Educating about Diversity in Public Relations

Diversity in public relations is as essential to public relations professionals as it is to your professors.

In rating the 12 knowledge areas that entry-level public relations practitioners should have, practitioners and educators ranked diversity and inclusion second and cultural perspective third, with ethics being No. 1, according to the Commission on Public Relations Education (CPRE).

Lesson 1 provided several definitions of diversity and references culture. Inclusion is related to both diversity and culture but has a different meaning. For example, diversity refers to differences that make people unique.

Culture includes behaviors, thinking, beliefs, values, communications styles, and language expressions, according to CPRE. Culture can refer to an individual, organization, or society.

Inclusion, however, refers to treating people equally with fairness and respect so they can feel valued and welcomed. In public relations, inclusion can refer to the workplace, in research such as focus groups, and during special events.

Diversity without inclusion means nothing, stated Judith Harrison, senior vice president of diversity and inclusion at Weber Shandwick, at a 2019 Global PR Summit. “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance. And belonging is dancing like no one is watching.”

In addition to learning about diversity and inclusion and cultural perspectives, CPRE also stresses avoiding stereotypes, prejudice, and ethnocentrism in research, planning, implementing, and evaluating public relations campaigns. Unconscious bias occurs when people unknowingly associate stereotypes with others based on factors such as race or gender in a manner that influences how they are seen.


Stereotypes are “judgments about an individual based on that person’s membership in a particular classification,” according to CPRE. Stereotypes can be negative or positive and can lead to prejudice. For example, the media portrays some Black males as hypersexualized, unemployed, violent criminals. However, they also are portrayed as successful athletes, musicians, and entertainers.


Prejudice “is an irrational dislike, suspicion or hatred of a certain demographic group” and “is often manifested as racism, sexism and homophobia, creating negative actions, policies, words and beliefs based on race, gender or sexual orientation,” according to CPRE. An example is using the word “urban” as a code word for the Black community to take advantage of racial tensions and cut social services.


Ethnocentrism is defined as “the negative judgment of other cultures based on the belief that a particular cultural perspective is better than others,” CPRE states. For example, people in North America may believe that their culture is superior to the cultures of people on the African and South American continents.

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