Diversity Blog: Our Numbers Do Not Decrease Our Impact

Authored by Mimi Flatley, APR, Co-VP of Accreditation

A few years ago, a colleague and I spoke during a university communications class about how we started in our respective careers. We began by asking the soon-to-be grads where they hoped to work after college: For a sports team, at a large health care organization, in the hospitality industry, for a leading tech company, and so on. I wasn’t surprised that not one answer was the industry I’ve spent the past decade working in—the industry that builds the stadiums, hospitals, theme parks and offices these students hoped to work in—construction.

Communications in the construction industry was not on my radar after college. But there is no place I’d rather be. While the numbers aren’t that impressive – women make up less than 9 percent of the construction workforce according to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) – the women I work with truly shine.

Companies who “get it” address the gaps and offer ways to support diverse groups. At Turner Construction, for example, our Women Impacting Turner (WIT) employee resource group serves as a support system in the company to foster awareness, respect and inclusion. Turner Orlando’s WIT group includes a roster of more than 50 employees with a mission to work as a diverse team to build knowledge of business and leadership skills, and empower each other to develop and maintain work environments that recognize and cultivate a culture of diversity.

Each year during NAWIC’s Women in Construction Week, the group organizes professional development, community outreach, and networking events to highlight women in our industry. This helps empower women in construction. Just this past week, the group attended jobsite tours hosted by female project managers, attended safety classes, and highlighted the success of tradeswomen, an even smaller percentage of the construction workforce (3 percent).

As a communications professional, I’m glad the numbers don’t scare me. In my role today, I’m surrounded by engineers, safety managers, superintendents, and project managers – women – who are building the future. When women support each other, our numbers do not decrease our impact.

What we learned at supper: PRSA members on diversity and inclusion

Authored by Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair for the PRSA Orlando chapter

The PRSA Orlando chapter recently selected 12 members of diverse backgrounds to participate in an open discussion on diversity and inclusion. During the first-time experimental event, Dinner, Diversity, and Dialogue provided an opportunity for sharing personal experiences followed by a focused brainstorm on ways to support PRSA members at their organizations and extend the chapter’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The participants ranged from a diverse demographic makeup of varied genders, races, religions, orientations, ages, experience levels and industries. We also engaged a facilitator, Bill Hertan, to guide our conversation. He brought with him 30 years of experience in leadership and organizational development. He has lead diversity and inclusion efforts at several Fortune 500 companies and runs his own consultancy.

We immediately heard comments such as, “I’ve been waiting for something like this,” and, “I’m so glad PRSA Orlando is stepping up to the plate to directly address diversity.”

We learned that diversity and inclusion guidelines could help members when they face challenges within their own organizations, and members could use support from PRSA by creating its own best practices.

But what does a diversity and inclusion model look like?

One idea was to mimic the PRSA Code of Ethics model and co-produce guidelines with other associations, specifically with human resource management groups. PRSA National has also created a Diversity and Inclusion toolkit for chapters to use to increase diversity and inclusion within their membership. This toolkit could serve as a starting point for organizations to create their own diversity and inclusion model.

While there are not yet structured diversity and inclusion policies for communications professionals like there are for ethics, diversity and inclusion starts with intentional workplace practices. There are common themes and insights that can be used to benchmark progress. For example, we learned that simply acknowledging how our chapter embraces diversity and how we aspire to improve our efforts resulted in positive feedback and discussion. Companies that endeavor to address the issue will also experience deepened morale.

Below are some key takeaways from our discussion at supper:

 

INITIAL THOUGHTS

  • Talk about it, talk about it, TALK ABOUT IT.
    • Never stop talking about ways to advance diversity and inclusion.
  • “When I walk into a room, there’s nobody that looks like me.”
    • Look around the table. Representation matters.
  • It’s not just a box to check.
    • It’s important to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

 

FROM THEN TO NOW

  •  BACK THEN: Leave yourself outside of the door when you go to work.
    • “I remember being told, ‘Don’t tell anyone in business because you’ll never work the same way again.’”
  • TODAY: Bring your full self to work.
    • “I came out at work by simply putting a photo of my family at my desk.”

 

HOW DOES DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AFFECT OUR COMMUNICATION?

