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Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Advice for the Next Gen of Black PR Pros

BHM Breaking Barriers

Greetings from a few vibrant voices of Zeno Group's Black Voices ERG! We are Amaris Adams, Chloe Segui, Danielle Hobson and Aly Brandon—four dynamic individuals weaving our talents across Zeno's creative, influencer, DE&I, consumer, and corporate affairs practices. As proud contributors to the rich tapestry of Black excellence within the communications landscape, we are excited to share our insights and experiences on getting the most out of your careers and navigating challenges as junior staff of color in celebration of Black History Month.

In a world where authenticity is more crucial than ever, particularly for Black creatives and communicators, we believe that showcasing our true selves is an act of resilience and empowerment. The social and economic climate underscores the significance of standing tall in our identities, as it not only challenges stereotypes but also fosters an inclusive environment for everyone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 12.2% of public relations specialists identify as Black. This stark underrepresentation highlights the pressing need for mentorship, sponsorship, and a collective commitment to dismantling barriers. 

Navigating our professional journeys, we've encountered unique challenges, from the quest for mentors who mirror our passions to the pressure of diluting our authenticity to fit conventional molds. Yet, each hurdle only strengthened our resolve to carve out spaces where our voices are not just heard but respected and valued. Through our collective experiences, we've discovered that true success lies in finding your passion, embracing your voice, mastering the art of self-promotion, and, above all, showing up as your authentic self. 

Identifying Your Passion - advice from Amaris Adams, Account Executive, DE&I and Corporate Affairs 

With a background in International Business and Business Management, I joined Zeno and transitioned into PR during my senior year of college through an internship at a Hollywood-based boutique agency. Navigating this unconventional path has equipped me with the ability to carve out a unique trajectory, aligning my experiences with my passions. The agency world provides an ideal platform for someone who enjoys working on multiple projects, offering abundant opportunities to engage in diverse learning across industries, work streams, and audiences.  

Early on, I recognized the significance of being a Gen Z Black woman amidst a rapidly evolving social, political, and economic landscape. Through hours of dedication on various accounts, I discovered the profound impact of media, particularly in illuminating the narratives of communities of color. 

This sparked a personal commitment as I worked on accounts dedicated to health equity, gender equity, and the establishment of inclusive workforces. It’s important to keep in mind that the journey towards discovering your passion requires self-advocacy, the support of sponsors, mentors and leaders who champion your case. Overcoming the impostor syndrome that often accompanies being one of the few individuals who look like you in this space will also be a crucial aspect of professional development and taking charge of your career.  

Finding Your Voice – advice from Danielle Hobson, New Business Coordinator 

Empowering Black employees to navigate the agency landscape involves a pivotal step of embracing our collective voices. I believe using our voices to champion both ourselves and others is crucial for fostering a workplace of inclusion, authenticity, and innovation. While at Zeno, some active steps I have taken include seeking feedback, contributing to our employee resource groups (ERGs), aiding in the hiring of diverse interns, and being vocal about my desire for growth opportunities. I also encourage employees at all levels to be intentional in shaping their futures, both through mentorship, advocacy, or by actively welcoming mentees.   

For Black employees, sponsorship plays an especially crucial role in our career advancement. According to a study by the Center For Talent Innovation, having a sponsor or advocate increases the likelihood of progression to the next career level by 65% for Black managers, compared to 35% without advocacy. Despite this significant impact, only 5% of Black employees have sponsors, a stark contrast to the 20% among their white counterparts.   

Facing this barrier will take collaborative effort, not only to amplify individual impact in the workplace but also contribute to the collective empowerment of the Black community within our organization. 

‘PRing’ Yourself – advice from Chloe Segui, Account Executive, Consumer 

To enhance personal and professional growth in the workplace, it is crucial to internally address weaknesses and turn them into strengths. As highlighted in a recent Harvard Business Review article, this process involves identifying habits that may limit career progression, recognizing moments of anxiety, and intentionally replacing ineffective behaviors with carefully considered alternatives. Based on my own experiences, I believe that actively seeking to engage with people on a one-on-one basis, not only within a specific department but also across various sectors of your agency, can significantly contribute to success.   

In addition to meaningful conversations with colleagues, participating in cultural events and activities organized by the organization’s culture crew is another valuable tip for personal and professional development. Finally, establishing a strong mentorship and cultivating a network of supporters is a crucial method for maintaining accountability in self-promotion within the workplace. There are instances where individual efforts may not suffice, emphasizing the importance of a supportive team to uplift and propel personal growth.

Showing up as Yourself – advice from Aly Brandon, Account Executive, Influencer 

Immersing yourself in company culture can have a lifelong impact on your career and help you get your foot in the door as a junior employee. When I first joined Zeno in February of 2023, I made it a personal goal of mine to get as involved with the company culture as possible. By joining various ERG’s, volunteering to jump in on projects within the digital team, and working on new business opportunities, I’ve been able to merge my personality and professionalism in a way that feels authentic to me.  

A recent Glassdoor study showed that 63% of Gen-Z workers have an “office bestie” - of which I am part of the 63%. Finding those friends who you can bring your authentic self, connect with on a deeper level and learn from professionally has been crucial to my success and goes to show that relationships are everything. The relationships I’ve made with colleagues from all levels and departments has shown me the value that not only my work but that who I am as a person brings to the table and encourages me daily to be my authentic self.