Last Wednesday an email chain started to circulate around Hollywood’s press agencies, who represent many of the entertainment industry’s top stars. Over the decades, some veteran publicists were getting sick and tired of the demands of The Hollywood Foreign Press, that coterie of about 90 foreign correspondents who originally banded together to get access to movie stars and eventually came to believe they were friends with them.
The HFPA launched the Golden Globes in 1944, and this past season came under fire after the latest in a series of muckraking newspaper stories over the years exposing their susceptibility to exotic junkets and excessive swag, cozy relationships with publicists, and their myopia about diversity within their membership ranks. After refusing to hire a diversity consultant, the HFPA went ahead and recently put some advisors on their payroll, announcing at the Golden Globes, which were an anemic affair this year, that they would make changes.
On Monday, the day of the Oscar nominations announcement, the email chain had grown and morphed into a series of Zooms, conference calls, and group texts, until a plan of action was made to send a letter to the HFPA by the end of the day with signatures from a burgeoning list of more than 100 PR firms from London and Paris to New York and Los Angeles, including Viewpoint, ID (whose CEO Kelly Bush Novak took a leadership role) to 42West, Rogers & Cowan PMK, Lede PR, Narrative, and many, many more.
Their issues are myriad. But these powerful publicists are willing to withhold the participation of their clients in HFPA events if many of these concerns, listed below, are not addressed. On Monday night, the HFPA board released a statement, pasted below.
March 15, 2021
Greg Goecker, COO & General Counsel
Ali Sar, President
Meher Tatna, Board Chair
646 N. Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
As publicists we collectively represent the vast majority of artists in the entertainment industry.
We call on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to swiftly manifest profound and lasting change to eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA, funded by Dick Clark Productions, MRC, NBCUniversal and Comcast.
In the last decade our industry has faced a seismic reckoning and begun to address its failure to reflect and honor the diversity of our community, yet we have witnessed no acceptance of responsibility, accountability or action from the HFPA, even as systemic inequity and egregious behavior are allowed to continue. We collectively and unequivocally agree that transformative change in your organization and its historical practices is essential and entirely achievable. We want to be part of the solution.
To reflect how urgent and necessary we feel this work is, we cannot advocate for our clients to participate in HFPA events or interviews as we await your explicit plans and timeline for transformational change.
While we stand ready to support your good faith efforts, please know that anything less than transparent, meaningful change that respects and honors the diversity and dignity of our clients, their colleagues and our global audience will result in immediate and irreparable damage to the relationship between our agencies, our clients and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and those who sanction the institutional inequity and insular culture that currently define it.
The eyes of the industry and those who support it are watching.
align Public Relations
American Entertainment Marketing (AEM)
Anderson Group Public Relations
Ascend Public Relations Group
Carol Marshall Public Relations
Cassandra Butcher PR & Marketing
Cinematic Red PR
Core PR Group
Elzer & Associates
Flash Forward Publicity
Full Coverage Communications
Guttman Associates Public Relations
Heidi Schaeffer Public Relations
Image Management PR
Independent Public Relations
Jill Fritzo Public Relations
Joy Fehily Management + Consulting
Katrina Wan PR
Katz Public Relations
LSG Public Relations
Main Stage Public Relations
Marleah Leslie & Associates
McClure & Associates Public Relations
Meghan Prophet Public Relations
MRC Publicity and Marketing
Nancy Seltzer & Associates
Patricola Public Relations
Paula Woods Consultants
Pinnacle Public Relations
Platform Public Relations
PMG-Platform Media Group
Presse Public Relations
Principal Communications Group
Prism Media Group
Public Eye Communications
Red Sea Entertainment
Rogers & Cowan/PMK
Rosenfield Media Group
Schure Media Group
Strategic Heights Media
Strategic Public Relations
SYStrategies & PR
Tencer & Associates
The Chamber Group
The Collins Jackson Agency
The Initiative Group
The Lede Company
The Oriel Company
The Samonte Group
True Public Relations
VanIden Public Relations
Please see the below statement attributed to (and on behalf of) the HFPA board:
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association reiterates that we are committed to making necessary changes within our organization and in our industry as a whole. We also acknowledge that we should have done more, and sooner. As a demonstration of our commitment, the board has unanimously approved a plan to increase membership to a minimum of 100 members this year, with a requirement that at least 13 percent of the membership be Black journalists.
We are also continuing to work on the comprehensive initiatives announced last week. Our outside legal counsel has already begun to work on how to effectively implement transformational changes to our organization, including a comprehensive review of our governance and code of conduct, and Dr. Shaun Harper, our new strategic diversity advisor, has identified the following workstreams:
Analyzing policies, practices, member recruitment activities, and member selection processes through the prism of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI);
Facilitating 20 quarterly trainings over the next five years on DEI topics ranging from implicit and explicit bias to strategically diversifying the membership, evolving the Association with changing demographics, welcoming Black members into an inclusive environment, and ensuring equitable pathways to leadership for women members, to name a few;
Facilitating introductions to prospective strategic DEI partner organizations in journalism and entertainment, and developing a strategy to sustain those mutually-rewarding relationships over many years;
Conducting interviews with members to invite their input on the development and strategic actualization of DEI goals. Also gathering qualitative insights from industry leaders on what they feel the Association must do to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive; and
Systematically assessing and making transparent the Association’s year-to-year progress on DEI goals and commitments.
We have also started meeting with various advocacy groups and racially diverse partners to gather their input and hear their opinions on the additional reforms that need to take place. While we recognize this is a long-term process, we will continue to be transparent, provide updates, and have confidence in our ability to change and restore trust in our organization and the Golden Globes. As we do so, we invite others in the Hollywood community to join us in advancing racial equity in our industry.