Nyree Wright, Executive Vice President at Porter Novelli, Shares Diverse Voices Insights
New York Book Launch: Increasing Diversity in PR
Nyree Wright, Executive Vice President at Porter Novelli, is one of 40 extraordinary communicators featured in the new book Diverse Voices. She spoke with Doug Simon, CEO at D S Simon Media, about achieving career success while bringing diversity to an organization. The interview took place during the New York book launch of Diverse Voices which was held at Twitter. The new book from the PRSA Foundation is designed to help communication leaders and professionals better understand the challenges faced by emerging majorities in the field. Nyree’s long tenure in communications has allowed her to gain a unique perspective on the industry. To purchase Diverse Voices, visit www.diverseleadership.net.
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DOUG: Hi I’m Doug Simon CEO D S Simon Media, very special guest Nyree Wright executive vice president at Porter Novelli. Congratulations.
NYREE: Thank you Doug.
DOUG: Now a reason that Nyree is so important to be part of this is she’s one of the 40 great communication leaders who are profiled in the new book Diverse Voices. Congratulations on that accomplishment.
NYREE: Thank you as well.
DOUG: Could you maybe share a little bit about your path that helped you find such success?
NYREE: So I started in Communications at Rutgers. I always had an interest in marketing, communications, journalism. And found sort of my calling while I was at Rutgers, and I was a Scarlet Knight, and really enjoyed getting involved with different activities at the university, having to do with marketing and communications, and particularly I was a member of PRSSA. And that’s really when I look at it, when I look back and I think of how my trajectory has been, PRSSA has led me to my first job at a school. And those relationships were priceless. And it really just snowballed from there. And when I first started out I was working in the consumer part of PR, grew to work on corporate communications, and then crisis and absolutely fell in love with crisis believe it or not, and worked in New York for several years and then got a great opportunity to go down to D.C. and worked for an amazing crisis shop, and that’s really where I got my chops. And have since been doing crisis in corporate reputation and litigation communications the whole gamut.
DOUG: Right, well it could be said that lack of diversity in the communications industry could be at a crisis point and one of the goals of this book is to help change that. One of the challenges that’s interesting to me is it’s often said that, “Great, you need to have diverse workforce to be able to communicate with diverse publics,” which obviously makes sense. At the same time, does that mean that people who bring diversity to an organization suddenly are pigeonholed as being the “multicultural experts” which seems unfair, and that was something you yourself dealt with.
NYREE: Yes I did. I did experience, and I touched on it in the book, because it’s very real. It’s less of a case now. When I was going through it—you know I’m 20 plus years in this industry— so when I was going through it was very much more prevalent, shall I say. And at that time most agencies didn’t have a multicultural practice or diversity practice where they focused on clients having those issues, so they just sort of looked around and saw who was of a diverse background and would, you know, gather us together and cobble together a team. And while I think that topic obviously is extremely important, the people have to be capable. And they’re also capable of other things. And I will be very frank, if you don’t mind, in a number of situations, particularly corporate clients, diversity budgets are pretty small, so they’re usually the first to get cut also. So, if that’s your specialty only, and that’s your sweet spot only, you don’t really have a long shelf life in this business.
DOUG: That’s why I was wondering if it’d almost be an improvement to just have agencies, not necessarily multicultural agencies, because a lot of it’s the same thing and clearly you need to be speaking with diverse groups to be successful, and effective for any campaign.
NYREE: Absolutely. I do believe that. And there are a number of very very good boutique shops that specialize in multicultural communications, that’s what they do all day. And I have seen in my history that the most success has been maybe a large agency partnering with a smaller boutique agency or even acquiring a smaller boutique agency, that is just their focus.
DOUG: For those of you owning smaller boutique agencies in this space, we’ll be getting you Nyree’s email address after this, which I think the book’s even more helpful than we thought. Closing on a serious note, people who are leading agencies and corporate communications department: advice for them are not just attracting but also retaining diverse talent?
DOUG: That is where I’ve seen the the most lacking of support, is in the retention aspect of diverse talent in this industry. It’s great that diverse talent can get in: you know, internships, entry level positions, etc. But while you’re there having a mentor having because you’re usually one of one of the few, right? And a lot of times it can be overwhelming, especially when you recruit from an HBCU, for example, you’re coming from a pure diverse setting to a pure non-diverse setting, and that can be a culture shock for many students. So there needs to be some sort of acclimation, if you will, to that environment and the agency or the corporate life, and I really do hope that agencies and corporations are paying attention because, I tell you, it is much much more economical to retain an employee— and I’m sure you know this— than to lose one and go out and get another one every six months
NYREE: Now that makes sense. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and congratulations on being featured in the book.
DOUG: Thank you.
D S Simon Media is proud to donate its services in support of the Diverse Voices Initiative.