Our Leaders

Q&A with Neil Foote, President, Foote Communications, LLC

August 19, 2020

Thank you for your engagement with the Diversity Action Alliance. Can you let our readers know what about our commitment resonated the most with you and inspired your engagement? 

Neil: We are at a transformative time in this country's history, where organizations and leader scan no longer ignore the work that needs to be done to advance DE&I and racial equality in America. This is playing out no differently in our industry,and the DAA offers an opportunity for leading communications organizations, such as the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS), to collaborate with other similar-minded groups to lead the change our industry needs.  

What top three pieces of advice would you like to share with the communications industry around embracing and activating better DE&I initiatives? 

Neil: Start by having purposeful dialogues and building meaningful relationships with your existing diverse employees. If you find that you have none, take that as a sign and begin contacting historically diverse organizations, such as Black colleges and universities, NBPRS and the Hispanic Public Relations Association to proactively diversify your recruitment pipeline. Secondly, have a development plan for all of your diverse employees – helping them clearly define their career goals and create a path for them to achieve those goals. Finally, make a bold move to show your commitment to diversity, such as immediately promoting and/or hiring a VP or higher-level diverse executive.


Of recruitment,retention and representation, where do we lack the most as an industry, and how can we correct that? 

Neil: The industry has historically failed in all three of these areas. Our recruitment efforts don’t cast a wide enough net. Hiring managers are still relying on the same "familiar" networks from which to recruit and hire. The result: A continued pattern of hiring the same kinds of people year after year. And once diverse individuals are hired, executives and managers in this industry fail to create inclusive cultures in their companies where diverse individuals are welcomed, embraced, and given the opportunity to succeed. And most importantly, we lack diverse representation across the executive ranks of our industry, which leads to issues of diversity taking a back seat to other business objectives. We must quickly move to correct all these areas to enact true change. 


Have you, or someone you know, made any conscious attempts to inspire change around DE&I? Are there any notable recent attempts made by an organization that has inspired you? 

Neil: Over the past three months, I've made a conscious effort to make myself, and our organization, available to participate in conversations about DEI, particularly around developing actionable solutions for individuals and organizations. Additionally, this week NBPRS, in partnership with Media Frenzy, conducted a survey on the impact of Covid-19 on Black PR professionalsThe findings highlight the unique challenges faced by Black professionals during the pandemic, such as increased pressure to perform, additional stressors from the surrounding community, and increase in stress and a decline in productivity. It is my hope that this initiative gives leaders additional perspective and helps to further the dialogue around DEI within organizations.


What is the one actionable message that you want to leave your readers with today? 

Neil: Now isn’t the time to stay on the sidelines about DEI. You need to be speaking up and offering solutions towards progress. Make a bold statement by hiring or promoting a diverse executive to your C-suite. Make sure that DEI is interwoven into your strategic planning for the last half of this year and for 2021. DEI equals ROI. It's about bringing this thinking to the communications business in 2020 and beyond.

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