PRCA Equity & Inclusion Conference Q&A with Mara Hedgecoth, Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, APCO Worldwide.
1. Congratulations on sponsoring the first ever PRCA EIAC conference: Change for good: Building an equitable & inclusive PR Industry. Why is APCO sponsoring the conference?
Equity and inclusion are bedrock values at APCO and have been since the firm’s founding by Margery Kraus in 1984. For nearly 40 years, we’ve expanded opportunities for women and minorities at APCO, and we proudly operate today as an independent, majority woman and employee-owned business, with a culture that warmly embraces the global differences of our people, thoughts and experiences.
At the same time we’ve guided our clients down similar paths to our own, providing strategies, solutions and implementations that help them catalyze progress while meeting their own goals in these and other areas.
We also recognize that as a company, we can always do better and as an industry, we have much work to drive forward. This conference and partnership allow us to further support the evolution of our industry. Our history and similar purpose to drive change is why we are so excited to serve as the brand partner as PRCA, an association known for raising standards in PR and communications for more than 50 years, launches its first-ever Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council conference.
2. What are you/APCO hoping to achieve from the 4-day conference?
APCO’s goal for this event is to support PRCA’s efforts to bring these important conversations on gender, ethnicity, pay gaps, inclusion and equity center stage as companies and colleagues face tremendous change following what was a very heavy year for us all. We want to contribute to these conversations—which are some of the most important of our time—share our best practices, learn from others and help educate participants so we can all grow and move forward together as an industry to create positive change in society on these issues.
3. Where is APCO on the DEI journey?
APCO’s management and colleagues take great pride in speaking up, having direct conversations and leading discussions about inclusion, equity, diversity and social justice internally, in our industry and with our clients. Our efforts include: establishing a D&I Council in Europe, a counterpart to APCO’s DEI Council in the U.S.; forming employee resource groups (ERGs); creating the APCO Inclusivity Accord, an integral element to our commitment to give us all the tools to make consciously inclusive decisions as APCO employees that have the power to significantly contribute to making our community more diverse, inclusive and equitable for all; implementing recruiting and interviewing practices to ensure a diverse and equitable candidate slate and an unbiased interview method in our hiring process; appointing a senior advisor of Equity & Justice, Charlene Wheeless, and practice lead, Elle Arlook, to advise clients on these important issues; providing internal education and company-wide dialogue opportunities for staff; and engaging in advocacy efforts to advance equity and inclusion in our industry.
These are positive changes and we’ve made good progress, but APCO’s DEI journey is not over. There is much more to do, and we plan to continue learning and innovating until the playing field is level for all people in our society.
4. How important is DEI for the industry? As advisors to C-Suite and leadership teams?
Recognising and being open to establishing fair standards for diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry and beyond is not only important, but imperative. Our organizations need to represent the diversity of society to be able to give quality, informed counsel to our clients that is reflective of all communities. APCO’s culture is one in which we work hard as individuals for the betterment of society; we advise our client C-Suite and leadership teams to be catalysts for progress and do the same. Today’s stakeholders will not sit idly by. They want and will ask for action. The responsibility to build a better world is one we all share. Yet solving these tough challenges requires major shifts in how we think, work and act. Partnering together will help us build that better world faster and more efficiently, accelerating the pace of change for good.
5. How important is it for the industry to collaborate and share best practice in order to build a fairer and more equitable industry?
It is incredibly important that all of us are accountable and transparent as we share our lessons and learnings while working to build more inclusivity, equity and diversity in our agencies and in our profession. To not do so prevents all of us from moving forward to make meaningful and lasting change to positively impact society. Our industry is very fluid, and it is not uncommon for professionals to work in multiple agencies throughout their careers, as well as in-house for clients. We also have the common need to attract quality talent to our profession. By proactively and openly discussing issues, implementing new standards and sharing goals, we can work together to be catalysts for progress on diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s good for us as individuals, it is good for our industry and it’s good for business.
6. What is next on the agenda with the PRCA EIAC partnership?
All of us at APCO are thrilled to partner with PRCA EIAC, not only for this conference, but in the months and years ahead. We look forward to being a committed partner in helping to build an equitable and inclusive PR industry through continued thought leadership, events and other collaborations that catalyze progress for our industry.