“I genuinely want to support talented BME PR professionals to get the careers they deserve”

“I genuinely want to support talented BME PR professionals to get the careers they deserve”

Elizabeth Bananuka, Communications Consultant and Founder of BME PR Pros, launched Blueprint in June this year. Seen as a diversity ‘kite mark’ for marketing employers, only a few agencies have gained Blueprint accreditation so far, while others are queuing up to be assessed.

But be warned – employers who are not serious about offering equal career opportunities and rewards to their non-white employees will fail. Elizabeth is as fiercely protective of Blueprint’s integrity as she is passionate about supporting BME talent. Her worst fear is Blueprint becoming “a toothless tiger” like so many diversity initiatives that came before.

What is the Blueprint (BP) diversity mark and what do applicants need to do to gain it?

Elizabeth: “There is a single form with 40 questions. We score three points for the questions in black and five points for the questions in red, which are open-ended. If you score more than 70, you get Ally status. If you score more than 101 you gain full Blueprint status. It means you’ve set up a framework for diversity at work. You sign up to 23 Blueprint commitments so it’s not an award but a commitment to progressing.”

What do you hope the BP diversity mark will achieve in the short-term and over the long-term? Is there an end goal?

“This is key: it’s really for people who want to do something about diversity, who genuinely understand the value of it for business and for people – it’s not just a black or white thing but a framework for equality. It sets up an agenda to allow diversity to thrive. I genuinely want to support talented BME PR professionals to get the careers they deserve. So they know they get the same opportunities as their white counterparts, fair pay, access to promotions, and so on.

“Good would look like, in two to three years, 30 organisations signed up. It’s been suggested there could be more and it could happen quicker. But the Blueprint is tough and it is interesting how so many organisations don’t understand it and have a long way to go to put procedures in place. But ultimately, it’s about quality not quantity.”

Is the situation really so bad that the industry needs to hang a sign over its door saying ‘minorities welcome’?

“There have been so many diversity initiatives and they’ve all failed. There is diversity fatigue too. So for this one, credibility is very important. The organisations that have signed up – Manifest, blurred and In Fusion – are extremely public. They have committed to publishing their diversity data every year. That alone is more robust than any other diversity initiative. There is also a whistle-blowing function.

“But it’s not about the industry being so bad. What’s more important is the Top 150 agencies have websites that have the same stock images, people images, the same recruiters – it is all so homogenous. How do you know, as a BME professional, that they actually want you to apply there? The Blueprint mark is about companies saying, ‘Yes, BMEs are welcome’.”

Tell me about the timing of the launch of Blueprint. It was coincidental with the tragic death of George Floyd, wasn’t it? How has that impacted BP?

“We started this before the death of George Floyd. A lot of people became aware of the issue in June and were not doing anything before.

“I’m not going to try to convince people. When I first started doing diversity stuff, I spent the first hour explaining the basics. If you do that, nothing gets done beyond. So I’m not going to contribute to a basic conversation because it means you keep that conversation going. Blueprint is not about pitching diversity to people who don’t get it. If you’re a business leader who still doesn’t get it after McKinsey has brought out report after report on diversity then I’m not going to even try.”

So far, only Manifest, blurred and In Fusion have gained a BP mark of any description. Are there more on the way?

“The last round of opportunities closed in September, will be reviewed by our judges in October, and announcements will be made in early November. And I’d like to mention the judges by name: Henry Rowling, Founder, Flying Cars innovation agency; Sasha Daly, Advocacy and Influencing Consultant; Olivia Danso, Writer and Blueprint project manager; and Nyree Connell, Healthcare Policy Manager and Blueprint Strategy Advisor.”

Have any applicants failed?

“I can’t answer that, it’s a private matter between myself, the judges, the agency and our administrator.”

Is accreditation open to marketing agencies and any organisation that employs marketers?

“Yes, it’s open to marketing, digital, and advertising agencies. In fact, we’ve had interest from marketing agencies already. We’re opening to in-house functions next year. We’ve already had some get in touch – including from the public sector, as well as from overseas.

“But I want to highlight something about Manifest, blurred and In Fusion. They were at a massive disadvantage on application as they had no one to compare themselves to and learn from – there was no benchmark. We now run webinars on how to apply and they didn’t have those at the time.

“We’ve also had some sneaky organisations request an application pack, change their organisation and then apply at a later date to ensure they get a result. But we’re aware of this and will address it.

“It’s important to know that this is funded by me but it is not administered by the industry. The judges are genuinely independent, highly credible people. The Blueprint model is genuinely neutral to maintain integrity. In diversity and inclusion, it is easy to become a toothless tiger. But we owe nothing to anyone.”