  • Experiences define our world view.
    • Our unique experiences shape how we communicate.
  • Lead by example.
    • We tend to look toward large organizations to lead the way in how we communicate to diverse audiences. Calling out prejudice is important, even if the company is not directly involved.
  • Learn from mistakes.
    • We also learn from other companies’ mistakes regarding diversity. Inaction can be perceived just as negatively as being tone-deaf.
  • Executive involvement is important.
    • Your level at the company typically affects your comfort level of addressing bias.

 

IT STARTS AT THE HR LEVEL

  • Hire leaders who “get it.”
    • Hire leaders who promote an environment of “being yourself.”
  • Write it in the job description.
    • Emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in job descriptions.
  • Set the tone.
    • Highlight the business case for expanding diversity and inclusion goals.
  • Is it apparent in the company culture?
    • Embed diversity and inclusion in the company culture in specific ways.
  • Measure against goals.
    • Could accountable actions as part of the employee review process help advance diversity and inclusion?

 

WHAT COMPANIES CAN DO FROM THE GET-GO:

  • Acknowledge: Acknowledging that you want to improve diversity and inclusion in your organization speaks loudly.
  • Communicate: Proper communication is the cornerstone of addressing diversity head-on.
  • Represent: Provide visual representation of diversity in photos that convey a message of inclusion.
  • Guide: Provide solid tools and guidelines of diversity and inclusion within your branding and strategy.

 

THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF EQUALITY

  • Intent is not equal to development.
    • The recent example of Starbucks holding an employee diversity training day to address racial bias seemed like a “quick fix” attempt instead of providing a deeper development of its company culture.
  • Not everyone feels comfortable talking about it.
    • It’s wise to incorporate anonymous surveys to make sure everyone has a voice.
  • AND, it doesn’t always need to be talked about.
    • Making comments about differences, over-correcting, or including someone just to “check the box” can actually make that person feel less included or singled out.
  • It takes more than one person.
    • Just having a “Diversity and Inclusion Leader” is not enough. One person cannot represent an entire group.

 

CONSENSUS

 At the very least, the consensus was that the public relations profession can promote the importance of diversity and inclusion within agencies, corporations and with clients through strategic counsel, communications and recruiting.

Companies should start by implementing or revamping diversity and inclusion policies. It’s equally important to hire diverse talent that reflects their audiences to better understand unique cultural perspectives.

By embedding diversity and inclusion within company culture, incorporating good workplace practices, and having a team that represents diverse individuals, companies can better relate to their audiences, avoid tone-deaf mistakes, and enhance their business.

We look forward to hearing more from you about how PRSA can help communications professionals address diversity and inclusion in the profession and at large. We welcome suggestions from all of our members. Please reach out to PRSA Orlando’s Diversity and Inclusion Chair, Alyssa Badalamenti, to continue the discussion and provide feedback.

Recap on what happened at the Best of #PRdiversity Twitter chat

by Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Chair

@PRSAOrlando, your chapter implemented a consistent diversity and inclusion blog that addresses timely topics, but also isn’t afraid to rid formality – share top lessons learned?

     PRSA Orlando: We heard feedback from our members that it was refreshing to hear our chapter address #PRdiversity topics in a casual way – just like we were talking at lunch — rather than a formal “by the book” approach. We learned that being direct in addressing #PRdiversity topics allowed opportunity for more focused discussion with our members. This inspired us to create a new event called Dinner, Diversity & Dialogue to continue those conversations.

Making diversity and inclusion part of the business strategy should be a top priority for all @PRSA @PRSSANational chapters for #PRdiversity to be effective. @PRSAOrlando, last calendar year, your chapter reinstated a Diversity & Inclusion Chair, one you hadn’t had for some time – what led to the reinstatement & what are lessons learned?

     PRSA Orlando: Orlando has always been a melting pot, especially because of our welcoming tourism. When the Pulse nightclub tragedy occurred in 2016, all of us in the Orlando community become a voice to remind each other and others how Orlando is proud to be diverse and inclusive. As Orlando strongly united as #OnePulse, the PRSA Orlando chapter BOD unanimously approved the re-establishment of a D&I Chair. #PRdiversity has become a focus for all members of the board – and something we expect to build on indefinitely.

You’ve been named an award-winning @PRSA chapter in 2018 for #PRdiversity – what are you most proud of looking back at the year when it comes to championing diversity & inclusion in our practice?

     PRSA Orlando: We are most proud of our members. We have given our members more of a voice through our initiatives, and are still learning and identifying approaches to be more effective. Check out some of our member quotes on what #PRdiversity means to them: https://prsaorlando.org/diversity-inclusion/

Following up on the last question, looking ahead to 2019, what are your plans/goals for #PRdiversity within your chapter?  Or in general for @PRSA @PRSSANational?

