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  • Writer's pictureBen Finzel

Launching The Change Agencies: The Back Story

Today, I joined with five colleagues to announce the launch of The Change Agencies, a new national network of independent public relations and marketing firms designed to change the way the industry communicates to, for and with multicultural and LGBTQ communities. We are the first national collective of independent PR firms to offer inclusive communications services to effectively represent, engage and connect with African American, Asian American, Latinx and LGBTQ communities.

You can read more about us on our website: We’re excited to be offering this new take on an ongoing challenge: how best to reach and engage emerging communities of color and LGBTQ people. For us, the answer is by ensuring that the people doing the work represent the communities they are trying to reach. From there, it’s all about authenticity, transparency and honesty.

I’ll be talking a lot more about this effort in the months ahead. But first, I want to share the back story of how this new network came to be and the industry leaders who are stepping forward to the lead the charge for change.

Two years ago, I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in the closing keynote of the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference in Seattle with LaTricia Woods of Mahogany Xan Communications in Phoenix. We talked about the need and proper role of diversity and inclusion in the PR industry. LaTricia is an accomplished communicator with a long track record of engaging by, for and with the African-American community. And she’s a former public affairs professional from local government as well so we hit it off immediately.

From this beginning, an idea took shape: how might LaTricia and I work together on diversity and inclusion communications? Before we collaborated again on a keynote at the next PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference (in Toronto last year), I had a thought: What if we built the first national network of independent PR firms working on multicultural and LGBT communications? I did some research and couldn’t find one.

I pitched the idea to LaTricia and we were off and running. In Toronto, I asked our friend and colleague Alexis Davis Smith (president and CEO of PRecise Communications in Atlanta and Miami and one of our co-presenters on the Toronto keynote) to join us. After she accepted, I reached out to Christina Yumul of Storieology in Maui and San Francisco, a former colleague from FleishmanHillard who I had just reconnected with at the Seattle Counselors Academy conference the year before. When she accepted, I knew we had something. From there, my friend Tanya Churchmuch of MuchPR in New York City said yes, bringing us additional experience and contacts in the biggest media market in the world. Then my friend Monica Talan re-introduced me to a fellow Texas Tech graduate, Chino Chapa of Chino Chapa Communications in Dallas. Like the four people before him, Chino enthusiastically accepted my invitation to join us and we had our core team.

For the next year, LaTricia, Alexis, Christina, Tanya, Chino and I worked together to build out the structure of a national network. What would we call it? How would it be structured? Who would we be focused on reaching? Why was this even a good idea? In our monthly calls and quarterly meetings, we tackled all of these questions together. And most importantly, we learned that we work well together as a team. Our name was the result of comments from two different people: Chino and Tanya. And our tagline – Changing the way businesses and organizations communicate across cultures – came directly from LaTricia. When we made those decisions together, I knew we had something special.

We’ve done the hard part together: determining how to build a network of independent firms that will collaborate together while maintaining our own separate branding and focus areas. We’ve clarified our intent to engage African-American, Asian-American, Latinx and LGBTQ communities. And we’ve bolstered our capabilities with expert guidance from an Advisory Council comprised of industry heavyweights we are fortunate to call colleagues.

Is this a good idea? We think so. We’ll be testing our premise that both “that’s how we’ve always done things” and “diversity, inclusion and equity are nice, but not necessary” is wrong. The future is now and businesses and organizations that don’t make the changes that are necessary will be left behind. I think Alexis says it best: “As the world is changing, we’re here to change the industry.” I hope you’ll join us for the ride!

Please follow The Change Agencies on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our blog for updates on our progress. And watch this space for updates on our progress!

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