By Devon Grosso
Since the killing of George Floyd and the social uprisings across the United States, Furia Rubel has reaffirmed our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. As a team, we have been listening and learning about how to be better allies. In the spirit of that effort, I recently watched and reflected upon “A Discussion of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Public Relations and Beyond.” The program was presented by the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA).
The speakers included:
- David Brown, Diversity Advisor and Professor at Temple University
- Deirdre Hopkins, Philadelphia Public Relations Association President, the first African American to hold the position in PPRA
- Queen Muse, Freelance Writer, Digital Contributor for Philadelphia Magazine, and La Salle University Professor
- Sabrina Ram, Founder and President of Blu Lotus Strategic Communications Consulting Agency & Public Relations Leader at Walden University
The public relations profession was the focal point of the program, however the discussion also reinforced how diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives can apply to all industries. Their conversation provided insights into the ways companies, individuals, and organizations can stimulate authentic diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Additionally, the speakers provided examples of how to take action, promote change, ask questions, and host genuine conversations with the hope that equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism are achieved.
Lead By Example
For Deirdre Hopkins, leading by example is one way that she has helped to change the DE&I conversation and culture in Philadelphia’s public relations community. The current director of public relations for Visit Philadelphia, Hopkins received a resolution from City Council for being elected as the first African American president of the 75-year-old PPRA.
According to The Philadelphia Tribune, when Councilwoman At-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown presented her with a resolution, Hopkins said, “This is an excellent opportunity to be an example to others. My election shows that working as a partner with other people is a key to success. I did not expect to set any historic precedents, but I am glad that my role with PPRA inspires other people. PPRA is open and welcoming to all practitioners who work on their brand or the brands of others.”
DE&I Efforts Require a Long-Term Commitment
Brown emphasized that real action should not simply be a moment in time but rather part of a movement that makes significant changes in our industry. In fact, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes, “Research shows that when a company embraces diversity, it can become more innovative and competitive. These traits are especially important for companies who continue to experience exponential growth, expand their applicant pool and hire more talent.” Read: Building Diverse Teams Takes Time, Patience and Long Term Planning
Education is Key to Corporate and Industry DE&I
Individuals and organizations can pursue many different approaches to instill and encourage change. However, the first step may be education. Both Muse and Ram agree that education is key to creating a more just society – it begins with our youth, but it’s imperative that companies provide DE&I training internally and to their customers.
Taking the time to enlighten ourselves on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism while simultaneously reflecting upon its presence within our industries exposes us to alternative perspectives, inspires dialogue, and provides insights that can help continue to cultivate change.
Do Not Be Performative, Be Authentic and Actionable
The speakers discussed the need to be authentic, actionable, and not performative. This is something Furia Rubel also addressed in its blog, Moving Beyond ‘Slacktivism’ to Create Lasting Anti-Racism Change. We noted that “true activism stands at odds with ‘performance activism’ or the derisive term “slacktivism,” which refers to easily taken actions performed to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause. Often performed through social media, slacktivism involves very little effort or commitment and rarely is backed up by any real action.
Muse said, “Calling out injustice or inequity should become second nature for companies that are truly looking to evolve.”
Accountability Fosters a DE&I Culture
The general definition of accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. For companies and industries like public relations, accountability fosters a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist culture.
The speakers used first-hand testimonials noting that employees also must hold their employers accountable if we want change to happen. Employees and employers can use their voice and the many media platforms to share thoughts, ideas, goals, and DE&I plans to make change. While many companies don’t have DE&I plans, Furia Rubel has provided direction on how to do so with its article, Creating an Anti-Racism Plan: Communications, Policies, and Actions Amidst Protests and Pandemic.
Muse mentioned an individual in the agricultural industry who wanted to share their voice in support of DE&I. He wanted to be authentic, not performative. Muse advised them to speak to their knowledge and expertise. Utilizing the resources available and an analogy related to their industry, they reinforced the company’s commitment and opened the door to conversation.
Provide Resources for DE&I Efforts
While society continues to flourish and progress, it is important that companies, individuals, and organizations utilize available resources, information, and expertise surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Ram noted that LinkedIn can be a great place to ask trusted colleagues for industry and business resources that foster DE&I initiatives.
Other public DE&I resources include:
- Brown University: DE&I Toolkit
- Cision: Resources for Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in your Communications
- Harvard University: The Bookshelf on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Library
- Institute for PR: Diversity 2.0
- PR Council: Diversity + Inclusion
- PRSA: Working Towards a More Diverse Profession
- SHRM: How to Develop a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative
At Furia Rubel Marketing and Public Relations, we have created a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Anti-Racism Resource Center which includes blogs, podcasts, and additional information anyone can use to learn more about how to become a more diverse, inclusive, equal, just and anti-racist society. As our team continues the discussion, our education and learning from one another and our industry peers, we will add content to the conversation to bring about positive change.