This post is part of PRSSA National’s series highlighting the experiences of Black members in our community. Have a story to share? Reach out to us.
I stumbled across public relations around my sophomore year when I was in community college. I was very unaware of what I wanted to major in at a full-time university. When I was finding things that interested me, I tried to see what major could potentially make me do something that I enjoy, and public relations was the first thing that came to mind when I was doing research. When also conducting research about public relations, I noticed that the majority of the profession was female and white.
A 2018 Harvard Business Review analysis of federal labor statistics found the industry is 87.9% white, 8.3% African American, 2.6% Asian American and 5.7% Hispanic or Latinx. Although it was discouraging, I want to be able to create more awareness of public relations to the African American community. I first came to Texas State University and was introduced to PRSSA in my introduction to public relations class. Once I heard information about the organization, I started going to meetings and became interested in what they had to offer and eventually went to the ICON International Conference in San Diego and learned more about the public relations industry from professionals in different areas.
My experience during that time at the Conference was one that I will never forget. Coming from an African American’s perspective, public relations is a field that should be more diverse and equal. With the creative talents African Americans have, there is no telling what we as a group can accomplish in public relations.
One of my biggest accomplishments was when I worked for Beck Media in my final year as an undergrad. I worked closely on the ITVS account with the team on a film called “Represent,” which is about three women who take on their local political networks in a fight to reshape politics on their own terms leading up to the 2018 midterm election. I crafted localized pitches and secured an interview with NBC Chicago for filmmaker Hillary Bachelder and one of the film’s main subjects, Julie Cho.
I was able to assist with and observe all the moving parts of coordinating this broadcast interview — from pulling clips, coordinating scheduling details, creating a briefing document for the interview subjects and ensuring the journalist had press materials and tune in. Through that NBC Chicago booking, I learned the importance of detail-oriented work, prioritizing tasks and being prepared for obstacles and problems.
It is important to recognize this all the time, but especially during Black History Month. Black History Month’s purpose is to make people aware of what African Americans went through and how much we have fought for equality, and still to this day are having to. The month is also a time to celebrate the historic African Americans and the achievements they have accomplished throughout time, even in public relations with people such as Mr. Joseph Baker being the first African American to gain national prominence as a public relations practitioner. It is important to have the knowledge of African American history and to understand the past and present circumstances.
Derrick Sanders is a Texas State University 2020 graduate with a major in public relations and a minor in psychology. He likes to travel, read and spend time with friends and family, while also finding time to stay physically active in his free time. He hopes to retain as much information about public relations and eventually increase the number of African Americans in the public relations industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn.