3 things we learned from Netflix’s Strong Black Lead on how to engage a captive audience

By: Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Orlando Diversity & Inclusion Chair

“…We’re not a genre, because there’s no one way to be black. […] This is not a moment. This is a movement. We are Strong Black Leads. Today is A Great Day in Hollywood.”

Two years ago, Netflix debuted a commercial spot during the 2018 BET Awards celebrating black actors, directives and the creatives who work for the streaming giant. Directed by Lacey Duke, the video was titled “A Great Day in Hollywood,” taking inspiration from the 1958 photo “A Great Day In Harlem,” a black-and-white photograph of 58 jazz musicians in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

Narrated by “Stranger Things” star Caleb McLaughlin, the video features 47 artists including Danielle Brooks, Laverne Cox, Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, Spike Lee, and Alfre Woodard, among others. The video spot launched Netflix’s Strong Black Lead campaign, designed to foster an “ongoing, intentional focus to talk authentically with the black audience.”

Enriching conversations about race and identity are occupying a vital place in today’s culture. In honor of Black History Month, PRSA Orlando would like to celebrate the pioneers leading the charge in creating original content with a strong black identity that reflects its viewers by discussing the lessons we learned from Netflix’s Strong Black Lead campaign.

1. Give black creatives a seat at the table.

When Myles Worthington, manager of brand and editorial at Netflix, first arrived at Netflix in 2016, he noticed that the company’s black stories were not being significantly promoted. He then began connecting with African American media outlets and journalists through a monthly newsletter to build a network. He quickly began to see an increase in coverage of these Netflix features and the campaign grew from there.

If your team is looking to attract and engage today’s black consumers without including their voice in the room, your campaign won’t resonate culturally or experientially.

Based on research conducted by Cloverpop, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87 percent of the time. And according to Nielsen, black consumer brand loyalty is contingent upon a brand’s perception as authentic and culturally relevant. And with African Americans spending $1.2 trillion annually, brands have a lot to lose when they are not authentic or inclusive in their decision-making.

2. Use social media to engage with your audience.

Netflix’s Strong Black Lead Twitter account is overseen by Maya Watson Banks, Netflix’s director of brand and editorial, and a team of black creatives who share a passion for Netflix’s stories and content. The Twitter account has amassed over 119,000 followers because of the authentic language in which they engage with their followers, from sharing excitement over a character or a new series to celebrating the importance of representation during award shows.

Research from Nielsen shows us that black consumers are speaking directly to brands in unprecedented ways and achieving headline-making results. It reads that throughout 2017, popular brands witnessed the power of “Black Twitter” and the brand impact of socially conscious black consumers.

For those unfamiliar with Black Twitter, it is a virtual community and movement that consists of a diverse group of black Twitter users connecting on a variety of issues related to the experience of being black.

3. Focus on your audience’s social footprint.

Strong Black Lead has expanded its presence beyond its Twitter feed to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and even a branded podcast series. The first season of Strong Black Lead launched in February 2019, focused on Strong Black Legends, honoring and showcasing Hollywood icons such as Ruth Carter, Loretta Devine, and Jason Weaver. The second season, Strong Black Laughs, premiered in November 2019 bringing together the black champions of comedy, including Mike Epps, Marlon Wayans, and Nicole Byer.

4. Connecting with your audience authentically takes time.

Should your brand have a presence on every platform? What is the most popular social network for your audience?

Building a successful marketing campaign that authentically connects with black audiences takes time, but it is possible. Focus your marketing dollars on where your audience is and do not sacrifice quality for uninspired content that does not resonate. Marketers must be willing to do the research, understand and embrace their audience, and most importantly, ensure there is enough representation and inclusion at the decision-making level.

What we learned at supper: PRSA members on women in leadership

PRSA Orlando Chapter members met and discussed the importance of women in leadership and more. Their discussion and findings were incorporated into the Diversity and Inclusion whitepaper:

What is the biggest lie working women have collectively accepted as true?

If you put your head down and work hard, you will be seen for your value,” said one Central Florida executive. “I wish that I had been more confident in the past and looked for opportunities to leverage the skills I brought to my role instead of burying myself in work and being passed over for promotions and opportunities.”

That you’ll advance based on your merits,” said another. “That isn’t always the case when you consider office politics and other factors. Merits are just one piece of it.”

Barely had we launched into PRSA Orlando’s second annual Dinner, Diversity & Dialogue before the anecdotes began after some initial thought-provoking questions by the chapter’s 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Chair Alyssa Badalamenti.

