Why PR Pros Need To Start Amplifying Diverse Voices
At the core of PR is amplification – of a person, a product, a place, a message – and we rely on media to achieve this. It’s been a long time coming (and we’ve got a long way to go), but many media outlets are now taking the task of amplifying diverse voices seriously in 2021. Whether it’s bringing more people of color into newsrooms or finding fresh LGBTQ+ angles for coverage, we’re seeing platforms and perspectives that provide a fuller representation of the world in which we live.
And as PR pros, we must join them as allies. I’d even argue that we’re a vital part of this battle — and that ultimately, everyone benefits. In our position, we are able to shape and affect the success of new, more diverse voices and outlets via our own outreach and strategizing for our clients. We can push forward on new media who have not yet established reach but have an established and highly engaged community.
In the past, PR pros have been partially complicit in maintaining the status quo vs. challenging it. We went after the established outlets. We focused our pitches on writers who fit into certain boxes. But there are much bigger stories to tell, and many more ways to tell them.
Let’s look at the culinary world, for example. We cannot continue to play into the brain trust that has been established throughout the last several decades in the F&B space. It’s a huge mistake to continue pushing the idea that Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and SAVEUR are the be all, end all of food outlets. By creating diverse plans that put clients (in this case chefs, restaurants, culinary stories and creators) into outlets that may not have as large an audience, we raise up new and emerging voices.
Those voices are everywhere if we look. Just using food as an example, there’s Whetstone, a fantastic print magazine dedicated to food origins and culture — and the only Black-owned food publication in the country. Or there’s Civil Eats, a daily news source for critical thought about the American food system. Or check out The Racist Sandwich, an absorbing (and entertaining) podcast that digs into where food, race, gender, and class all intersect.
On the travel side, TURNER’s work with Houston has put diversity and inclusivity front and center, showcasing how the city’s multiculturalism is among its biggest selling points. We’ve highlighted Houston’s Highway Vodka, one of the nation’s only fully black-owned hemp vodka distilleries. We’ve shed light on the charity Lucilles 1913, launched by one of Houston’s leading Black chefs. The resulting coverage hasn’t been limited to mainstream pubs. We’ve made sure to work with journalists of color and niche publications like Travel Noire. It’s not a sideline effort. Visit Houston has made it a priority.
No matter what the topic may be, it’s our job to seek out these types of outlets and promote them to clients. The way forward is to build more wide-ranging media plans and push back when a client insists on being in the same agreed upon outlets. If we don’t, we’ll miss our chance to tell diverse stories, and give them the attention they deserve.
Our industry should be asking: “What can we do?” The answer is to first start building diversity, equity and inclusion into your PR plans from day one — and to not take “no” for an answer from clients. We also need to diversify our own industry overall. That means supporting and mentoring PR practitioners of diverse backgrounds. At TURNER, from a PR standpoint, we’ve committed to bolstering the agency’s multicultural campaign work and upholding the 15 percent pledge. By way of this pledge, we ensure that at least 15 percent of the creators and partners we work with are Black, that 15 percent of content budgets be reserved for Black content creators and that we enforce rate parity among content creators of color. We’ve also committed to using our own platforms to share content from BIPOC creators and amplifying BIPOC voices.
There’s a lot of work left to be done, but PR pros have the chance right now to diversify and amplify, defining a new path towards DE&I in our industry.
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