How Solo PR Pros can Embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Living the Life

How Solo PR Pros can Embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Feb 14, 2023 | Living the Life

How Solo PR Pros can Embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Feb 14, 2023 | Living the Life

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a complex and important landscape to navigate in our roles as communicators. The topics can sometimes be uncomfortable but we must move past that discomfort to provide strategic counsel to our clients.

You may not have a direct responsibility for shaping DE&I programs or holding people accountable for their actions, but it is our responsibility to help our clients communicate their efforts, or better yet, know when not to communicate. 

Below are five primary steps that you can take to help drive diverse, equitable and inclusive communications.

1. Know your why

Many discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion focus on race and gender. However, it is important to understand the breadth and depth of DE&I so that you and your clients have a clear “why” behind your efforts. At the core of DE&I is respect for human beings. In addition to gender and race, people have different perspectives, abilities and more. If we narrow our focus to race and gender we are doing a disservice to our clients and audiences. We also miss the opportunity to create richer communications programs that can engage our audiences.

2. Who's in the room

When it comes to DEI, look around at who is in the room when discussions are taking place. 

Do the people in the room reflect their publics? Mistakes are often made when assumptions are made about audiences. Encourage your clients to be intentional about seeking diversity to challenge their ideas. This may mean reaching out beyond the company to community partners, clients or even focus groups.

3. Look inward

Let’s be honest: We all have biases — and one of the best things we can do as communicators is recognize our inherent biases. 

Often that means tapping into your network, your community and your team to gut check things and to get a diversity of opinions. You cannot make communication decisions based upon how you feel or your perceptions alone.

Our own industry provides a great example. The PR industry is neither diverse nor equitable. While we have a ton of women in our profession, men most often occupy the higher roles, and they earn more than women do. 

While these problems won’t be fixed overnight, we have to acknowledge where we are as a starting point.

4. Compassion over cancellation

The world right now seems to have a mentality that’s focused heavily on cancel culture. 

However, I like to stress compassion over cancellation. (Compassion is one of my favorite words!)

I am a huge fan of giving people room to fail. I believe in failure, because that's where we learn our greatest lessons. That's where growth comes from.

Of course, there is a difference between intentionally harming people — being willfully ignorant, and making an honest mistake, as you're learning.

5. Know when not to speak

We help our clients to communicate, but sometimes, there is power in knowing when to be silent.

Today, consumers are demanding corporate activism. A research study conducted by Sprout Social revealed that 66% of consumers want brands to take stands on political and social issues. Yet, companies must ensure that responses are not performative but central to their mission, vision and values. No one company can be an activist for every issue and communication that is not genuine does not solve a problem or move a conversation forward but is noise that can also be harmful to the brand.

Moving forward 

In our profession, we sit in a unique seat of being a neutral party that serves the various publics, but also the organization. We look at things from all sides. That's always been our job. Too often, we forget this incredible assignment that we are lucky to have. 

The PRSA Code of Ethics has great reminders about the responsibilities that are inherent to this profession. The code reminds us that:

We are tasked to be advocates serving the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent.

We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.

We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

I hope we will all commit to always learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. Equip yourself with the right tools, keep listening, be compassionate to yourself and others. We’ll all be better communicators for it.

For more discussion on this topic listen to The ABCs of DEI on That Solo Life Podcast.

Photo: Credit:Charday Penn via istock by Getty Images

Written By Karen Swim