Diversity and inclusion efforts cannot be run by HR anymore.
These efforts need to be integrated into business plans and prioritized in companies as a whole. Not just in the HR department.
What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
Diversity refers to the differences in human demographics, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, status, and physical abilities. Inclusion is a culture or environment that is collaborative, supportive, and respectful for all.
Together, both diversity and inclusion work to enhance productivity, creativity, and overall happiness in the workplace. It’s essential to the public relations' function that people within the industry demand diversity and inclusion among employees, clients, and stakeholders.
Diversity and inclusion in PR
As an industry that represents and communicates with people from all backgrounds, it’s imperative that the PR team working on projects puts the focus on the diversity and inclusion of all. There’s a lack of diversity in public relations overall. Most professionals know diversity and inclusion are must-haves, not nice-to-haves, there’s a long way to go in making the profession equally representative of all.
Diversity initiatives are a step in the right direction, but once a team hires more diverse people, they need to ensure those individuals feel included. It’s smart to consider doing a company-wide session on cross-cultural communication. Singling them out, or projecting stereotypes onto those from marginalized groups will decrease retention and ultimately affect your bottom line.
Why are diversity and inclusion important to PR?
Clients and brands have wide audiences, and if your team lacks diversity, then how are you going to authentically represent them?
The simple answer is, you aren’t.
Audiences sniff out unauthentic brands initiatives quickly and before you know it, your attempt to show diversity in your PR strategy will turn into a PR nightmare.
Creates diverse solutions
“Efforts to improve diversity and inclusion are perhaps the most important thing companies can do to foster an innovative workforce while also retaining talent. A wide body of research supports the nearly irrefutable fact that people from varying backgrounds will approach problems very differently. Integrating diverse voices in solving business problems is an invaluable superpower that many companies are just beginning to harness. So not only is focusing on diversity and inclusion good for business, it's good for your brand, too.”
“PR professionals most often are those that craft the message of the organization to the public. PR professionals need to be very conversant about diversity so they can assure communication is culturally relevant and positive to a wide range of diverse audiences.”
“Diversity & inclusion is important to PR professionals because of the impact they have on who is represented in the media. At the Associated Press, a report showed that only 35.5% of bylines go to women - this imbalance has an impact on how often people see role models like them in the media.”
- Stefan Kollenberg, Co-founder & CMO at Crescendo
Reaches your audience
“Diversity and Inclusion are incredibly crucial in PR because whether you are representing a person or a company; the audience your client is trying to reach is probably incredibly diverse. That means the PR industry needs to reflect the diverse audience it serves. Therefore, the PR industry can benefit from embracing, mentoring, and elevating diverse professionals who bring unique perspectives to the table.”
The best companies in the world highly value diversity and inclusion, but how do they do it? There are some tried and true methods that are at the core of diversity in the workplace, like recruiting, diversity training, and conducting exit interviews. But more specifically, how can professionals achieve diversity and inclusion in PR?
Don’t ignore population segments
“Long gone are the days where you can ignore an entire segment of a population. I like to think of what is happening in the make up industry. Rihanna, who comes from a different world, enters the makeup industry with 50 new shades of foundation. The Fenty brand breaks the internet and brings in millions. Suddenly brands that have practically defined the makeup industry for generations are shaken, and begin cranking out shades for everyone or risk losing."
“Understand your own unconscious bias that every human has - the natural tendency to be comfortable around people like ourselves. Take some online classes or read about how to mitigate unconscious bias and learn about other cultures so you can more fairly portray them.”
“Of course we support all of our employees regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. But how do you exhibit that support, and let them know that you actually care about them as people? Well, at Slice, we did it by firing a client after he made blatantly racist remarks in an email. The client itself was excellent for the business in terms of brand name and revenue, but there is no amount of money that we would accept to work with someone who was so clearly out of line with our core values.”
“One of our missions in fashion PR is to create and cultivate a diverse and inclusive culture for the creatives. This spans from working with photographers from all backgrounds to having models with disabilities participate in runway shows, to working with influencers from all walks of life. Fashion is for all and that's what drives us to continue the make the change we want to see. It’s going to take more progressive people that sit in higher positions when it comes to advertising, fashion editors, etc... these people are the ones that can influence a bigger change.”
You came to the right place to begin widening your perspectives and getting thoughts from people outside of your immediate group. You can keep doing this by giving seats at the table to people from a variety of backgrounds, and listening to what everyone has to say. There’s no excuse for lacking diversity and inclusion training in your company, so be a leader and ensure these gaps are closed.
Are you aware of the dangers of cultural appropriation in PR? Educate yourself on the commons pitfalls people fall into when working in a diverse environment.
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Deirdre O’Donoghue is a Content Manager at Nature's Fynd and a former Content Manager at G2. In her free time, you can find Deirdre fostering puppies or exploring the Chicago foodie scene. (she/her/hers)