“We are good PR people who also happen to be Black,” was a statement often repeated by African American PR and marketing research pioneer, D. Parke Gibson.
Gibson began his career as an advertising representative for Interstate Newspapers. From 1956 to 1959, he served as the public relations manager for the Johnson Publishing Company before joining Sengstacke Publications as promotions director in 1960. Later that year, Gibson broke new ground in multicultural public relations by establishing the first Black-owned PR and market research firm, D. Parke Gibson International in New York. His was also one of the first African American public relations and market research firms that had affiliate offices in the Caribbean, Jamaica and Bermuda respectively. Gibson’s firm was also one of the first to have European clients.
To Gibson, economics crossed all color barriers as evidenced by his groundbreaking published works, Race Relations and Industry, a periodic report on equal-opportunity compliance, and The Gibson Report, a marketing guide on the Black consumer market. Through these publications and his strategic counsel, Gibson was instrumental in encouraging corporate executives to see the economic advantages of developing specific strategies and programs that tap into the growing African American market.
In 1969, Gibson published “The $30 Billion Negro,” an examination of the strength of the African American consumer. The book explained that, to properly monetize the African American population, major corporations “must alter communications strategies to appeal to this increasingly affluent community.” The book was revised and published in 1978 as “$70 Billion in the Black: America’s Black Consumers.”
Thanks to D. Parke Gibson’s critical research and guidance in pointing out the extreme value of the African American market, other Black PR and marketing professionals would find their paths to success a bit less obstructed. Gibson died in 1979 at the early age of 49 from a sudden heart attack.
About the the GSMNS’s PR pioneer series
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The Global Social Media News Service, a news-gathering, reporting and distribution company, proudly presents the stories of an overlooked and underreported group of African American communication pioneers.
Decades before Scandal’s Olivia Pope confidently sashayed across America’s television screens; had unchecked access to a fictional White House; and “fixed” the screw-ups of her former Boss-In-Chief and others, there were real African American men and women who practiced public relations, often in less glamorous surroundings and with considerably less fanfare. Before there was the celluloid Olivia, there was a real Moss Kendrix, D. Parke Gibson, Ofield Dukes and Pat Tobin.
Finally, there are many, many more men and women nationwide poised to take their places in Black PR history: Terrie Williams and former NBPRS President Deborah Hyman (New York); Bruce Crawley and current NBPRS President Richelle Payne (Philadelphia); Lauri Fitz, Gwen McKinney and Wendy Campbell (Washington, DC); David Thompson (Washington, DC); Michelle Flowers-Welch and NBPRS President Emeritus Wynona Redmond (Chicago); Jim Hill (Oakland); Kim Hunter (Los Angeles); and, of course, the “real” Oliva Pope, Judy Smith (Washington/Los Angeles).