Blog Culture/Agency Life

Building the Next Generation of Diverse PR Professionals

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Rima MasubuchiDirector

I recently had the privilege of working with PAN leadership in shaping a three-part guest lecture series hosted by PAN at three of our HBCU partner schools: North Carolina Central University, Dillard University and North Carolina A&T. This initiative presented a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between academia and the PR industry through panel discussions that offered students an introduction to the world of PR agencies, practical tips for their post-graduation job search and real-world examples of successful client campaigns PAN has developed.

The mission behind this initiative is not just professional — it’s personal, too. As a woman of color in the communications industry and a member of the PAN ID group, I’m fueled by my deep-rooted passion for championing DEI, within PAN and outside its walls.

Building a diverse PR community

Since starting at PAN over four years ago, I’ve dedicated myself to driving change within our organization and contributing to PAN’s DEI journey. I take pride in working within an environment where I’m surrounded by people with a shared commitment to making PAN an inclusive and supportive place for all. In particular, it’s been gratifying to see that these efforts have led to PAN becoming home to a growing number of people of color — a place where they feel a sense of belonging and are empowered to grow their careers.

My enthusiasm for advancing DEI extends beyond the agency walls. Sadly, it’s no secret that the PR industry is lacking diversity. While agencies, including PAN, have made strides in improving diversity, equity and inclusion over the last few years, the journey is ongoing. On a personal level, the HBCU guest lecture series has been powerful because my role in shaping it has allowed me to leverage my knowledge and experience to make an impact on the next generation of the PR industry. Diversity in PR is a challenge that won’t be solved overnight — which is all the more reason to keep addressing it.

Reaching students of color that are on the cusp of embarking on their first jobs is crucial for closing the longstanding diversity gap in the industry. Building a more diverse talent pipeline begins first and foremost with ensuring students of color are aware of the PR career opportunities available to them.

Diversity of perspective

Thankfully, PAN’s partnership with its HBCU partner schools signifies a step towards positive change. PAN recognizes that achieving genuine diversity and inclusion means incorporating diverse voices throughout the entire process.  At the outset, I worked closely with our CEO, Phil, to shape the guest lecture series by ensuring that we leveraged PAN’s identity to deliver content and assemble panelists that would have an impact on the students. Incorporating feedback from the deans of each school played a pivotal role in tailoring the discussions to benefit students the most, focusing on transitioning from academia to work and finding jobs.

As someone who transitioned into PR several years after graduating from college, I lacked industry connections and insight into what a PR job would truly entail. Fast forward to today, and I find myself fueled by the desire to create a pathway for the next generation of PR professionals, to ensure individuals from diverse communities are able to leverage actionable advice and real-world insights as they build their careers.

Where we go next

Achieving progress means being honest with ourselves about the current state of the industry and recognizing that it will take collective effort and accountability to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive PR profession. However, I’m optimistic that the key insights and experiences we shared with HBCU students echo beyond the virtual lecture halls and serves as a small step towards creating meaningful change.

It is also my hope that I’m seen as a representative and resource for PAN’s growing BIPOC community. Through opportunities like this, I’m excited to continue contributing to the expansion of our agency’s — and the PR industry’s — BIPOC community. In empowering the next generation, we are not just shaping careers; we are shaping the future landscape of the PR profession.

A lot of work still needs to be done, but I’m energized by the continued opportunities to make a lasting impact and bring about positive change in the industry. I’m greatly looking forward to re-engaging with NCCU, Dillard and NCA&T in 2024.

A special thank you to professors Devon Smith, Dr. Shaniece Bickham and Tianduo Zhang for your partnership and hosting PAN!

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