Redefining AAPI Identity in the News Landscape through Representation in PR

young asian entrepreneur of small company putting a adhesive note on glass in office during team meeting formulating business strategies.

[Updated May 2024]

2023 was filled with ups and downs for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, with both celebratory and tragic events making headlines.

Michelle Yeoh's historic wins were a moment of pride, but the community also faced heartbreaking events, like the mass shootings in California over Lunar New Year weekend. Additionally, the AAPI community was thrust into the spotlight as the U.S. threatens to ban TikTok, a Chinese company whose public trials are bringing Americans' xenophobia back into the spotlight. These polarizing events have raised important questions about how public relations professionals can navigate the complex and sensitive issues affecting the AAPI community in today's world.

In today's media-dominated world, representation plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions and fostering social understanding. A significant shift is taking place as the AAPI community and its allies strive to challenge these stereotypes and redefine the community.

Unraveling the AAPI Stereotypes

For far too long, AAPI individuals have been subjected to harmful stereotypes in the media. From the exoticized "model minority" to the perpetual foreigner, these narratives have perpetuated misconceptions and overlooked diversity within the AAPI community.

The tide is turning as AAPI activists, artists, celebrities and community leaders are pushing for a more accurate and multi-dimensional representation in film, television and other media platforms. Films and shows like "Turning Red," "Everything Everywhere All at Once" and "Partner Track" are shifting the narrative for Asians, showcasing divergent paths and perspectives that emphasizes the fact that we are not a monolith.

Progress and the Remaining Gap

When it comes to business news, AAPI voices continue to be overshadowed or excluded. AAPI founders and leaders are rarely recognized in business news. This disparity not only limits the understanding of AAPI contributions to the business world but also perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces biases. Closing this representation gap in business news is essential for fostering an inclusive and comprehensive media landscape.

For the AAPI community, accurate and nuanced portrayals in business news will involve the expertise of the PR profession in ensuring authentic narratives that empower the community and transcend the limitations of stereotypes.

The Underrepresentation of AAPI Professionals

AAPI individuals face a significant underrepresentation in the field of public relations as well. According to Zippia's estimate from 2021, out of 30 million public relations professionals, Asian Americans make up just 4.6% of the workforce. In contrast, White professionals account for 73.2%, followed by Hispanic or Latino (10.5%) and Black (8.7%) professionals. There are close to zero AAPI agency founders and Chief Communications Officers. This lack of representation extends to leadership roles, limiting the inclusion of AAPI perspectives in decision-making processes. And to cultivate change, public relations firms and communications departments need to prioritize diversity initiatives, cultivate AAPI thought leadership, and advocate for representation in decision-making positions.

How to Drive AAPI Representation in Public Relations

  1. Encourage Diversity Initiatives: PR agencies and organizations should prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives that specifically address the underrepresentation of AAPI professionals. This includes actively recruiting and promoting AAPI talent, creating mentorship programs, and establishing equitable hiring practices. By fostering a diverse and inclusive environment, organizations can attract and retain AAPI professionals and provide opportunities for their growth and advancement.
  2. Cultivate AAPI Thought Leadership: PR professionals can work toward positioning AAPI professionals as thought leaders in their respective fields. By supporting their participation in industry events, securing speaking engagements and facilitating media opportunities, PR professionals can elevate AAPI voices and perspectives. This not only promotes individual professional growth but also contributes to a more inclusive representation of AAPI expertise in public discourse.
  3. Advocate for Representation in Decision-Making Positions: PR professionals can advocate for the inclusion of AAPI professionals in leadership roles within the industry. By actively pushing for diverse representation at the decision-making level, PR professionals can ensure that AAPI perspectives are included in strategic communication planning and decision-making processes. This will lead to more comprehensive and culturally sensitive communication efforts that better serve the needs of the AAPI community.

The underrepresentation of AAPI professionals in public relations has significant implications for effective communication and understanding the needs of the AAPI community. It is crucial to amplify AAPI voices to foster more inclusive and effective communication efforts that resonate with the diverse audiences they aim to engage. Through these efforts, we can ensure that AAPI perspectives are adequately represented in business news and beyond, contributing to a more inclusive and culturally sensitive media and news landscape.


Liang Zhao is CEO & Founder at Vansary.