It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message is sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.
Canadian marketing, advertising and communications, it’s the last day of Black History Month. Let’s work together to make sure it isn’t the last day of the year that Black presence and brilliance are held up, seen and supported.
Today, we’ll meet Sharla Farrell, the founder and CEO of Easy Consulting Studio, a public relations and digital marketing agency in Vancouver. Sharla heard about these profiles from a member of Canadian Black Standard (who are doing such amazing work to build a network of—and for—talented Black women in marketing). As a rare Black woman in PR, Sharla simply said, “I would love to raise my hand along with my voice to speak up and share my story with you.”
Sharla is driven by a passion for diversity and inclusion in PR, and is an inspiring advocate for representation in the media. She was attracted to PR because of its ability to communicate the mission, products, and services of companies in which she herself believed. And, Sharla says, “I’m a people person and love communicating, so it was a natural fit for me.”
After finishing Communication Studies at York University, Sharla went on to acquire a Corporate Communications/PR post-graduate certificate, so she could understand the industry better and gain hands-on experience. For that program, Sharla did informational interviews with public relations experts from companies she loved, securing her first internship in the process. And so began her career.
Sharla has been in public relations for more than 10 years. Most of that time, it was difficult for her to find another BIPOC mentor or role model, though more recently she has established connections with women and BIPOC professionals in public relations. They’re people who Sharla can connect with and bounce ideas off, she says. “It’s great to have a community of women that I lean on who have similar lived experiences.”
At Easy, Sharla does her best to prioritize hiring and working with BIPOC employees and vendors to help the PR industry become more inclusive, and would truly love to see more Black professionals enter the business. “The PR industry is notorious for being ‘too white,’ and that may hinder most young people,” she admits. Additionally, she feels BIPOC professionals are often overlooked by senior executives, and that means they don’t get access to the same level of talent development, making it even harder for them to rise.
Sharla takes a visionary, holistic approach when developing communications and social media strategies that are both effective and efficient. Sharla wants to grow Easy, to be able to bring on more employees, especially Black or POC professionals so she can help them cultivate their industry skills. We need to see more people of colour who are in leadership roles, she says, because “that may help to inspire those who are entering the industry.”
Inspired by Issa Rae, Sharla’s personal mantra is, “I want to see everyone Black win.”