In our first series of Q&A’s, #DiversitySpotlight catches up with 25-year old city PR Consultant Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah to discuss his views on diversity in public relations.
When did you start your PR career?
My PR career began in 2012 with the Taylor Bennett Foundation training scheme. Hosted by financial PR firm Brunswick, The Taylor Bennett Foundation training scheme was set up by Heather McGregor – better known as the FT’s Ms Moneypenny – and encourages graduates of ethnic and racial minority backgrounds to pursue communications careers. Following the internship I secured a job at Havas PR in London working across a range of consumer and corporate clients which gave me an understanding of the day to life of a PR practitioner and paved the way for me to land a job with leading city firm FTI Consulting working in the strategic communications division.
What does FTI Consulting do and what is it like working there?
FTI Consulting is a global business advisory specialising in corporate finance, strategic communications, economic consulting, forensics and litigation and technology consulting. I currently work in the Corporate Property team which is a part of the real estate division. To be honest, no two days are the same and since joining the firm I have had the chance to travel to France to assist clients at a leading real estate retail conference and have also been given the chance to give a presentation on media training to over 20 marketing managers – which was pretty cool. I have also been given the chance to work on interesting projects such as the launch of the new episodes of the Thunderbirds and most recently I worked on a project looking at the levels of commercial property investment in the UK which was very exciting. I think FTI Consulting is a really nice place to work and to make it even better we are treated to free Kit Kats and soft drinks on a daily basis which always keeps the creative juices flowing on a demanding work day!
Who would you say is your business role model?
My business role model would have to be my mentor Dr Lord Michael Hastings, who is KPMG’s Global Head of Corporate Citizenship. He was previously Head of Public Affairs for the BBC and I have learnt so much from him and have been encouraged by his professional success. The best piece of advice he ever gave me was to learn everything I can and be humble in my approach, one thing he has adopted and it has proved instrumental for him.
What do you feel is the most challenging element of increasing diversity in public relations?
I recently read a report by leading management consultancy McKinsey, entitled ‘Why Diversity Matters’ which found out that ethnically and gender diverse companies are more profitable. However my question is how can the PR industry engage with diverse audiences? I think this is probably the most challenging element. The main issue is that the PR profession may not ring a bell to many people from ethnic backgrounds who would naturally be more inclined to pursue careers in other traditional fields such as medicine, engineering or law. I believe there is an opportunity for anyone in the field of PR regardless of their cultural background, gender or sexual orientation. I also think that businesses must proactively make diversity and inclusion part of the agenda.
Do you believe there is a business case for diversity and why?
I think a diverse workforce offers a variety of viewpoints and a wealth of experience, which can improve business decisions. I personally believe that more diverse companies are able to win top talent and improve their business pipeline in the long run as clients are always looking to reach different markets. The PR industry has been making changes in how it is handling the issue; we should not focus on the past but now look ahead at what can be achieved in the future.
How can public relations embrace diversity and inclusion?
Recruiting a diverse workforce requires making contact with students before they reach university in some cases. I think that there is a challenge to teach young diverse talent about the PR industry and inspire them.
I think maybe a good way to do this would be to get some senior role models talking about how thrilling the industry is and how it is changing especially with the introduction of digital media such as Twitter which now allows news to break even faster. The PR industry also needs to do a bit of ‘self-promotion’ by talking about how fast paced a career in communications can be and how technology is changing how media reaches different audiences.
This would maybe change the perception of the profession in a lot of people’s minds and maybe have an impact on people considering entering. Ultimately, it is the professionals who are currently within the industry who must lead the change and spot opportunities.
Help put diversity in the spotlight by taking part in our next Q&A. Email Koray Camgoz for further details.
Visit the CIPR Diversity and Inclusion Forum’s website.