Diversity Goes Beyond Quotas

In recent years, there has been a shift towards an increased focus on diversity. Quite rightly, ethnic and gender diversity are now top priority for hiring managers and leadership teams at companies of all shapes and sizes globally. But are they missing something by overlooking the value and importance in diversity of experience?


PR roles are no longer clear-cut. As traditional practices and specialisms blur into one and integration is at the forefront, a new breed of talent is needed to meet this demand for flexibility of skills. At the recent National PRCA conference, which focused on embracing change in the industry, a panel of four leaders from a handful of the top global agencies looked at how PR needs to evolve to ensure that it stands out in today’s wider communications mix. Part of the discussion was centred on the growing demand for diversity of talent, as the panel established that a team of specialists performs better than a team of generalists.

For too long now, hiring managers and HR teams have taken the easy route: looking down a CV to check it ticks the expected boxes. This is justifiable: team changes and the demand for resource, especially in the agency world, can be incredibly fast-paced so it can be forgiven for wanting to make sure that hires have the necessary PR experience and know-how to fit smoothly into the role required. But HR teams and recruitment specialists are missing a trick by overlooking candidates with a non-linear and non-traditional PR background.

As competition increases between disciplines, measurement is more important than ever to win that piece of the pie. At SESAME, we recently placed a candidate into a PR team whose background was far from the expected traditional route. As a data scientist, they did not fit the mould and our client was initially hesitant because the candidate wouldn’t slot into a current team or necessarily be instantly billable. However, this off-beat hire’s value soon became clear when they reimagined evaluation, using analytics to translate data into tangible outputs and actionable insights, simply. A new way of working was born and an impact on the business’s bottom-line noted.

At SESAME, we are big fans of the Frans Johansson (author of The Medici Effect) school of thought. His belief is that “When you bring together diverse teams and perspectives, you have the ability to create an exponential increase in ideas.”1 For the magic to happen, teams also need to life their eyes up, and consider the less obvious. Johansson talks about how Volvo and Audi each approached the design of a new car. Audi needed to up their safety credentials, Volvo wanted to make their design sexier. The brands took a logical approach to solve their respective challenges, and the end product was, essentially, exactly the same car. “Using logic to set yourself apart means you’re going to end up in the same place as everyone else,” says Johansson, “The unexpected is what makes us stand apart.”2 PR agencies should employ the same method when hiring always asking who brings the unexpected.

We’re past the stage where employing an ex-journalist to advise on media strategy is seen as innovative and diverse. Let’s start the search by listing the skills required to meet the end goal. Perhaps you’ll find that the person you’re looking for is not right under your nose after all.


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Emily Buckland