By Pedro L. Rodriguez The LAGRANT Foundation celebrated its 13th anniversary scholarship reception and awards program at the French Institute this week, awarding 20 ethnic minorities with scholarships that will allow them to pursue their academic and career goals. In case you’re not familiar, the LAGRANT Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations. As I prepared to enter the public relations industry, the Foundation was helpful in opening doors for me that would otherwise have remained elusive.

Harold Burson gave the keynote address during the Foundation’s event and talked about his decision to partner with Foundation in order to help the public relations industry become “as representative of society as possible.” Burson is referring to the fact that the 2010 Census showed that from 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic population in the U.S. grew 43% and now stands at around 50.5 million or roughly 16% of the U.S. population. However, this population is not equally represented in the public relations industry. Through his $50,000 donation to the Foundation,  Burson will help create the “Harold Burson Fellowship Program,” in order to help identify and aid public relations professionals in training, who show the “desire, passion and promise to succeed.” His efforts are aimed at ultimately shaping the industry in the direction of being representative of the broader population, which is an interesting approach in and of itself.

Burson also observed that while Hispanics and other ethnic minority groups serviced the industry in administrative positions and auxiliary departments including maintenance, few enjoyed management-level positions. Various issues ranging from education, access and social capital (parlance, dress and connections) can help explain the status quo. Holistically, the lack of Hispanics (and other ethnic minorities) in the public relations industry is a tough yet necessary issue to tackle. Aside from affirmative action-type arguments that can be made, one always resonates best: How they can make more money by diversifying their ranks.

For example, as marketers look to reach Hispanic audiences and tap into their buying power, estimated at $1 trillion in 2010, it will be in their best interest  to leverage the vast cultural knowledge that Hispanic public relations professionals bring to the table. Whatever your mode of positioning the message is, the end result will be the same: Diversification of ranks is good for business!

Pedro is a PR professional at M Booth, a New York-based public relations firm. He is a member of the firm’s First Word Digital team, focusing on digital/social media/technology, and blogs for the firm’s site. Pedro is also a contributing technology blogger at the HuffingtonPost. Prior to joining the agency, he was the Assistant to the Marketing & PR Director at Ocean Drive Español magazine (Niche Media Holdings LLC) in Miami, FL where he focused on multicultural media relations. Pedro graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Italian and Hispanic studies and a minor in English.

You can find me on each of the following:!/plrodriguez