Earlier this year, Riot secured The Blueprint diversity mark, which aims to promote racial diversity in PR and communications. In this piece, Deborah Klass, the Finance, Operations & Talent Director at Riot Communications, discusses what it means for our agency to be Blueprinted. Deborah is also the CEO of Croydon-based The Windrush Generation Legacy Association: a registered charity which aims to share the diverse legacy of the Windrush Generation and to support community cohesion.
What do you love most about working in PR?
My favourite aspect of working in PR is working with such creative people and knowing that, with our Blueprinted status, we have the opportunity to work with colleagues and our clients to make a real difference to the sector.
What has it meant for Riot Communications to be Blueprinted?
One of my first steps, on joining Riot in January 2021, was to challenge the leadership team to really scrutinise our approach to D&I, and to develop a more formal approach to doing it right. As a BME-owned, progressive agency, Riot was already ahead of the curve and had various initiatives in place, but the approach was still fairly ad-hoc. I was hired to assist with the company’s growth and to provide formal oversight of our activities as part of my role as Operations and Talent Director, and D&I champion. 16 months on, and Riot is now a Blueprinted agency – only the sixth agency in the UK to achieve this recognition for diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our business, and certainly one of the smallest!
We’re incredibly proud to be Blueprinted and to continue being pioneers within the communications industry. Achieving the Blueprint status shows us that what we’ve been working towards, and what we continue to strive towards – true diversity, inclusivity and accessibility – is recognised by an authority that’s leading change. It reassures us that the message we’re giving to our clients and our networks is the right one, one that will support change in our industry and in the work that we do.
What is your favourite diversity project/initiative of the past 12 months?
I know I’m biased here, but my favourite diversity project of the past 12 months has to be Grow With Peter Rabbit, Riot’s campaign for the 120th anniversary of the much-loved children’s brand Peter Rabbit! We’ve been working alongside publisher Penguin Random House Children’s and non-profit garden designers Grow2Know CIC, founded in response to the Grenfell Tower Fire to help unify the community through guerrilla gardening, on a partnership that will see three Peter Rabbit-inspired community garden makeovers take place between now and 2024.
This partnership is all about creating a positive, social impact and together we’ve delivered a truly inclusive campaign that will bring the benefits of gardening and spending time in nature to families across the UK, as well as delivering a longer-term legacy for the local communities where the three Peter Rabbit Gardens are built.
As CEO of The Windrush Generation Legacy Association, another project I am very proud of is our recent exhibition at our unit in Croydon: an exhibition of Pål Hansen’s collection of photographs, entitled Leave to Remain, which opened on Windrush Day 2022. Pål delivered a moving address at the opening ahead of a series of spoken word poetry, storytelling and comedy performances. Given that our aim is to celebrate and share knowledge of the contributions of the Windrush Generation with young people, the wider community and corporates, this was a fantastic culmination of everything we’ve achieved in the past 12 months. I invite other agencies or individuals reading this to contact me if they’d like to come to visit the exhibition space, or to know more about our work, or even to offer their help.
What event are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Next, I’m looking forward to Black History Month celebrations and the outreach we’ll be able to do, using the month as an opportunity to elevate change and show schools, corporates and consumers how they can incorporate Black history throughout the rest of the year, too. The paperback edition of The Good Ally, by our client Nova Reid, is released in October and we’re planning to use the opportunity to celebrate unsung historical heroes such as Cubah Cornwallis (if you’ve read Nova’s book, you’ll get the reference!). Watch this space!
Registered charity number for The Windrush Generation Legacy Association: 1198341