From Our POC Summit to a New Sponsorship Program: Mission North’s Year in Diversity

In the fall of 2020, Mission North embarked on a journey to audit our policies, practices and support systems with diversity, belonging and equity (DBE) at the forefront. As part of that effort, we collaborated with Mosaic Consulting in early 2021 to better understand the workplace experiences of our people from different backgrounds and create an action plan to make Mission North the best it could be. In the summer of ’21, we hired our first-ever Head of Employee Engagement, who was tasked with turning the insights we learned from our work with the Mosaic team into tangible organizational change.

By 2022, that work was well underway, and as we wrap up the year, it’s worth looking back on some of our key milestones and highlights on the path to building a more equitable and inclusive agency. Here’s a month-by-month breakdown:

January

To start off the year, we launched The Future Is…Fellowship in partnership with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation. This year, the program included a $15,000 scholarship, a $5,000 stipend and a four-week paid internship for BIPOC-identified women who are interested in the technology and science communications field. 

February

We officially began accepting fellowship applications in February and received a total of 50 applications from students across the country.

March

In March, we re-launched our People of Color (POC) Community, which I’m thrilled to co-lead alongside media specialist Derika Crowley. We welcomed new community members from across the country and discussed what we all hoped to get out of this lively community. We started brainstorming ways to come together and began planning our first-ever POC Summit. 

March also marked the kickoff of Mission North’s latest E3thos volunteer initiative, this time with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). We met virtually with BBBS students for eight weeks and introduced communications as a viable career path while helping college students build resumes and networking skills. This engagement was a key part of our agency-wide effort to tackle the issue of diversity in our industry from multiple directions. PR isn’t the most obvious of professions, and many in the industry “fell into” communications. By raising visibility for PR as an attractive career option earlier in the talent pipeline, we’re planting seeds that will help diversify the industry from the ground up.

<split-lines>"By raising visibility for PR as an attractive career option earlier in the talent pipeline, we’re planting seeds that will help diversify the industry from the ground up."<split-lines>

April

In early April, we launched our inaugural Mission North Social Impact Report, which looked back on all the great work we did in 2021. This was a key element of our effort to become a registered benefit corporation.

We also launched First Fridays, an internal initiative from our E3thos team to build in time and resources for finding and participating in volunteer opportunities on a monthly basis. 

May

As part of our Gratitude Tour, Mission Northers from our San Francisco office volunteered with SF CASA, an organization that connects volunteers with foster children to serve as court-appointed special advocates.

June

In June, the DBE committee launched a new Sponsorship Program designed to accelerate leadership paths within Mission North for high-potential talent from underrepresented backgrounds on our senior management team. The program pairs participants with our most senior leaders for one-on-one coaching, advocacy and material help with taking the next step in their careers. 

The LGBTQIA+ Community brought us all together for a game of Pride Trivia, highlighting some of the queer icons and major milestones in the ongoing fight for equality. Check out some of our favorite trivia questions on our Instagram page. 

Our E3thos committee also organized a volunteer day in June with Green City Force, a New York-based nonprofit that received our Q1 impact grant. GCF engages young people living in public housing to advocate for sustainability and environmental justice. Our team worked alongside these young people in an urban farm called an Eco-Hub, while learning about eco-literacy.

<split-lines>"The DBE committee launched a new Sponsorship Program designed to accelerate leadership paths within Mission North for high-potential talent from underrepresented backgrounds..."<split-lines>

July

July was a big month for our DBE efforts, as we officially welcomed our inaugural Fellow, Brielle Smith, to Mission North for a four-week, part-time internship. Brielle completed weekly rotations between Mission North teams, including content writers, digital specialists and media experts. 

The program offers a helpful overview of the PR agency world and provides a taste of what an account coordinator would be doing every day here at Mission North. For more on Brielle’s experience, check out her Dispatch post

Brielle’s fellowship culminated in a trip to Washington, D.C. for the POC Community’s first-annual POC Summit. Community members traveled to the nation’s capital for three days of sightseeing, coworking and team bonding. We got to know each other better, got gussied up for new headshots and held our first in-person community meeting. In between monument tours, a moving trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and a trip to the White House, we discussed our experiences as POC at work, as well as our needs and ideas to help make our workplace the best it can be. 

July also marked the launch of the new Neurodiverse Community, which offers a safe space for Mission Northers who identify as neurodiverse and provides education for the agency about neurodiversity in the workplace.

August

As the summer came to an end, we announced the inaugural participant for the Sponsorship Program–yours truly! I was honored to be chosen, and then I geared up for 12-18 months of accelerated leadership training. 

September

September was a major milestone for us, as we were invited to be honored at the PRSA Foundation’s annual Paladin Awards in Atlanta, Georgia. Our co-CEO Tyler Perry gave a speech about our Fellowship program, and she encouraged other agency leaders in the audience to step up and expand opportunities for talent from diverse backgrounds. 

In the meantime, the Sponsorship Program kicked off in earnest, and the broader Mission North team also had the chance to come together in person for our Gratitude Tour. As part of that event, our Brooklyn office volunteered with P373K, also known as the Brooklyn Transition Center. P373K is a New York City high school serving students with a range of abilities between the ages of 14-21 who benefit from highly specialized instruction. A group of students came to visit our office, and we worked to build connections based on common interests. We also shared details on what it’s like to work in an office and what public relations professionals do all day.

<split-lines>"Our co-CEO encouraged other agency leaders in the audience to step up and expand opportunities for talent from diverse backgrounds..."<split-lines>

October

October is known as a month of change, and, with that in mind, we officially launched our revamped Mentorship Program at Mission North, a structured program with a focus on tactical development, soft-skill growth and career guidance. The program is distinct from the Sponsorship Program, as mentorship is focused on training, skill development, and self-assessment to further advance an individual’s career. 

November

There was much to be thankful for in November as we kicked off another volunteer opportunity with our San Francisco partner school, E.R. Taylor. Members of our Mission North team signed up to become pen pals with ER Taylor students, offering the kids a chance to hone their writing skills, while allowing students and volunteers to connect over common interests and learn about someone new. 

December

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re gearing up for another year of DBE impact. We’re preparing for another engagement with Big Brothers Big Sisters that kicks off in January, which will focus on exposing college students from under-resourced backgrounds to communications careers and building their professional networks.

We’ve accomplished so much this year, but we know this work is never finished. In ’23, we’ll continue refining our Sponsorship, Mentorship and Fellowship programs and explore new ways we can give back to our communities. We’ll also bring on an external DBE consultant to help us continue making progress on this journey. And, we’re tapping into the broader PR ecosystem to create new opportunities that move the needle on industry-wide DBE goals.

So, look out for plenty of exciting updates from our team in the New Year! In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

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From Our POC Summit to a New Sponsorship Program: Mission North’s Year in Diversity