Ignite was established in April 2009 as an inclusive networking group for public relations professionals. Its aim is to promote the benefits of cultural diversity in the profession.
The UK’s cultural landscape has transformed significantly over the past 10 years, and the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to communication is no longer valid. Globalisation has increased the importance of multi-market communication and the need to look beyond one’s own frame of reference in order to achieve creative communication solutions.
Despite these rapid changes, the UK PR industry has not seriously engaged with their implications for the profession. The number of practitioners from ‘minority’ ethnic groups is just 4% (Chartered Institute of Public Relations, 2009); this compares to an adult working population with 14% of people from these groups (this percentage rises to 31% in London, where many PR companies are based).
Moreover, initial results from the first study into the experiences of ‘minority’ PR practitioners suggest an overall pattern of discrimination as a result of the overwhelming whiteness of the profession. This means the profession faces particular challenges if it is to effectively communicate with the increasingly diverse audiences that public relations practitioners must address.
Ignite seeks to promote cultural diversity in PR, not only because it is socially, morally and ethically important, but also because it makes sound business sense. There are three key reasons why cultural diversity within the PR industry is essential:
- The talent pool – to optimise creativity and innovation, PR agencies and in-house departments need to draw on the widest talent pool possible, not confining themselves to homo-social reproduction.
- Understanding customers – the combined spending power of Britain’s Black and Ethnic Minority groups will exceed £300 billion by 2011, when it is estimated they will make up 15% of the UK’s population. PR teams that reflect this diversity will have a better understanding of how to engage with diverse audiences.
- Multi-market communication – top companies from rapidly developing economies are going global fast. PR agencies must understand their need for a PR strategy that takes account of multi-cultural sensitivities, which will be vital for their success.
Ignite aims to drive forward the benefits of cultural diversity in PR by:
- Making the contributions of diverse people in the profession more visible
- Encouraging diverse entrants into the profession by providing a source of role models
- Facilitating career progression by providing access to networks and generating connections between people
- Developing a substantive dialogue within the industry about diversity in order to influence change and establish best practice benchmarks
- Supporting research looking at diversity in the profession
- Hosting a series of networking events