Responses to questions not answered at Accountability event

Last week PRFest hosted an event to discuss how the industry will be accountable for improving diversity and inclusion.

Top dogs from CIPR, PRCA and Taylor Bennett Foundation were panelists. We had an hour to cover a variety of questions which had come in from the PR community, including:

  • Summarise what PRCA/CIPR/TBF does for diversity and inclusion in public relations
  • Codes of Conduct: will these be updated, and will membership be conditional on signing up to something to demonstrate commitment?
  • What about non-members? How can they be held accountable? Is it just a case of calling out bad practice? How?
  • Training and learning: One-off training across relevant themes/topics such as bias, the Equality Act, active listening – should be continual and advancing. Will this be mandatory like ethics, in CPD?
  • Will you develop leadership-specific training for diversity and inclusion?
  • Reporting on the changes and positive impacts made in agencies, organisations and even freelancers and consultants. What could this look like?

Sadly, within the hour, we didn’t get to cover off questions from the chat box, so Laura has rounded up responses from the panelists to these questions:

  1. I’d like to know how CIPR and PRCA will review their plans that they are mentioning…? A lot of great actions and activity are taking place but how will success be measured, and will the organisations be reviewing their progress throughout the year to adapt and improve?

CIPR> I think a joint approach on this with the PRCA would be the best way forward.  We are trying to drive culture change with employers.  This isn’t likely to produce rapid or easily measurable results.  I think some kind of observatory and annual review would be a good way forward.

PRCA> Issues and initiatives relating to race and ethnicity will be reviewed at every PRCA Board meeting going forward. Our new Race & Ethnicity Equity Board is represented on our Board of Directors. Its role is as much about holding us to account as it is about championing best practice in the industry. We will also update members on the progress we make across all our broader diversity and inclusion initiatives in our annual report.


  1. Knowing where to go to raise concerns and that there is a process to follow to deal with it.

CIPR> The CIPR has a process for dealing with complaints for professional misconduct.  See this link. CIPR members who need advice or support with employment-related matters that don’t (yet) amount to professional misconduct can use our member legal advice helpline.

PRCA> We have begun tightening the definition of racial discrimination in our Code of Conduct and believe it’s vital this is explicitly conveyed within the Code. Information on how to register a complaint can be found here


  1. Are there any plans to put something on professional behaviour into CPD? In the same way as ethics is a compulsory module in CIPR.

CIPR> There are already materials on professional conduct in our CPD system and we will be adding more specifically relating to race and diversity.  At this stage we are not planning to make that compulsory.


  1. What initiatives there are to encourage non-graduates to pursue a career in our sectors as many roles require experience and a high EQ, perhaps more so than a university degree (I am not sure how often I draw on my university education!)?

CIPR> I highly recommend the PRCA’s apprenticeship scheme.  The CIPR has published a recruitment guide  Also we should be clear that the issues raised in our recent ‘Race in PR’  is mainly about employer behaviour towards black PR colleagues and this can’t be addressed by getting more non-graduates into the profession.  It requires employers to stop treating people the way they’re currently all too often treating them.

TBF> The only TBF programme that stipulates candidates must have a degree is the PR Training programme. Our mentoring and internship programmes are open to anyone post 18.


  1. Should there be somewhere more accessible to junior and minority staff to call out bad behaviour?

CIPR> CIPR members can seek advice from the CIPR legal helpline on ‘low level’ tensions and issues in the workplace.

PRCA> It’s imperative that staff feel encouraged to speak us and voice their concerns at any organisation. The Communications Management Standard (CMS) is the kitemark of excellence for in-house teams and agencies and one of the key points it assesses is whether employees feel confident with raising any concerns they have. The diversity element of the CMS is also currently being reviewed and fostering an inclusive culture where ‘speaking up’ is encouraged will form a key part of this.

TBF> TBF does not provide formal guidance on employee forums, but there are lots of sources of information regarding setting them up.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) are good for setting up employee forums.

TBF alumni can speak to TBF at any time to raise concerns about their workplace and we will offer advice & guidance. This year, we had our first virtual ‘listening’ event, where alumni could speak freely about how they were getting on personally and professionally. Aside from getting advice from the Foundation, junior alumni in particular, were able to get advice from senior TBF alumni. It worked well, so we will do this again later in the year.


  1. Rather they need to draw the line, advocate for what’s good/effective and what we should expect as a profession.

CIPR> That’s what our ‘Race in PR’ report is based on.  The problem with anonymous accounts is there are limits on what we can do with them.  For example, I don’t know who was interviewed for the report, or who the former employers they describe were.  Anonymous accounts are a good way of getting a sense of the scale of the problem, but we need to find some way of taking the next step.


  1. How can we help to create a “speak up” culture, e.g. like in financial services SMCR. If people are given the opportunity to be anonymous when calling out bad behaviour or telling their own life experiences, they are more likely to speak up.  Can we provide a framework for this?

CIPR> The CIPR Code of Conduct asks members to ‘Support the CIPR Principles by bringing to the attention of the CIPR examples of malpractice and unprofessional conduct.’ The new BME PR Pros Blueprint accreditation also supports a ‘speak up culture’.


  1. Can we look into retention and why in companies and indeed the industry is losing diverse talent and how we can better retain it?

CIPR> Our Race in PR report tells us why retention is poor – it’s because black practitioners are often being badly treated.  We can retain this talent by treating people in ways that don’t discriminate against them. Employee retention would need to be reported employer by employer.

This could form part of your pledge

PRCA> Plans are afoot for a joint PRCA/CIPR diversity research project to deliver a comprehensive snapshot of the Industry’s performance.

TBF> TBF is certainly looking at this and we will be speaking with our alumni about their personal experiences of retention and progression and what the industry can do to better retain them. We will share our findings.


  1. It would be useful for the industry bodies to collaborate on a listening project. It should not be that we have heard some of the people and excluded many.

CIPR> I think that a collaborative listening project would be very valuable and would allow us to start capturing more than patchy employer-based data.


  1. I do want to shout out on behalf of the Company of Communicators and the IABC, as other professional bodies who are actively working on DE&I approach… Lots going on in this space and some opportunity for industry body collaboration!

CIPR> I’d like to focus on what the CIPR can do to move this agenda forward, and to collaborate on setting up the listening project referred to above, with the PRCA.  Once we know what helps us gain traction and what doesn’t, we’ll be in a better position to collaborate more widely.


  1. In my last role – at a private hospital – we got our CX to not only reverse mentor but to record the experience in series of video diaries… great example of breaking down some barriers between corporate teams – invariably white, MC and clinical teams – more diverse etc

CIPR> Interesting. I’d like to know more about this scheme.


Massive thanks to Francis Ingham, Jenni Field, Melissa Lawrence and Alastair McCapra for their time on the panel and the follow up response. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the conversation.

Please do consider downloading the DRIVEN Pledge as a starter for ten.

There are also plenty of other events and initiatives out there now (for example the Blueprint) and more to come, so please do get involved, do better and help our industry be better at what it does.