Why does the role of a black-owned public relations agency differ greatly from a white-owned agency?

I have been sitting on this post for a little while.  But in light of the ‘cost of living crisis’ and the zoom call meetings about diversity, I am now confident with my hypothesis, based on 15 years of experience and witnessing a multitude of ‘isms’, but also seeing the evidence of humility and ‘tails between the legs’, from those who had to eventually surrender the absurdity of a society that only operates through the prism of white masculinity.


The role of a Black-led public relations agency offers the focus on a human-to-human approach to success.  Typically, the role of PR is a mix of both spin and advertising.  However, that approach means that the lack of authenticity fuels many brands being vulnerable to attacks.   


Before, I continue, I need to caveat the term ‘Black’ in this instance refers to an Afrocentric approach to community.


When most PR agencies work with brands, businesses, and organisations, they focus on the product or service.  However, this approach has only ever fulfilled a very short-term need for businesses.  Whereas, Black agencies start at the core of the business, the values, motivation, and purpose.  This difference was documented by the historical impetus at the conception of PR.

Articles and research have documented the birth of PR in the Western World and the African Continent, and they are distinctly different.  In the 20th century, Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays have both been credited with being founders of modern-day PR – (their biography is a story for another day). The documentation has shown that both of these men birthed PR through the lens of Industrialisation and Capitalism, where they worked with companies like the Rockefellers to manage crisis and repair reputations.


Whereas the birthplace of Black Public Relations was founded on the roles of Griots, for the purpose of, storytelling throughout generations, mobilisation and revolution.  Joseph Varney Baker has been credited as the first Black public relations professional of the modern age, and his agency Baker’s Associate was celebrated by many for his work across the demographic for his adept nature to get to the heart of a story and a business.


Why and what difference does it make?

In the pursuit of business success, it is important that public relations meet your expectations. However, the questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • What is the vision for the business?
  • What impact do I really want to make on the world?
  • Is authenticity important to me?
  • Am I a pro-active or re-active business owner?


In addition, there is also an underlining nuance that Black-owned agencies bring to culture and the culture of every business.  However, the unfortunate truth is that the perception of excellence or good standing is often marginalised and segregated to the premise that the role of the black agency is only equipped to handle ‘Black’ issues, therefore only being elevated during the season of Black History Month.  This unfortunate perception limits the impact and wealth of knowledge and experience a demographic brings to the table all year round.


This article is by no means comprehensive documentation of why, or how public relations work within modern society by Black led or White led agencies.  But with the growing number of agencies, who are seeking to take control of the narrative, it is important to seek to understand the history, address the present, and hopefully leave something positive for the future


Finally, the intention of this article is to commence a discussion about the difference between modern-day PR within a western society delivered for the sake of equity equality, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and sustainability between black and white ownes agencies.


Understanding the impact of PR, the diversity required in the PR space, and its impact on modern-day business during a cost-of-living crisis is a challenging prospect.  But, through the work of the FP Comms team, we provide ongoing support, education, and tools through the PR Club.


How do you know which agency is correct for you? What would it mean to you to have access to a diverse expert team of PR professionals at your fingertips?


Learn more about the resource provided to help increase understanding and tools 


 Here is another reason you need an agency that gets you?