Strategies & Tactics

Angela Chitkara on Meaningful Research

June 1, 2018

Name: Angela Chitkara

Current status: PR Track Director, Branding + Integrated Communications, The City College of New York; Founder and CEO, U.S. India Corridor

Location: Harlem, NYC

Career highlights: TV journalist covering business and local stories in the U.S., U.K., South Africa, Singapore and India; media strategist fostering public-private partnerships and serving cross-border startups and nonprofits that address global issues relating to anti-sex trafficking, women’s entrepreneurship and climate change

Any three dinner guests: Nelson Mandela, Michelle Obama and James Taylor

Favorite book: “Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy”

Best advice received: “Love and forgive,” from my mom; “Always be looking for a solution because there’s always one,” from my dad

Favorite place to travel: The Berkshires


You interviewed 18 current and former CEOs of multinational PR agencies for your “#PR Diversity: The Struggle Is Real” research. What was a common theme from the conversations?

The majority of the CEOs conflated inclusion with diversity — only six of them addressed inclusion specifically. While many recognized the importance of changing recruitment to create more diverse workforces, only a few recognized that hiring a diverse staff would not guarantee a sense of inclusion among those hired.


Based on your research, what are a few steps that PR agencies can take to become more diverse and culturally inclusive?

In addition to my recommendations below, it would be helpful for us, as a profession, to address topics such as micro-aggressions in the workplace. We can learn from each other and establish best business practices as a result of our missteps. 

“Open up recruitment by broadening access to employment and by fostering relationships with colleges to build a pipeline of talent; strengthen internal culture by conducting bias training throughout the organization and investing resources in formal on-boarding, training and mentoring, with an emphasis on sponsorship of diverse employees; enlist the support of middle management to communicate how team diversity boosts organizational performance; monitor the turnover of diverse staff to make sure they are not leaving at disproportionately high rates; and set inclusion goals and track progress toward them.” (Excerpted from an April 12 Harvard Business Review article.)


How are you incorporating recent events into your class?

In my PR Branding Campaigns class, we start with a review of what’s happening in our profession. My students and I review classic and present-day PR branding case studies.

We reflect on the PRSA Code of Ethics and Arthur W. Page Society’s Page Principles as guiding principles and consider, “If that branding or crisis issue happened today, what would we do differently?”

One of my students, Peter Lavergata, presented his case study on Starbucks and acknowledged that even a brand as respectful as Starbucks can fail, and recover. A brand can never rest on its laurels. It is a living organism that is adjusting and adapting to its environment — always demonstrating its relevance.


What helped you prepare for the transition from the journalism and PR world to the academic world, and what were some lessons that carried over?

My ability to write, listen and tell a story, as well as to think conceptually. More fundamentally, it was my grit, perseverance and ability to empathize with people.

I am grateful for the support of my family, friends, a few former professors and a high school journalism teacher. During my transition from journalism to entrepreneurship, I felt as if I was “Free Fallin’,” like that Tom Petty song. Then, my late younger brother Steven told me to think of the entrepreneur’s journey; success is made in the journey, not arriving at the final destination. He also taught me never to judge. My firm U.S. India Corridor is celebrating 10 years this year and I owe him a great deal of credit.


What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

The ability to choose careers, explore cultures, meet people, realize my dreams and challenge the status quo. The topic of diversity and inclusion has been the backdrop of my life. Similar to my students, I am the child of immigrants made up of a family investment of dreams and sacrifices. My parents poured everything into their kids. If I was not provided access, opportunity or mentoring, then I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Today, I get to wake up every morning and work with people I love, respect and admire, immerse myself in meaningful research, and engage in innovation in the classroom with brilliant, hard-working students. And, every now and again, I get to be a disrupter and turn things upside down. Life is good. 

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of PRSA's publications. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

 

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