     PRSA Orlando: We plan to take our findings from #PRdiversity discussions and programs to produce a white paper addressing what D&I looks like to our members. We also plan on partnering with other great associations to create some best practices for public relations professionals.

As we wrap up our final #PRdiversity Twitter Chat for 2018, we’ll ask for any closing thoughts from our guests?

     PRSA Orlando: Don’t be afraid to address what you consider as taboo – just TALK about it! Ask questions to learn, discuss to consider, and take action to create positive change. Thank you @PRSAdiversity for honoring us with an award for our chapter efforts in diversity and inclusion this year. We look forward to learning more from @PRSANational and other chapters to make a continuing impact.

Follow us at @PRSAOrlando and follow #PRdiversity and @PRSADiversity to read more.

Effectively reach key messages to audiences of all ages in a multimedia generation

By Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Chair

By now, everyone has replaced ‘millennials’ with ‘Gen X’ in their editorials, and millennials are looped in with the previous generations who grew into having negative stereotypes of the newest generation. Why is it that with every generation we get into this cycle of comparing habits and perceiving them to be negative? Why does it have to be this way? Often, I hear it’s because “they don’t understand.” As communicators, it’s our job to understand our audience, but how can we communicate properly if we don’t shape our messages for a diverse audience? Rather than writing the same way we always have because it makes sense to us, we could instead seek input from generations outside our own. How we work, communicate, and consume is different among generations. By understanding why we have differences and what they are, we can communicate more effectively to our audiences.

Take a look at this chart taken from Dr. Susan MacManus’ editorial column, “Shining the Spotlight on Florida’s Youngest Registered Voters: A Generational Approach.” In her column, Dr. MacManus writes, “Each generation is different demographically and in its exposure to various major economic, social, technological, and political events that can impact vote decisions.” Each generation has had its own shaped opinions based on major life events and the presidential office held. Each life event also holds different weight in terms of importance. Add on differences in race, gender, religion, etc…it’s no wonder why we often hear that “they just don’t understand.”

Jennifer J. Deal, a research scientist with the Center for Creative Leadership, argues that the generations now of working age value essentially the same things as older generations.  “The so-called generation gap is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fueled by common insecurities and the desire for clout,” she says.  It’s easy to understand that each generation has had different experiences and thus probably has a unique perspective to communications and how they represent their work and their organizations. And naturally through the growth of resources, technology and transparency, public relations is going through its own generational growth. However, public relations has essentially stayed the same in its core values and foundation of key messages. Public relations practitioners in any generation could benefit by understanding generational differences and seeing the value in working as part of a multigenerational team. We just need to ask the right questions.

By working with multigenerational teams, we can more effectively communicate by seeking input on how key messages come across to different generations.  According to the Pew Research Center, there was a drop in media viewership from the last calendar year across most modes (newspaper, cable/network/local television, and digital-native news), with the exception of radio and social media. Communicators have always needed to be aware of how their audiences consume media and adapt to the changing trends; this is true for any generation.  Communicators can be successful by understanding how each generation consumes media, and by using a variety of communication types to reach their target audience. Example: “Check it out” versus “You may find the video below;” It’s especially important for internal communicators when talking to employees of diverse age groups. Communicators would benefit from studying and/or talking to generations different than their own to ensure key messages reflect the audiences being communicated to. Just remember, one way of communication is not better than the other; they’re just different approaches to relaying the same key message to an audience that understands it better.

August is PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Month

By Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Chair

PRSA recognizes August as its Diversity and Inclusion month, a time to focus the spotlight on advancing the profession through representation of the hardworking communications professionals of diverse backgrounds and thought.

Throughout the last couple of months, we’ve asked our members to share with us what diversity and inclusion means to them. Through these messages, we’ve been able to gain a better understanding of how our chapter defines diversity and inclusion. Check out our Twitter and Facebook as we share more quotes this month and in the long-term so that we can continue to shape what diversity and inclusion means to the PR profession.

PRSA’s National Diversity and Inclusion Committee has also been working diligently to advance the diversity discussion through industry events, mixers, awards and more. The PRSA Orlando chapter has followed suit. We will continue to work toward making diversity and inclusion a yearlong recognition by increasing the visibility of our members and providing best practices and resources to advance diversity in all levels of the profession.

