The PR industry is the home of many well-established, well-known practitioners with rich strategic experience. Speak to any PR pro, and they’ll be able to reel off the best names when it comes to any vertical and any discipline. And that’s great. But what about the next generation of greats?
Look around you. An immense number of PR practitioners have solid foundations – strong tactical competencies – but are missing that strategic understanding and knowhow. Whether it’s through falling within a marginalised group, or simply falling through the cracks, that lack of strategic capability is holding the next wave of PR greats back. But, thanks to Socially Mobile Community Interest Company (CIC), there’s immense hope that it’s about to change.
Socially Mobile has been founded by Sarah and Stephen Waddington, who are also joined by a third director in PRCA Director General Francis Ingham, to support and inspire public relations practitioners across the UK to increase their earning potential.
The mission? Joined by a host of industry leaders who will be stepping into teaching roles at the project, Socially Mobile will deliver training to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well as under-represented and under-served groups including black, Asian and ethnic minority practitioners, women returners and those with disabilities.
The need for a project like this is undeniable. The PRCA Census (2020) makes it clear – ‘Empathy and ethics must form the heart of PR’s recovery’. The report found that while the number of Black and ethnically diverse professionals has increased incrementally to 12% (from 10% in 2019), professionals from these backgrounds overwhelmingly tend to occupy junior roles. Almost 9 out 10 (88%) Managing Directors identify as White British but only around half (54%) of Account Executives identify in the same way. The data shares broader diversity and social mobility challenges facing the industry, for example the number of PR professionals who attended fee-paying schools (21%) is three times the national average (7%).
And this is important to tackle for more reasons than one. Not least, to answer the question of how PR can preach authenticity and audience understanding, when PR itself looks nothing like those it wishes to speak with.
CARMA colleagues were delighted to join Sarah, Stephen, and dozens of others to mark the launch yesterday in Soho. There was something quite fitting about dining at the House of St Barnabas – an organisation which itself supports marginalised groups, especially the homeless. And CARMA’s colleagues are determined to do more than sing for our supper. CARMA’s Co-Managing Partner and CEO Europe & Americas, Richard Bagnall, will be teaching the ‘measurement’ modules on the course. Because, let’s not forget, these PR practitioners must be empowered to demonstrate the value of their work.
Speaking about the launch, Sarah Waddington CBE, said:
“Too little has been done to address the issue of socio-economic diversity in public relations and it’s time for the endless talking and not doing to end. This is why we are staging this intervention to ensure talented practitioners from more disadvantaged backgrounds get the support, training and education they need to increase their earning potential and level the playing field.
“The response has been phenomenal. People say our industry can be introspective, selfish and self-absorbed. That’s not been our experience in the slightest – a whole host of hugely experienced professionals have jumped in whole heartedly to share their time, expertise and talent and we are really grateful for that. We’re also especially appreciative of our founding sponsors, whose financial support has come at a critical point in the build stage.
“We hope to open applications for the first cohort of students in early Autumn so watch this space.”
Socially Mobile explains its objectives are:
- To increase the employability of PR practitioners in need at a time when the public relations sector is contracting
- To lower the further threat to employment caused by the encroachment of management consultants, other marketing disciplines and automation
- To offer ongoing help and support through mentors, coaches and peer to peer groups
Jack Richards (Marketing Manager, CARMA), who attended the launch:
“From women returners to BAME candidates, LGBTQ+ practitioners through to those from socio-economically deprived backgrounds; the PR industry isn’t always where it needs to be. Where we live, how we look and how we feel doesn’t define us as practitioners. It makes us. I was delighted to attend the launch of Socially Mobile. Because it feels like an opportunity for PR, a real defining moment. Whether it’s through teaching on the course, donating to the organisation, or enrolling staff from your own organisation; any and all practitioners can do their bit to re-shape this industry to the one we want it to be, and know it can be. What’s more, we’ll all be creating a pipeline of talent in the process. So it’s a huge congratulations and thank you to Sarah & Stephen, and open arms to the rest of the industry to get behind Socially Mobile.”
What can you do?
If you’re an individual ready to take the next step in your career, and perhaps feel as though you’re being held back or opportunity is out of reach, speak to Socially Mobile.
Organisation in a position to support a staff member in their career aspirations? Fee-paying practitioners are welcome on the programme too. All fees contribute to Socially Mobile’s goal of improving the career prospects of those who need it most so by signing up, you’re not just continuing your own professional development, you’re making a difference to someone’s life chances too.
The Socially Mobile launch was an inspiring, thought-provoking, invigorating event. We’re confident it is a sign of things to come…
Jack Richards is International Marketing Manager at CARMA. He became one of the youngest Chartered Managers in the UK aged 21, served as an Apprenticeship Ambassador, and has spoken in Parliament about the importance of alternative routes to education and employment.
Jack, a Member of the PRCA and Associate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, has worked with organisations of all sizes encompassing consultancy; SaaS; and the public sector where he has enjoyed building rich on-the-ground experience in marketing and communications. Driven by data, Jack is passionate about communications practitioners leveraging technology to better inform PR and marketing decision making.