Diversity in PR: Why Campaign’s Farage feature is a step in the wrong direction
A few weeks ago, Campaign made the decision to put Nigel Farage on its front cover. It came with no shock that the publication received heavy backlash, with many critics citing various reasons as to why this was a bad move. Whether you agree with them or not, there’s no denying that Farage’s views are controversial. The aim of the cover was to praise his ‘achievements’ in UK politics and how the industry can learn from his strategy, but does that justify putting him on the cover?
The backlash prompted Campaign to issue a public apology, stating that “it does not tolerate racism, sexism or bigotry of any kind”. Yet, the 6,000-word article and front cover is a stark contrast to Campaign’s messaging and articles calling for an increase in BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) representation. Which raises the crucial question – what message does this cover send to potential industry recruits, especially those of ethnic or immigrant backgrounds?
Over the years, the industry has tried and tested different ways to increase representation and, while we do still have a long way to go, there has been increased awareness and steps taken in the right direction. Organisations such as the Taylor Bennett Foundation, Creative Access and BME PR Pros, are working hard to bridge this divide by providing amazing opportunities and support to young, intelligent and exciting people from these backgrounds. Many of them now have access to internships, mentorship programmes and job offers that they may have never had access to if it wasn’t for these organisations.
However, putting Farage centre stage in a publication read by thousands of professionals, graduates and students risks undoing some of the hard work and awareness created to promote diversity and inclusion. While some can argue that it’s his opinion and that it’s important that opposing views are shared, Farage sends a clear message to many from BAME backgrounds.
Ultimately, the industry must refrain from providing a platform to those who may hinder the work that has already begun and focus on showcasing true role models, who offer support and advice to how we can be better creatives in this exciting sector.
Just another PR stunt?
We can argue that Campaign knew exactly what they were doing, and its aim was to ignite controversy and be provocative enough to create a spike in sales. Yet has it set out to achieve this? With many in the industry condemning the decision on social media and referring to it as a monumental blunder, from a PR point of view, we must wonder whether Campaign anticipated the level of backlash it received.
To many, this is a blindly obvious misstep, but is this how it’s seen within the editorial team? It could be that a lack of diversity and/or ignorance with Campaign’s decision makers meant they simply weren’t aware of the backlash that would likely come their way. Or, they simply couldn’t see past the desire to become viral or the talk of the town.
Of course, we’ll never know for sure. All we do know is that Campaign took a big risk and the impact of its Farage front cover has already spread far and wide. Exactly how far and wide this impact goes; we’ll just have to wait and see.
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