PR Industry Change: A Real Conversation About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Fatou Barry [Podcast]
In this week’s episode of the PR Talk Podcast, Amy speaks with Fatou B Barry, founder of AB Media Group and the PR Girl Manifesto, a nonprofit digital community of over 40,000 members on a mission to make careers in communications more accessible. She is also the co-founder of Hold the PRess, now merged with Sixth Hundred & Rising, which advocates for black voices in PR and advertising.
Amy and Fatou discuss creating an inclusive platform for PR practitioners, what diversity in PR looks like today, and if PR practitioners should address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with their clients.
Community & Diversity in PR
While Fatou was eager to begin her PR career, she noticed a lack of shared knowledge within the industry, which ultimately stalled her sense of belonging. Her feelings of being unwelcome and unprepared motivated her to found PR Girl Manifesto, a free digital community that engages a community of diverse women through industry insight, mentorship and fellowship. The nonprofit’s goal is to create opportunities for growth and education, while increasing a wide range of representation within the PR industry.
The lack of women in high-level PR positions, within an industry that is largely dominated by women, has become all the more apparent to Fatou through this work. Moreover, a recent Harvard Business Review analysis of the federal labor statistics found the PR industry to be 89.7 percent white, 8.3 percent black, 2.6 percent Asian, and 5.7 percent Hispanic or Latinx. These are major industry issues that can no longer be ignored.
Addressing DEI Within Agencies
Fatou is addressing these issues not just through PR Girl Manifesto, but through another project called Hold the PRess, which she created with her colleagues in response to the social media reactions surrounding the murder of George Floyd, which she found lacking in meaning.
After merging with Sixth Hundred and Rising, the two groups set out to address systemic racism at PR and advertising agencies. Their first step was to reach out to a grouping of agencies with a DEI survey. The findings showed many of these companies were not tracking their diversity, leading Fatou and her colleagues to educate agencies about the importance of tracking diversity data in an effort to implement good DEI practices. A follow-up survey has recently been sent out, and only 20 out of over 80 agencies responded at the time of the interview.
The PR Practitioner’s DEI Role
When the conversation led to Amy asking if PR practitioners should give their clients DEI advice, Fatou said we could highlight good DEI practices and offer general education, but companies should hire trained DEI specialists. While Fatou believes PR professionals could get DEI certified to increase their awareness and understanding, she cautions against PR people actually advising on DEI matters.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Amy and Fatou go more in-depth on the issues facing the PR industry and learn more about helpful industry resources!
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About the guest: Fatou B. Barry
Fatou B. Barry is a Guinean-born brand strategist known for her communications and community-building work. She is the founder of PR Girl Manifesto, a nonprofit organization, digital community and industry-leading platform on a mission to make communications a more accessible career path. In addition, Fatou is also the founder of AB Media Group, a creative consultancy specializing in brand design, digital marketing and strategic communications. The consultancy also serves as a creative collective supporting young talent via monthly grants and events catered to creatives.
Her work is influenced by her desire to bridge equity and knowledge gaps for young people of color. She has created several spaces to grow and nurture this passion, including the launch of Hold The Press, a grassroots initiative co-founded by Fatou that calls for action, accountability, and transparency in the public relations industry for black people.
Connect and follow Fatou on social media:
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This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon
Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.