During our Twitter chat last week focused on the public relations industry, we discussed the ins and outs of being a professional and an entrepreneur in this thriving area. One topic that didn’t come up but is crucial to PR is the need to network. Publicists have to know who’s who and what’s what in their industry, in the media, in pop culture, and more. To that end, you have industry organizations like the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS). Through its own efforts and those of its chapters, it promotes and advances the interests of African-American publicists across the US. Next Wednesday, October 16, one of those chapters, the Black Public Relations Society of New York (BPRS-NY) will be hosting a networking event and the special guests will be — you guessed it — MadameNoire. Our editors will be there to mix and mingle, talk about the site, and, of course, enjoy a glass of wine. In preparation, we talked with Kisha Barton, public relations specialist for kbartonPR and president of BPRS-NY. Fresh from the organization’s national conference, a hoarse Barton struggled to be heard during a phone conversation with us. But rest assured, that’s not normally the case. The group’s main objective is to be the voice of its members and that job is never done. MadameNoire: What’s the role of BPRS in the PR industry? Kisha Barton: We focus on putting our members in the right place at the right time to meet the right people. We allow ourselves to be the liaison between employees and PR pros. We host career advancement events. We’re active in the industry… and we share information about the latest trends. Our members are seeking knowledge. They want to have the opportunity to move up the ladder. Diversity is still an ongoing issue in PR [and our members] want the opportunity to be gamechangers in the community. MN: Is diversity an issue that companies acknowledge? What’s being done to solve the problem? KB: It’s an ongoing issue, which is why we want to provide exposure, mentorships and sponsorships to solve this problem. Our members want to advance, but they’re not moving up the ladder. And it’s a combination of issues. We want people to know that we’re out here and we’re advocates. I just recently attended another event about diversity and inclusion. I think companies are coming together to become more multicultural. We need to figure out how to change, what needs to happen so that when I look around the room I see people like myself. We’re now trying to work with other organizations to figure out how we can address it. MN: How do companies benefit from diversity? KB: You have the opportunity to learn from the different assets of different people. We’re reaching out to different PR firms and we’re also working with PR search firms who are looking for different candidates. We make sure companies and firms know it’s about creativity not about color. We have some of the most talented people in our organization and we want people to know they’re ready to rise up the ranks. MN: Why is PR a great industry for women? KB: We’re very creative, hands on, we like to be in charge. PR is an industry that requires you to know a lot of information. You have to be in charge and there are lots of opportunities to grow. It’s really not work, it’s a love. MN: Your organization is focused on networking, something that we’ve written about on MN Business. What’s the importance of networking to a career? KB: My favorite quote is from a publicist Karen Taylor Bass: “Your network determines your net worth.” PR is about networking and putting people in touch with the best connections. In every career there are dreamers who never stop learning. That’s what we offer — an opportunity to increase skills, …to network with PRs game changers, and with people who are creating the path for you. These are your cheerleaders. Let’s make sure we’re working together. And especially in an industry where there aren’t that many people of color in it, let’s make sure we’re creating the pathways.
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