SOJC professor investigates diversity within PR

Dean MundyStory by Nikki Kesaris

In industries and organizations across the U.S. — including the University of Oregon — diversity is a major topic of discussion. And for good reason. Diversity within an organization brings a variety of views, perspectives and experiences that lead to fresh, relevant ideas. This is particularly important for communicators, who need to be able to reach and connect with many audiences.

That’s why the public relations industry is striving to better incorporate diversity into everyday practice. PR is all about building mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public. More diverse organizations have opportunities to reach more diverse audiences and emerging markets. And PR’s reach and influence on multiple key audiences, in turn, can contribute to a more diverse culture and society.

UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) Assistant Professor Dean Mundy is helping to start a conversation about diversity in the PR field.

To develop a better understanding of the existing diversity-focused research that has been published and identify the gaps that remain, the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), with support from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation, asked Mundy to conduct a meta-analysis of research that has been done on diversity in the field over the past decade. The organizations chose Mundy in part because of his recent research, including an article in PRSA’s PR Journal focusing on how public relations practitioners perceive their role in championing diversity, as well as a follow-up study in IPR’s research journal and an IPR blog post titled “Seven Ways PR Can Be a Champion for Diversity.”

Mundy spent the early part of his summer analyzing studies about diversity in PR, and in August, IPR’s research journal published his findings in the article “Bridging the Divide: A Multidisciplinary Analysis of Diversity Research and the Implications for Public Relations.” Since then, IPR and the PRSA Foundation have worked to connect his takeaways across their respective professional networks.

Mundy’s article does more than just summarize other studies. Based on his findings, he proposed a model that will help PR professionals champion diversity and inclusion. According to his model, an organization should begin diversity efforts with its own employee base.

“How many corporations have you heard say ‘We need to recruit more women’?” Mundy asked. “The business case for diversity helps achieve that first step, but then we need to ask, ‘How are we taking care of them, of all employees, once they’re here?’ It’s one thing for businesses to say, ‘OK, we were successful in recruiting diverse employees.’ However, the true call is how those organizations care for those individuals. A company might be 50/50 men and women, for example, but if women are still being paid less than their male peers — if they’re not being treated equitably — then has the company truly answered the call?”

Mundy adds, however, that public relations must go further. There may be diversity in the workplace, but the next step is to ensure that diversity values carry over into communications planning and external public relations practice.

“As a discipline, if we are truly going to embrace our mandate to forge and manage substantive relationships with the publics — the communities — where we live and serve, then don't we also have a mandate to understand and embrace the diversity of those communities?” Mundy asked. “In this respect, then, public relations should be leading the discussion of diversity. We should be driving those conversations.”

Nikki Kesaris is a junior studying public relations. This is her second year writing for the SOJC Communications Office. She is also active in Allen Hall Public Relations and the UO chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.