A few more strong answers gave us a glimpse into the work-life realities of PR women in leadership roles:

That you can achieve balance, have it all and be a leader at home and at work. Realistically, some days you are a leader at home and some at work and you have to be willing to sacrifice your time. Many spend so much time trying to find that balance that doesn’t exist.”

That I had to make myself fit into the working spaces that were created by men by dressing a certain way, speak how they spoke, and work a certain number of hours. For a long time, I thought that is what it took for anyone to take me seriously. These days I see more women standing up for themselves and negotiating their hours and pay.”

This year’s theme for the discussion focused on “Women in Leadership,” giving 12 PRSA Orlando members the opportunity to discuss the challenges, differences and commonalities they’ve experienced as women who have grown into leadership positions within the public relations profession. The Anderson-Devitt Foundation, a family foundation that seeks to help our community become a better place to live, covered the dinner expenses. The dinner touched upon the role of women in leadership, the importance of gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the intrinsic value of mentorship. We are thankful for the women who attended and appreciate the refreshing candor of their conversation with us.
The goal was to connect and learn from others facing similar challenges or successes. An informal moderated dinner discussion with these 12 Central Florida women provided us with the following takeaways:

GENDER BIAS IMPACTS COMMUNICATION

What we ‘should be’: Gender stereotypes lead to men in the workplace being deemed as strong, competitive or independent, while women have certain characteristics attributed to them such as warm, nurturing, emotional and passive. These stereotypes are not who we are and should not define us.

Perceptions: It’s a challenge to avoid labels. When a woman speaks her mind and is assertive, she may be viewed or labeled as intense and aggressive, but when she doesn’t, she may be seen as quiet and meek. Rather than wasting energy managing perceptions and defining themselves in relation to gender stereotypes, female leaders should remain cognizant of implicit bias, while focusing on their purpose in their role and shared organizational goals.

Expectations: “There is an expectation that I will be nice and “fluffy” about any feedback I’m going to give,” one woman specifically remarked.

EMPOWERED WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN
Mentorship: The encouragement of a colleague or another mentor in the profession can make a huge difference for someone struggling to grow. Counsel from someone who may have had similar experiences is invaluable for women to share with one another and others who may face comparable challenges. If you are a leader, be a leader, but don’t forget to be a mentor as well.

Cultivate relationships: Young professionals should not be afraid of cultivating meaningful relationships with colleagues who will help them reach the next step.

Self-advocacy: Through mentoring, young women should be encouraged to advocate for themselves. Whether it may be for more opportunity or for more pay, we should all be ready to stand for ourselves, no matter your gender.

Overcome imposter syndrome: During the dinner, we heard multiple stories of negative experiences that left our participants questioning their accomplishments and how others perceived their success. By discussing these events, it was clear that the resulting self-doubt was no easy hurdle to leap. Each person who shared their story realized they were not alone in this feeling, and bolstered by the realization, came to see more clearly their own worth. You deserve your success.

FEMALE PRACTITIONERS WANT MEN TO BE ALLIES IN THE WORKPLACE

Becoming allies: We all work better when we work together and several participants in our dinner noted the importance of supportive male colleagues and how such individuals have helped them on the road to leadership. Instead of engaging in call-out culture, it’s important for men in leadership roles to help build the next generation of allies, for women and all diverse individuals. Doing so cultivates a thriving mentoring culture in the workplace and in the community.

Listen: Perhaps one of the most important skills for a leader to possess is the ability to listen. Leaders that actively listen not only build the understanding necessary for seeing the big picture, but they also build trust. Historically, men have been encouraged to boldly share their ideas in the workplace. To build that important ally relationship, women and men need to listen to each other to understand each other’s voices and challenges, and further inspire trust.

Speak up: Merriam-Webster defines an ally as “a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.” In other words, to be a true ally, you must speak up. It is important for leaders to confront sexism in the workplace, as well as speak up when they see a colleague being talked over, interrupted, having someone else take credit for their work, or not being compensated appropriately.

Advocate: The support of a peer can be just as important as that of leadership. Men, regardless of whether they are in a leadership position, can advocate on behalf of female and diverse colleagues, calling attention to and celebrating their accomplishments. These small, but important actions increase the chance of their colleagues’ work being recognized.