Do you have a quote to share? Send an email to Alyssa Badalamenti on what diversity and inclusion means to you.

Diversity Should Be Celebrated All Year Long

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

June 12 marked two years since the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando. 49 beautiful lives were taken senselessly. Through the heartbreak, our city has since become more unified in its strong voice for diversity and inclusion because of who we are and who we represent. But when remembering this tragic incident and many others along the way, it’s hard not to be reminded of how much hate still exists in the world.

“Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity.” – Robert Kennedy

That being said, while we can’t raise a magic wand this minute, we can do our part to build a greater immunity to hate and be more representative of diversity by deliberately being inclusive within our companies, our associations, and our own daily lives.

Just check out this list of 26 companies who celebrate diversity all year long. These companies are LIVING their differences, not just preaching it. Embracing all types of people, ridding the norms, and seeing a good person as a good person are what help shape D&I for all members of society.

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Recently our PRSA Orlando chapter board of directors decided we wanted to make a statement to our members that reflects our chapter on diversity and inclusion in addition to PRSA’s national defined role. After some brainstorming, we quickly realized….ONE STATEMENT? That’s like trying to sum up 200+ resumes on one Post-it note. Rather than providing one local statement that represents our chapter, we decided to reach out to our members to gather their own thoughts directly about D&I and use it to enforce our policies more authentically. Because like true practice, we should always incorporate our members into the discussion.

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” – Max de Pree

Here’s a little glimpse of what’s to come:

One size does not fit all: Diversity within communications roles

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

I previously led communication strategies for an accounting firm and gained invaluable experience from this role. However, I remember feeling a little “out of the group” among my peers who had the traditional PR role for the local agencies who market for big brand names. Here I was, building out tax marketing lingo for a campaign I was proud of, yet sensed it wasn’t “sexy” enough to share with others.

Then, a PRSA member asked me to lunch so I could share some advice on best practices for email headlines based on what I’ve learned from my job. I was honored. Although I knew that I could write a book on the subject, I assumed this person would rather ask someone else since my financial audience may have been too lackluster.

Removing bias and embracing differences

This encouraged me to remove my own bias within the diversity of communications roles and instead embrace the differences between us. PRSA has given me reassurance that all of us have something sexy about our jobs because we all have something the others do not.  Each of us brings something unique to the table. That’s what makes us stand out from the crowd.

Besides, we already have diversity in most other aspects of our roles, despite the strength that unifies us by being in the same industry. Some of us are single executives. Others have three children and two pets. Some work from home. Some communicate to employees and some communicate to the media. Some work on websites while others tweet.

One size does not fit all

Just like how our society continues to make changes to be more inclusive, we as a profession are doing the same thing. Last year, PRSA changed the use of “public relations professional” to “communications professional.”  This will better reflect our membership base and avoid having members feel “out of the group” because our profession expands beyond traditional PR roles. This change will help show that PRSA encompasses a society for all communications roles to learn and advance from.

Our network of members provides a huge benefit to continuing your professional growth.  So no matter what company you work for, what title you have, or what audience you communicate to, we are all unique and diverse within communications; and we all have something to learn from one another.

Representation Matters

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

The animated film, Coco, recently won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song at this year’s Academy Awards. The film represented a young, Mexican boy who had dreams of becoming a musician; a heartfelt story with culture and diversity beautifully woven in. But it was Director Lee Unkrich’s words in his acceptance speech that really stuck with me:

“With Coco we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look, and talk, and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

A small fire of emotion lit inside me after hearing this impactful sentiment because it resonates in so many places and among so many matters in this world. And while increased representation advances diversity and inclusion throughout all industries, it’s also directly important to our very own public relations industry. PRSA’s defined role in diversity and inclusion efforts is to reach and involve members who represent a broad spectrum of differences. Students and entry-level roles must be able to visualize themselves as a PR professional, and that goes hand-in-hand with actually seeing the representation of someone similar within our industry.

How else can we aim to involve members and learn from others if we don’t have representation of differences in the PR field? It’s probably safe to assume without researching statistics that several decades ago there weren’t many differences among the working individuals in our profession. Now, we have better resources, better strength, and better representation to include diverse members.

And by having diverse members, we can benefit by educating each other about our differences and provide knowledge and support to help each other succeed in PR. For example, representation of millennials has certainly correlated to evolving types of communication methods. Millennials have built momentum and created a standard in connecting in new ways with the media and the public.  Just look at police departments and their ability to communicate faster during a crisis by using social media. And yet, those same millennials are learning what actually to say during said crisis on social media, among many other tactics that come with experience, from their baby boomer peers.

