Edelman’s First Diversity Manager Addresses Industry Challenges

trisch smithToday Edelman named Trisch Smith, agency veteran and executive vice president, to the role of managing director, Diversity & Inclusion for its US operations.

During her 15 years with the firm, Smith has “managed stakeholder outreach, strategic positioning, reputation/issues management and public affairs campaigns” for major Edelman clients, particularly those looking to reach “diverse stakeholders.” She has also specialized in crisis comms and internal messaging with a particular specialty in nonprofit organizations.

We spoke to Smith about her new position, which she describes as an “expanded role” within the Edelman organization. Smith reports to Edelman’s US COO Julianna Richter, and all members of its new Diversity & Inclusion team report to her.

Could you explain the particulars of your new position and Edelman’s revised approach to diversity?

As you can see from the release, we are changing the structure of the D&I team and our approach to it.

We live in an increasingly diverse world, and so we are increasing our efforts to make sure we reflect and better serve the needs of our clients. I will be managing director, and we are currently forming a leadership team that includes colleagues from all levels, geographies and backgrounds. We’ve redeveloped our plan, which will include new employees and networks across the company. It’s extremely important, in the interest of better serving both clients and audiences, to diversify our workforce in terms of driving innovation and creativity. My new position is an elevated role in a new structure, and it differs from what we’ve done in the past in that I report directly to the COO.

We’ve recently witnessed many conversations about diversity challenges within the PR industry itself. Could you elaborate on how Edelman addresses these challenges and offer some advice for other firms facing the same?

I think that this challenge is shared across the board in all agencies big and small regardless of geography. The industry simply hasn’t done the best job of promoting all we do and offer or positioning PR as a real, viable career option.

Our strategy is still in development, but Edelman will begin to look at candidates who may be from non-traditional, non-PR backgrounds, because we understand that there are transferable skills they can bring to our environment.

This means we will be looking in other industries and sectors for those with the skills and expertise that can improve our ability to serve both present and future clients.

What do we think of Smith’s take on PR’s demographic challenges — and Edelman’s new plans to address them?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.