Panel of Agency Executives to Examine State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in PR and Communications During ICON 2021

PRSA, the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community, announced today a keynote panel featuring agency executives who will discuss the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in the communications industry and what communicators can do to better engage Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in the profession. The panel will take place on October 20 at 1:05 p.m. ET as part of ICON 2021.

Panelists include:

  • Armando Azarloza, CEO, The Axis Agency
  • J.J. Carter, Global Chief Operating Officer & U.S. President, FleishmanHillard
  • Soon Mee Kim, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Omnicom Public Relations Group
  • Trisch Smith, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Edelman
  • Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Global CEO, WE Communications

“The executives speaking on this panel play integral roles in implementing their organization’s DE&I efforts,” said Linda Thomas Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, PRSA. “While conversations around DE&I aren’t always easy, they are necessary. If the communications industry is truly going to be a catalyst in these efforts, discussions like this one are critical to generating meaningful change.”

“The events of the last few years have forced many in the communications industry to re-examine what commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion looks like,” said Michelle Olson, APR, 2021 PRSA Chair. “Our profession needs to be representative of the diverse communities we serve, and the executives participating in this panel are successfully helping their organizations navigate these important efforts to ensure individuals of all backgrounds are represented and heard.”

With more than 30 years of experience in marketing, communications and advertising, Azarloza is CEO of The Axis Agency, an award-winning U.S. multicultural marketing agency he co-founded in 2005. Whether launching a new product, managing a company’s reputation or brand building, his efforts produce experiences that are consistent with culture, language, and lifestyle. 

Azarloza has been instrumental in shaping marketing strategies for many respected brands and his teams have been recipients of more than 60 national marketing awards. Before launching The Axis Agency, Azarloza was Executive Vice President of Weber Shandwick, a leading global communications firm.

Carter serves as global Chief Operating Officer and President of FleishmanHillard’s Americas region. In this capacity, he drives operational excellence that contributes to the firm’s growth, competitiveness and performance worldwide. Since joining FleishmanHillard in 2005, Carter has held a variety of key leadership roles including global client relationship manager, general manager of the San Francisco office, regional president of the U.S. West and, more recently, expanded responsibility for Canada and the East. In addition to helping FleishmanHillard launch its sports business team, Carter previously led communications for various professional teams and leagues, including the Association of Tennis Professionals and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks.

Kim is Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Omnicom Public Relations Group, representing the world’s leading communications agencies across a broad array of industries and specialties. In her role, she responsible for working with OPRG agency leaders to develop policies, practices and programs that advance diversity, equity and inclusion. Prior to this appointment, Kim spent 14 years at Porter Novelli, most recently as Executive Vice President and Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader. She has more than 25 years of communications experience, supporting a broad range of clients across sectors.

In her role as Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Edelman, Smith oversees all diversity, equity and inclusion strategic planning, education, cultural development, external partnerships, and recruitment efforts to ensure Edelman’s workforce reflects the increasingly diverse marketplace. Prior to being named Edelman’s first Global DE&I Officer in 2018, Smith served as the U.S. Managing Director of Diversity and Inclusion. For a decade before this, Smith led the firm’s award-winning Multicultural practice, providing senior counsel to a wide range of clients to protect, promote and evolve their brands and effectively engage diverse thought leaders, consumers and other stakeholders.

As Global CEO of WE Communications, Zorkin drives the agency’s commitment to creating an inclusive workplace where differing ideas, perspectives, experiences, lifestyles, and cultures are embraced and respected. During her tenure, Zorkin has partnered with leading brands, telling their stories and navigating transformation by keeping purpose as her north star. From launching the first version of Microsoft Windows to working with world-class brands like Volvo, McDonald’s, Cisco and VSP, Zorkin has led her clients and her own agency through transformation by keeping people and purpose at the center of all decisions.

The panel was organized by PRSA members Thomas Bennett III, VP of Business Development at OCHIN, and Sabrina Browne, Vice President at BCW Global. Bennett also serves as President-Elect of PRSA Dallas and Browne is the Marketing Vice President of PRSA New York. 

Being held October 4-20 as a fully virtual event, ICON 2021 will feature an innovative lineup of keynote speakers, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and more than 60 breakout sessions. Previously announced keynote speakers include award-winning journalist Yamiche Alcindor, entrepreneur, cultural technologist, and author Samantha Radocchia, and entrepreneur, investor, and bestselling author Randi Zuckerberg. Additional keynote panels include discussions focused on building trust in a distrustful age and navigating communications using a military mindset. For additional details and to register, visit the ICON 2021 website.

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