If we continued as a profession to be more purposeful in increasing representation and talking about our differences, public relations professionals will have a continuous back-and-forth learning experience. The opportunities to grow professionally and personally are endless when there’s representation of diversity and inclusion within our own stories.

A Louder Voice for Diversity & Inclusion

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

The last 12 months have highlighted diversity and inclusion in such a powerful way that it makes my role as Diversity and Inclusion Chair only a microscopic piece of a much larger initiative in our lifetime.

As a public relations professional (and an ethical and moral human being), I have been encouraged by the power of voice in the last few months, albeit the horror stories we’ve read across headlines. Because let’s admit it: this isn’t just about the recent sexual harassment allegations. This is about shifting the longstanding choice to look away or avoid change from what we’ve always known to be. The brunt of the Harvey Weinstein acts coming to light may have given buoyancy to a louder and more diverse voice.  The response has even become a movement for greater awareness, listening, and action.

When we think about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we may have always ignored the fact that there were no women keynote speakers planned at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. We may have always ignored that although H&M communicates to a diverse audience, their recent misstep seemed to disregard an entire part of that audience. We may have always been uncomfortable with asking the right questions to gain knowledge about how to become more inclusive and diverse in our own organization, or in our own SELF!

What this movement teaches us is to embrace our differences and work together to understand each other so we can improve our skills in collaboration.

PRSA defines diversity and inclusion as follows:

“To champion diversity of thought, cultures, disciplines, ideals, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation and age in order to develop an inclusive society. By reaching and involving members who represent a broad spectrum of differences, we will encourage and educate members about the benefits of a diverse profession by providing professional development, knowledge and support to help them succeed in public relations.”

Champion is more than following; it’s being the one to make the difference and take the action.

Reaching other members and involving those who represent differences will educate ourselves and others to better our profession and help us succeed.

This is our time to use the momentum of truth and voice; to encourage diversity and make an impact so that we can support each other and be inclusive in all aspects of PR—our messaging, our teams, our audiences, and our thoughts.

Even in my “microscopic” role, I am empowered to be a part of the larger initiative with a loud voice and a strong collaboration among all those who will join me in becoming an agent of diversity and inclusion.

How Nonverbal Communication Speaks Loudly Through Diversity

By Alyssa Badalamenti, Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Over the holidays I traveled to three different countries – all of which I didn’t speak the native language, but learned a few key phrases to help me communicate throughout the day.

What I quickly realized, though, was even though I could speak “enough,” the language didn’t actually help me as significantly as I thought it would. Instead, while trying to speak my message, there were follow up questions I couldn’t understand. So, without even thinking, my reaction was to respond with my hands and animate nonverbal cues to communicate more fully. In turn, the others responded the same way, and we actually had a short conversation that came to the point naturally, and without even speaking to each other.

This nonverbal communication helped me through three language barriers, so much that I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage not knowing the native tongue. It’s amazing how through simply using your hands and expressing emotion through your face to set the tone spoke more loudly than “il conto per favore,” which plainly means, “may you please bring the bill?” I added in nonverbal signs for how the food was great and that we were pleased and ready to go.

Of course, there are cultural differences among nations that prove some nonverbal behaviors vary in their message, but for this example let’s put that aside and instead focus on the fact that those of different nations are still human beings. Good communication carries strongly all over the world.

In 79 AD, on the southwest coast of Italy, the extremely dangerous volcano, Mount Vesuvius, explosively erupted over the city of Pompeii. All those residing there died instantly of thermal shock. Back then (and for thousands of years), settlements painted and drew pictures on the walls of their city and homes to depict expression. Even though we lost the chance to learn about the people of Pompeii through written language, we’ve learned about them through their paintings. When viewing just one, we see a narrative and several learnings of how they lived. These stories are told without words, yet we can interpret the message of what they mean just by focusing on the details of the painting. Pretty remarkable.

So what does this mean to me—to you? This is more than the lesson of “nonverbal communication is still communication.” This trip and these type of experiences actually instead remind me to not overthink things when working in communications among different audiences. Simple pictorial or nonverbal communications speak loudly. Getting to the point is the most important part, and be aware of facial expressions that set the tone of your messages. Nonverbal signals speak loudly to those of all backgrounds, so never underestimate your ability to communicate effectively and authentically to those who are different than you.