The Time for Change is Now

Every year for the last six years, I’ve led an Annual Salary Structure, Financial Benchmarks and Business Practices Survey of tech-focused PR firms from coast to coast. This valuable exercise always reminds me of why I love this industry. We’re all fierce, formidable competitors who know how to win. Our desire to succeed is matched only by our desire to help one another and share what we know. That’s what makes this industry so special.

For the 2019 survey released last March, I added a series of diversity questions in an attempt to get clarity into something we all know is a problem, but never tried to quantify -- the lack of representation in tech-focused PR agencies across the U.S. The results:  

IS DIVERSITY BEING PRIORITIZED?

  • Out of 33 agencies, five have made diversity a priority and put D&I metrics in place
  • More than 66% of the 33 agencies have taken no action at all
  • Three agencies feel that diversity is not an issue and they are already diverse enough  

GENDER IMBALANCE:

  • Half of all agencies are more than 80% female  
  • Five agencies are more than 90% female
  • Only three agencies have close to a 70% female / 30% male gender balance

LGBTQ REPRESENTATION -- FULL STAFF VS. SENIOR RANKS:

  • LGBTQ representation for full staff from intern to CEO is better, with 33% claiming 10% or more of their employees as LGBTQ
  • LGBTQ representation drops significantly when looking at just senior management, with 66% reporting ZERO gay respresentation in executive roles

PEOPLE OF COLOR -- FULL STAFF VS. SENIOR RANKS:

  • Representation for People of Color (POC) when assessing full staff is mediocre to poor, with nine agencies reporting more than 17% POC and six agencies reporting 10%
  • Sadly, 50% reported ZERO POC in senior management

Keep in mind this data was collected BEFORE there was a business impact from COVID-19 and PRIOR TO the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others who sparked global protests and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The diversity discussion has progressed significantly within our industry since this survey snapshot was taken. I’ve watched with pride as some of my peers, like Beth Monaghan, CEO and founder of Inkhouse, have stepped forward to bring clarity to confusion, leadership where there is little, acknowledge their privilege and commit to change.

That said, the data aligns with recent conversations I’ve had with CMOs and Heads of PR who are frustrated by the lack of representation on their agency teams. Every tech PR agency looks exactly the same, they say. And they fear the homogeneity of our workforce is resulting in a homogeneity of the service experience and a lack of creative thinking and innovative campaign ideas. Many have discussed requiring PR agencies to meet certain diversity requirements as a prerequisite for participating in their agency reviews and RFPs in 2021. I applaud this.

I also sensed a market opportunity. And as one of the only openly gay agency owners in the country, I also felt an obligation to answer this call. The goal with Bateman Agency is to shake the industry out of its comfort zone and open a new path for achieving breakthrough results for clients. That path comes from prioritizing diversity and transparency above all else to ensure equality, confidence and loyalty among staff. To stand out, our clients need better ideas, more innovation and more compelling stories. Data overwhelmingly shows all of these things come faster and in greater quantities from more diverse teams. The time for a new option is now.

To our two founding clients, SambaNova Systems and SunPower Corporation, thank you for taking this leap of faith, supporting our mission and believing in us as PR strategists and human beings. We’ll never forget this and we WILL NOT let you down. 

And to my founding team of incredibly talented, supremely intelligent and empathetic colleagues and friends, both old and new, thank you for rallying around me. Despite many setbacks, false starts and the global pandemic, today I can say with confidence and a little bit of swagger that we’re back -- and this time the “orange and grey” are here to stay.

Much love and respect,

Fred