society as a whole…. one in six say they are prepared to avoid buying products from companies that fail to take diversity seriously.

It seems, that the public are ahead of the PR and marketing industries on this one.

The CIPR report is sobering reading, highlighting a slow rate of progress in closing the gender pay-gap, welcoming employees with disabilities and – my personal bugbear – focussing so much on the “young and dynamic” that it forgets the insight that experienced (and dynamic) older professionals offer.

Looking for a magic bullet

Many of the speakers yesterday repeated the mantra that “there is no magic bullet” for resolving the unconscious biases which dog recruitment – not just in PR but pretty much everywhere. But there were some great case studies showing how diversity helps business.  I liked the story of the owner of a small PR agency who grew her business by recruiting an ethnically diverse team – confessing with admirable honesty that it was mainly because of the financial support Creative Access offered her to do so. She soon found that her small business was out-competing larger agencies, winning international contracts because they had staff members who could – literally – speak their clients’ language.

My example – told here before – of the agency which couldn’t find a way to talk to an audience of over-50s fits that narrative exactly.  Putting it bluntly, if you don’t understand the UK’s ageing population and you don’t know how to talk to older people, you can’t sell them stuff (and like it or not, we’re the bit of the population that’s still got a disposable income…) Having a workforce that looks like the people it’s trying to communicate with – in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the representation of people with disabilities – isn’t just a nice thing to do, it makes sound commercial sense.

When the audience takes the lead

There was agreement yesterday that the greatest chance for achieving change will come from pressure on companies from their supply chains; which is why that one in six who might change their purchasing behaviour if companies don’t take diversity seriously are so important.

Only two flies in the ointment of the Marketing Week report.  The first is this:

a third of marketers polled in separate research by Marketing Week … believe that a lack of multiculturalism in advertising has no impact on what people buy

As an industry we need to catch up with our customers.

The second is the welcome it gives to the John Lewis ad as an example of older people in advertising.  Readers will know how I feel about this Christmas campaign.  I much prefer the Aldi’s spoof where, instead of a set of binoculars, the man on the moon receives a companion, delivered by balloon to brighten his Christmas.  (The gender politics of describing her as a “special buy” might be slightly problematic, I suppose, but I choose to believe that she willingly strapped herself to the chair – and I wish them both a happy Christmas)

Clinging to the wreckage?

Lying awake at 4am fretting about how long it’s taking to confirm a new piece of work, I was trying to remember my own rule 5 – the one that starts “it always takes longer to get work sorted out than you think it possibly can.”  Looking up the actual quote this morning I was astonished at how breezily confident of getting new work  I sounded  a mere 7 months  ago.

The need to re-focus the business was clear as soon as the scale of spending cuts in the public sector (where I’ve done most of my work for the past two years) emerged.  It’s a time-consuming undertaking though, and not everyone took the hint.

Being prepared for cuts?

Pre- election I was  talking to a 20-something AD at an agency with lots of public sector contracts and asked if she  worried about what might happen when spending was cut.  She looked at me with all the confidence of someone who’s never experienced a recession and said,  as though speaking to the very hard of understanding: “If there’s a new government there will be changes in policy.   Change always needs to be communicated.  We’ll carry on working with the Department,  just on different things.”  The agency is now making a significant number of staff redundant.  I genuinely hope she’s not one of them, she was very good at her job – but lots of people were caught in that trap and were just not prepared for what was coming.

Money saving tips

I’ve been doing some work recently on how the voluntary sector can cope with the impact of spending cuts – maybe that’s what’s making me pessimistic!  A lot of the advice translates to any SME, so here are some resources that might be helpful