DIVERSITY IN PUBLIC RELATIONS: AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. DONALD WRIGHT

Dr. Donald Wright is the Harold Burson Professor and Chair in Public Relations. He is currently exploring the topic of diversity in public relations and hopes to write papers on it.

Here Dr. Wright shares his fresh ideas of diversity in public relations, points out the reality of the competitive employment market, and gives some genuine advice for international students who want to pursue public relations careers in the United States.

COM Professor, Dr. Donald Wright is exploring topics in diversity in public relations for his next research paper. Photo credit: Eloisa Cabello / COMmunicator Staff

What interests you most in the topic of diversity in public relations?

Dr. Donald Wright: Well, there are two elements that interest me. One of those is the language ability. Are we just going to continue hiring people who only speak English? Or are we going to hire people who speak multiple languages? In that area, we really haven’t addressed.

And the other situation is political thought. The United States is more divided now. The Democrats push one side of the agenda, and the Republicans push the other. It doesn’t even matter if the agenda is gun control or taxation reform. There is quite a lot of disagreement in the country and should political thoughts be taken into consideration when you are looking into the diversity? So, those are the interests I have that I am exploring some possibilities of writing some papers on that topic.

Yeah, it is definitely an interesting topic to look into. So, according to you, what is the current trend in public relations industry? Is it more diversified?

DW: Generally speaking, when you are talking about diversity in the public relations industry, you are talking about diversity based on gender, and diversity based on ethnicity like race. And in that regard, certainly in the last 20 years, women have made great strides in public relations. Unfortunately, there is still an unequal field between women and men. But things are a lot better than it used to be. The public relations industry is still way behind when it comes to ethnic backgrounds, which is unfortunate. And a lot of people are concerning about it, and they are trying to make some changes.

At the same time, I think what you are starting to see is people concerning about other elements in diversity.  We are in the global economy. We have this strong push in the United States for only hiring Americans. We have rules and regulations, like the immigration rules, which makes it very difficult for people from other countries to get public relations jobs in the U.S.

Personally, I don’t know if there should be more opportunities or not enough opportunities. But I can tell you that there are a lot of international students who are very concerned about visas that used to be easier to acquire are now harder to acquire. And in some cases, you have to go through a lottery in order to get the proper visa to work in the country.

Yeah. It’s true. What’s your advice for international students who want to pursue a PR career in the United States?

DW: We have international students that we educate, but it is getting harder and harder for them to get employment in the United States. So, they may have to face the reality that makes sense for them to come to the U.S. to study public relations and they might have to go back home to work in the field.

Do you think it is necessary for international students to learn some technical skills, like data analysis, in order to have an edge on the job market?

DW: Yeah, I mean, I strongly recommend international graduate students to take research methods courses and take a research track. Because if you take that, then you have those qualifications. It is something I strongly recommend.

Like you said before, it’s quite challenging for international students to find public relations jobs in the U.S. But if they can, from an employer’s standpoint, what are the advantages for hiring international employees?

DW: It is a question that depends on the qualification of each student. But if they have research knowledge and other language abilities besides English, like French and Spanish, these skills will set them apart. And it is also better if international students work in their countries for some years before they come to the United States to study, particularly if they work for a major agency, so that possibly they will have a chance to work for the agency in the U.S. after they graduate.

Professional experience is really important. I guess in the public relations industry, your experience is everything.

DW: Yes, it is.

My last question is: Did you always see yourself getting into public relations?

DW: No, I mean I got into public relations by accident. It was back in those days public relations was mainly media relations. And I worked for newspapers, and that led to opportunities in public relations. But I have a lot of enjoyable years of teaching public relations and also practicing public relations as a consultant to a number of ways.

 

Keyue Chen, Staff Writer

Keyue is a graduate student in COM majoring in Marketing Communication Research. Before coming to BU, Keyue finished her undergraduate in Beijing and Milan. Her motto is: Work hard, and play harder. She likes traveling and she has been to 17 countries so far. Now, she is saving for her next destination – Iceland.

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