Ayanna Robinson is a gem with over 20 years of experience as Porter Novelli’s Senior Chief Client Officer. As a Global Communications Leader and Reputation Management Expert, her role is vast, including advocating for the organization’s top client leaders who are working to address global business challenges across sectors.
It is not typical to see Black faces yield such responsibility in global corporations. That is what sets Porter Novelli apart from the rest. It is a multi-million-dollar PR firm, a subsidiary of the even bigger Omnicom Group. Robinson recalls how thrilled she was upon joining Porter Novelli, because of the number of Black male senior leaders. Their presence signalled that her goal of becoming a senior leader was tangible.
Studies show that at least 80% of the professional PR industry is white. That number is greater in the UK. The PR veteran saw that the most successful leaders were not the only stars on their teams. They were able to duplicate their abilities through new talent, widening the pool of diverse voices in the field.
Find out more about Robinson’s journey and how she uses her skills to the lives, careers, businesses, and the Black community.
BYP: What are some daily actions you take to help change the Black narrative within or outside your role?
Robinson: From early on, my power was the ability to have control over the hiring and development of talent and to serve as a senior counselor to clients. In my role, I hired and cultivated the most diverse team within the company, which was also the fastest growing and most profitable. We normalized diversity as a characteristic of leadership and success at Porter Novelli.
BYP: Further discuss the importance of Black role model visibility within the workplace.
Robinson: We still experience tokenism in the workplace where companies have a Black leader who is marginalized or has limited authority to effect change. This can have the opposite impact on the retention of employees of color because it is a familiar dynamic and not a positive place for growth and development. As the most senior Black executive at Porter Novelli, I counsel young professionals who are considering a position at a company to look at the top.
BYP: How did recent events shape your perception concerning diverse talent?
Robinson: I was blessed to find an organization that shared my belief in diversity long before the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Today, I remain committed to making Porter Novelli one of the most diverse agencies in PR. I use my seat at the table to hold myself and the organization accountable for our diversity commitments.
I challenge professionals of color to advocate for others, so they are not the only ones in the room. Demand opportunities and create space for others to sit at the table, especially if you can influence who is invited into the room.