The Public Relations Institute of Ireland – making PR more accessible for under-represented groups

The Public Relations Institute of Ireland (or PRII) is the association of PR organisation in Ireland. PR is often seen as being elitist or for a certain type of person. However, recently the organisation is making a huge effort to change their demographics, to make employees in PR more reflective of Irish society. In addition to working with organisations to increase the representation of under-represented groups in employment in PR. I interviewed the CEO of PRII Dr Martina Byrne to find out more:

  1. To anyone who may not be aware, what is PRII? Who do you advocate for?

The Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) is dedicated to promoting the professional practice of public relations and communications in Ireland.

PRII works to promote:

–        Wider recognition of the role of public relations in business and civic society

–        Higher standards of professionalism

–        Better qualifications for practitioners

We aim to be an effective forum and network for our 1,000+ members to share their common interests and experiences.

PRII members are public relations and communications professionals from a broad range of backgrounds and roles – working in consultancies, industry, government, semi-state, voluntary, charity and business organisations.

  1. PRII recently created a census of the demographics of people employed in the PR industry in Ireland. What were some of the results?

In 2022, 69% of those working in the sector identified as female, a 1% increase on 2019.

There is a reasonable age distribution in the profession: 30% are under 35 and 15% are between 55 and 65+.

In terms of nationality, 92% are Irish, 2% are British, 2% are from another EU country, and 3% are from outside the EU (up 2% on 2019). The 8% of public relations professionals who are non-Irish compares with 18.5% of the total workforce in Ireland who are non-Irish.

1% identify as Black or Black Irish, 1% as mixed race, and 96% identify as White Irish or another White background.

5% identify as gay or lesbian, 86% as heterosexual, 3% as bi-sexual and 1% as queer.

4% reported having a disability of which 38% said it was physical and 38% said it was cognitive. 23% preferred not to say.

Of those (4%) with disabilities: 50% reported their employer has accommodated their needs; 33% said they had not been accommodated; and 17% preferred not to say. Of the 4%, almost half said their disability created barriers to work.

While 85% identify as belonging to social class A or B, just 53% said their parents would have identified as being in those social classes which suggests a good level of social mobility into the profession.

  1. What are the strategic priorities of PRII in terms of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the coming years?

Simply put, we want more people with diverse backgrounds, lived experience, and abilities entering the profession. At its core public relations is about creative problem solving, we need diversity to enrich our creative responses to client and employer briefs.

  1. PR is often seen as being elitist and for a certain type of people. What organisations are you working with to make PR more reflective of the demographics of Ireland as a whole?

The Open Door Initiative, Irish Centre for Diversity,  Employers for Change, Pavee Point, The Wheel.

  1. What events or guest speakers have you had to talk to the industry about becoming more diverse and inclusive?

We’ve run 6 seminars online with three speakers on each.

Topics included: accommodations for those with disabilities, inclusive recruitment campaigns, communicating with and for Irish Travellers, communicating with and for diverse communities, the creativity case for diversity and inclusion, and the business case for diversity and inclusion.

We also share resources on a regular basis from organisations involved in diversity and inclusion e.g. recently a resource from the Irish Dyslexic Association on guidelines for communicating with, and for, people with dyslexia.

  1. What have been some of your most recent highlights in terms of D&I in PRII?

2022 was the first time any information on demographics and diversity was collected by the profession when PRII carried out its nationwide Census among members and non-members.

  1. How did the pandemic affect the D&I initiatives that PRII runs? Are there any positives you can take out of this time?

The events above ran online.

  1. How does PRII build D&I into the educational courses that the company runs?

Almost all our courses are offered online now which makes them available nationally and indeed globally and more accessible to a wider range of students including those with mobility issues.

We also run a scholarship for a free place on our Diploma in Public Relations. Open Doors helps us in communicating this to under-represented groups in the profession.

  1. Outside of those already mentioned, are there any other organisations in D&I in Ireland that PRII are big fans of? is very active in recruiting diverse talent to take up public service employment opportunities.