Becoming a Blueprint Ally

Posted by Sara Hawthorn

This week we were allowed to reveal the news that InFusion has been awarded Blueprint Ally status – a new diversity mark solely focused on ethnic diversity and created by comms people for the industry.

You can read all about the mark, what it is and what it means on our official announcement, but I wanted to blog about the process, why we applied, and address some elephants in the room. 

 

I have an all white team – why do I have a diversity award?

Yep. Our team is all white. We applied for The Blueprint diversity mark to make sure it doesn’t stay that way as we grow. The Blueprint isn’t a one-time award, given and forgotten about. It’s designed to be an ongoing challenge to agencies. There are 23 commitments which we, as an Ally awardee, will need to show we are making progress on within two years and we need to reapply after that time to retain or improve upon our Blueprint award. It means that we can’t (and won’t) stand still on this. It means that whilst we’re starting from being an all white team it isn’t where we’re going to end up. 

 

Applying is hard and nerve-racking

The application form has a lot of questions and they’re questions which force you to examine and face up to the gaps in your racial diversity – from the way you recruit to how you navigate discussions around racial diversity with clients and suppliers. It’s not designed to be an easily achievable tick box exercise. I’ve done a lot on disability diversity in the last few years, but that doesn’t mean I am without biases around race, bad learned behaviours or that I’m supporting my Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority public relations peers properly. I wanted to apply to address this, to take accountability and to embed this proactive approach into InFusion’s foundations. 

Once the application questionnaire is complete it’s sent to a panel of independent judges, all of whom have been through a Blueprint diversity workshop, who assess and award a series of points per answer. To achieve Ally status requires a 70 point minimum, to become a Blueprint agency requires 101 points. InFusion was the smallest agency to apply. Here’s a comment from one of the judges:

“Love their 10 simple rules approach to positive behaviours in the workplace. The founder is committed to diversity and this is reflected in their application and their active participation in the BMEPR pros initiative. They have been active in trying to recruit BAME staff through blind recruitment as well as using a range of channels to find talent.

“It’s a small agency but sounds democratic and transparent. I love that from the outset the founder wanted to build an inclusive agency and is committed to genuine action which over time will be supported by policies and processes…. Really encouraging to see such a small agency take diversity so seriously.”

 

A diversity scheme with deep roots

The Blueprint is something Elizabeth Bananuka approached me about back in 2018. The mark is one part of a much larger plan devoted to achieving parity for Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethinc Minority PR professionals in the UK. The Blueprint advisory board comprises 22 people, of which I am one, and is overseen by non-exec board directors Daljit Bhurji, Diffusion PR and Anouchka Burton, Independent Comms Consultant. 

Since November 2018, the Blueprint advisors have met semi-regularly to figure out how these initiatives should take shape and structure them in such a way that avoids any chance of it becoming another D&I scheme that doesn’t deliver. We had difficult discussions, we sat in our discomfort as the real scale of PR’s racial diversity problem was laid out and we worked together as a group, not simply to find ways to overcome the problem, but to produce something that will eliminate it altogether. 

This is not an overnight, flash in the pan movement. It has been brewing for a while to make sure it can stand up and be an effective path towards parity in PR. 

 

Being a Blueprint Ally is our starting square

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, being awarded Ally status isn’t our goal, it’s our starting line. We have a lot of work to do. Whilst much of this fundamental work will be behind the scenes its fruits should be visible over the coming months and years. This is something our whole team is behind and involved in – that means putting training in place, continuing and increasing our approach to open discussion and being accountable to each other and the wider industry. The team and I will be sharing what we learn, how we’re doing and the steps we’re taking making as much of it public as possible.

For any agencies (I’m looking at you agencies in the North!) interested in applying for The Blueprint Mark you can find detailed information at www.thisistheblueprint.co.uk.