TBF, it’s what PR needed

Jeanette Mugisha

05 Nov 2020

I got my first PR role through the Taylor Bennett Foundation (TBF). TBF is a charity that exists to encourage Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates to pursue a career in Public Relations and Communications. The foundation was set up in 2008 to address the need for ethnic diversity in the PR industry. It’s no secret that the PR & Comms industry is predominately white. There are few ethnic minorities in comparison to others and even fewer (or none) in individual agencies. Especially considering the fact that London is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. For someone who was born in Denmark, lived in Kigali (Rwanda), moved to Kampala (Uganda), studied in Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (Malaysia), worked in the U.S (Washington D.C.) and is now residing in the UK (South London), diversity and inclusion is so important to me. Throughout my life, I’ve had to adapt to different cultural environments and learn how to get along with widely dissimilar people, sometimes even having to learn a new language to do so. I like to think of myself as a global citizen – you can place me anywhere and I’ll find common ground with the people I’m around. My life experiences have taught me how to adapt and fast. And I believe the PR industry can do the same. In this piece, I wanted to talk to you about my experiences in the PR world as a minority and what I believe we can do to normalise a shift in conversation, which can hopefully lead to actual change.

Change starts from within

The founder of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, Heather McGregor, wanted to see more diversity in PR professionals at a senior level. To achieve this, she realised that there simply needed to be more diversity in junior level PR professionals. Thus, TBF was born. In my opinion, the foundation is to thank for most of the diverse faces we see in the industry today. But there’s still so much more the industry can do to improve.

Why retention is key?

The PR industry needs to make sure that they’re not just hiring diverse talent but also working hard to retain them. The hiring part is easy. Most ethnic minorities tend to feel left out in their workplaces or like they can’t be their full selves. This is something that needs to be addressed. So, how can PR agencies help change this? Well, for starters I would suggest asking every new minority they hire how the agency/firm can best support their smooth transition into the team. Another idea is allowing people to choose their mentors. Giving ethnic minorities this choice means they’re more likely to be comfortable enough with mentors to be open and honest about their experiences, which in turn can help with their personal development. Agencies could also set up bi-weekly or monthly catch ups to ask these employees how they’re getting on in the workplace, and offer suggestions on how the situation may be improved. I will say, I have never been prouder to be part of a company like Harvard. We recently had a series of BAME to boardroom sessions which, for me, felt like a clear indication that our voices are being heard. As an ethnic minority, it certainly helped me feel seen and heard (probably a highlight in my career as I have never felt that included ever). I truly believe an increase in such projects will go a long way to helping improve diversity in PR.

The change we ALL need!

These are just some of the things that will make a huge impact on our lives as ethnic minorities at work. I won’t lie, it’s not always easy not having people who look like you and can truly relate to you and your experiences. But the aforementioned efforts can go a long way. We understand that it’s not always easy for employers when it comes to making us feel included, but we just want to feel like an intentional effort is being made. Ask us our views and our thoughts on things and make sure it’s more than just a conversation – action should follow. I am honestly so grateful to TBF for introducing me to the world of PR & Comms because I love it. But there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the industry. We need more people today to speak up and campaign for change. We need our white peers and employers to advocate for diversity just as much as we do. Only then will we see a real change. This is a prime time for change. Diversity and inclusion should be at the top of every business’ agenda. Diverse staff means diverse ideas, experiences and strategies. Diversity is a good thing and we should act like it. And it takes more than just one ethnic minority to foster diversity. So, let’s work towards a truly diverse and inclusive industry.