PRSA Foundation aims for diverse talent development

November 9, 2012

Let’s face it. Talented young people, especially people of color, have options. Wall Street, management consultants and Fortune 100 companies recruit them. A career in public relations seems inevitably low on their list of options.

The reason that these people frequently cite is “money.” Introductory-level jobs in public relations just don’t offer the kind of financial reward available to top students in other arenas.

But if young people made their career decisions based only on money, then there wouldn’t be any teachers, social workers or journalists! A lot of young people seek a career that contributes to society and where they can make a difference.

So, why do so few people of color choose to pursue PR education? In 2011, African Americans made up less than 5 percent of the students in PRSSA, while the 2010 Census counted nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population as Black.

The answer may lie in a lack of communication. While the profession and individual companies and firms have made efforts to reach out to talented young people, we have to work harder to tell our story. And, we’ve got a great story to tell.

Public relations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, will be America’s fastest-growing profession in the next 10 years — outgrowing law, accounting and advertising by wide margins. As one leader put it, “PR is the ideal career for smart, creative people with short attention spans.”

At the same time, some of the former glamour professions are losing their luster. The New York Times reports that Wall Street firms are struggling to recruit on college campuses, and even face protests. Several current lawyers recently sued a handful of law schools for inflating their placement rates. In 2009, nearly 10,000 people passed the state bar exam in New York, and then competed for only about 2,000 jobs.

The PRSA Foundation is setting out to take advantage of this opportunity to tell the PR profession’s story more broadly. The Board has approved a new mission statement focusing its efforts on “a diverse range of ambitious and promising students,” according to PRSA Foundation President Gail Rymer, APR, Fellow PRSA.

“With this new mission,” said Rymer, “we’re aiming to make a difference in attracting more great people of all backgrounds to this wonderful profession, and developing their capacity to bring the PR perspective to the organizations they serve, and to society.”

The new mission statement is part of a comprehensive strategic planning process, which aims to broaden the Foundation’s impact and widen its visibility and support within the PR profession. More than 40 leaders in the profession, along with the Foundation Board, are directly involved in developing the plan.

In recent years, the Foundation has created a number of successful programs that it hopes to expand. It provides financial support for a wide range of scholarships and awards for students, funds research on best practices in PR education and runs the prestigious Paladin Dinner, which honored Harold Burson in 2012.

Louis Capozzi, APR, Fellow PRSA
Louis Capozzi, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an adjunct professor at New York University. He is the president-elect of the PRSA Foundation.


Angela Burrell says:

If we're going to continue competing globally, we have to make a concerted effort to recruit, train and retain people from all backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. PRSA is leading the charge in this area and I commend the PRSA Foundation for taking a proactive role. Chapters can do their part locally by mentoring and involving their PRSSA counterparts.

Nov. 27, 2012

Carla Leininger says:

One of the problems is the lack of understanding about diversity. I find it troublesome that someone talking about diversity can refer to "people of color." Diversity is about so much more than color. I am a PR professional born in Brazil and my color is white. Do I need to be treated any differently? No. Do I bring fresh ideas to the table? Most probably. But I certainly don't feel any different in my day to day activites than anyone else. If you stop to focus so much on putting people in "boxes," they may just believe that they don't belong in "boxes" and may actually start coming out- naturally.

Dec. 12, 2012

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