Dr. Rochelle Ford: Crucial Issues Facing the Public Relations Profession

Dr. Rochelle Ford: Crucial Issues Facing the Public Relations Profession


America is changing so much and people are
afraid of that word diversity. They’re thinking, that’s something else, I
don’t want to deal with that. That’s just affirmative action, but it’s good
public relations. I always joke with people and say, okay, how
many of you do campaigns just to target white people? And people then laugh at me and say, that’s
a weird thing. I said because all white people are alike,
aren’t they? And so you can do eight campaigns to target
all white people in America. And they think it’s just the funniest statement
ever made. But on the other hand, people then will say
well, we need a special practice to target black people as if it’s a monolithic group. Or we’ll target all Hispanics because they
represent all the same countries. Or really, we’ll target Asians because they
too all speak the same language. And as you know, those are all very hilarious
statements as well. But people are afraid to look at different
elements of diversity, not just along racial lines, on gender lines. People are afraid to talk about how the international
implications of public relations are affecting domestic publics as well as international
publics. People don’t like to talk about people who
are different than them. Looking at the gay, lesbian, transgender communities
that are a very important public that needs to be looked at because they deserve to have
communications because they’re people, too. But people are afraid to talk about that. People are afraid to begin to segment their
publics along those lines. Where sometimes, it’s very important to be
segmented along different demographic lines. So we have to learn how to get over communicating
against otherness and be comfortable with our otherness. But first, understanding who we are and how
that influences our communication is so critical. But it takes time for people to reflect on
who they are, and then what commonalities exist between different types of people because
there are commonalities. And then how do issues affect people differently,
depending upon their background is. So I think diversity is one area that’s going
to need to be looked at from the practice of public relations. But also diversity within the profession of
public relations, meaning who is actually becoming the professionals within the industry. We don’t want to end up like the advertising
industry. Where we can have a class action lawsuit against
that industry because the inability of people to progress through the agency ranks. But public relations is nearly as bad as the
advertising industry is and so we need to be conscious of who are we promoting? Women have cracked the glass ceiling in public
relations to some great extent. But if you look at Hispanics, Asian Americans,
African Americans, they are so underrepresented within the public relations industry. And we need to do better recruiting, better
mentoring, and so that people won’t just come in the door as entry level professionals. But can continue to grow within the industry
and not be steered to other professions, but really stick with the public relations industry
and become successful within. So I definitely think diversity is one of
those major issues that need to be addressed. Another issue that I think really needs to
be addressed within public relations that is going to continue to be a challenge is
this whole social marketing, social media, the new media. Things are changing so rapidly and how do
we communicate with people? How do we control messages? How do we listen? Because there are so many messages out there
now. That it’s not just understanding your publics
by reading the daily paper because you still have to monitor the print outlets. You still need to monitor the radio and the
television outlets. But then how do you monitor the blogs? How do you monitor what’s going on on Twitter? How do you monitor what’s happening in Facebook,
and BlackPlanet, and Black America Web, and all these other websites and things that exist
out there? So that’s going to continue to be a major
challenge of how do we position our companies so that we are respected within that space? But then also how do we listen to these publics
that are communicating on that space so that we can help our organization succeed?