Public schooled and posh: PR’s big problem

Fresh thinking is needed to tackle diversity in public relations.

 There’s a huge amount of energy around the issue of diversity and inclusivity in public relations and yet our industry remains a closed shop to anyone without money and networks.

The 2018 PRCA Census (opens as a PDF) reported that 69% of PR and communications practitioners attended a state school versus 31% attending an independent school. The independent sector educates around 6.5% of the total number of school children in the UK according to the Independent Schools Council.

Society sets up those from lower income backgrounds to fail. If you’re starting out, many of the few student grants around expect match funding; and if you haven’t got wealthy people around you to help, what then? Simple: you get into debt or miss out.

There are some routes into PR designed to give people a helping hand. The PRCA’s apprenticeship scheme and the Taylor Bennett Foundation are just two examples of organisations looking to even the playing field but we need more.

It affects all ages

This poverty trap affects people at every stage of their career. Earning potential greatly increases where training and qualifications unlock strategic, ethical and leadership capabilities but the cost of these can be prohibitive.

If you’re trapped in a predominately tactical role, your salary is not only limited but your role is also potentially at threat from automation. Sometimes it feels impossible, no matter how hard you work, to break through especially if you’re in a minority without role models and champions around you.

I’ve spent the last four years through #FuturePRoof and latterly the CIPR talking about the need for practitioners to treat PR as a strategic management function and to upskill accordingly - but equally recognise not everyone will have that chance.

Finding a solution 

Which is why later this year, I’ll be launching Socially Mobile, a charitable foundation designed to give practitioners a stepping stone.

The charity will offer grants to people from lower income households, including BAME practitioners and women returners, so they can study business management courses that open up new career opportunities.

I’m currently compiling a list of approved courses that will help professionals unlock their leadership potential. If you run one or know of any that could be pertinent, please send them my way.

We need to raise £20k in our first year to get this show on the road. If you’re an individual who’d be willing to make a regular monthly donation or an organisation who’d be willing to become an inaugural sponsor, I’d love to hear from you. I’m also looking for a media partner. 

Teams in public relations are meant to represent the publics we serve. Look around and be honest. Is that what you see?

I was lucky. I got a council grant to go to university. I’m not sure I’d be so fortunate today.

Let’s be the generation that didn’t just talk a good game but actually gave others around us that much needed leg up. We owe it to ourselves and society.