YOUR COMPANY’S DIVERSITY TRAINING MAY NOT BE WORKING

Onboarding talking points: Diversity and inclusion should be encouraged at all levels of an organization, from senior leaders to entry-level employees. When these values are at the core of a company’s culture, initiatives such as providing talking points during the onboarding process will empower leaders to call out injustice when they encounter it.

Beyond D&I training: Effective diversity and inclusion training should go beyond the basics and aim for organizational change. Training is more than a box to check and should be an ongoing and collaborative process. A comprehensive diversity and inclusion program will encourage changes that emphasize these values throughout the year.

Check-in with your employees: Employers, as well as the human resources team, should be scheduling regular check-ins with their employees in order to create an inclusive environment where employees feel a sense of belonging. During these one-on-one interactions, managers can ensure their team members feel included, as well as address any behaviors that need to be trained out.

Interview your company: Before accepting a job offer, find out if the company’s values and beliefs align with yours, and do not be afraid to leave a company that does not live up to what it says it represents. Your career is a reflection of you.

CONSENSUS

Unconscious bias has the potential to shape an organization’s culture affecting who gets hired and promoted. Female leaders are currently under-represented in the C-Suite and continue to be affected by unconscious bias from their male colleagues and by double-bind bias – the struggle between what is expected from a leader and from a woman.

To create an inclusive workplace culture and shift the gender balance, proper training is crucial, and companies need to redefine what a leader is. Empowering women, engaging allies in the workplace, and ensuring diversity and inclusion training is current and ongoing are surefire ways to guarantee your company’s bottom-line success.

We welcome suggestions from our PRSA Orlando members on how we can help communications professionals address diversity and inclusion in the profession and at large.

Please reach out to PRSA Orlando’s 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Chair, Veronica Figueroa, to continue the discussion.

Diversity is a great force towards creativity

PRSA Orlando’s goal is to support communications professionals of all backgrounds. This year specifically, one of my goals was to look for opportunities to include everyone in our efforts and build new relationships. You can’t have a diverse membership if you don’t provide a diversity of opportunities.

We are all unique, come from a variety of industries, and are in various stages of our careers. One person cannot define diversity and inclusion.  That’s why this year, we expanded our team with the addition of two diversity and inclusion committee members working with the D&I Chair (me). Together, we shared experiences, brainstormed ideas and put words to action with a few key efforts.

We partnered with the Florida Diversity Council, where we found value in learning and hearing from Central Florida executives about what they’re doing to influence change and address diversity head-on.

We wrote ten blogs on various diversity topics like hip hop culture, engaging physically-disabled audiences, LGBTQ branding, and other focuses that influence and shape us daily.

We held a program on the role and impact of public relations in inclusion and diversity with EA Sports – a company that continues to evolve with its diverse audience.

We held our second annual Dinner, Diversity and Dialogue event fostering a culture of sharing experiences that influence our membership. We looked at the demographics of our association and held a dinner with 12 women in PR to discuss leadership. We learned the challenges they’ve experienced, the areas they wish they had more support in, and the advice they want to give young women in public relations. The findings will be shared in a thought paper that will be published on our blog early next year.

But perhaps what I’m most excited to share is that these types of purposeful, intentional efforts and direct outreach had a lasting impact. Our two D&I committee members came onboard after expressing interest following the first Dinner, Diversity, and Dialogue event. Three PRSA member attendees from the second dinner have officially taken on board roles for next year. This is the kind of change we’ve been looking for: getting members of all backgrounds more engaged with us by providing them opportunities that match their interests.

We found other ways to connect with our members too. We posted social media videos and graphics with quotes from our members on how to effectively communicate and incorporate diversity into their branding and messaging.

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over when there’s so much more we want to do, but I hope you will continue to connect with us over the next year as D&I committee member Veronica Figueroa moves into the D&I Chair role.

Diversity and inclusion isn’t just a buzzword for us. It’s a commitment. It’s woven into who we are–within our practices, within our programs, and within our leadership.  We promise you we’re also taking your feedback to PRSA National to give them the best position to provide us the resources we need to address the diversity and inclusion challenges and opportunities within our profession.

One of the simplest, yet biggest values I believe PRSA brings is having each other as a resource and as a sounding board. As always, we appreciate any feedback, suggestions or ideas on how we can support you.

Have a beautiful holiday.

Best,

Alyssa Badalamenti

PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Chair

Alyssa.badalamenti@ffva.com

More Than A Campaign: Inclusion beyond the rainbow logo

By Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Inclusive marketing has become a consumer expectation. And when companies, such as MAC Cosmetics, Levi Strauss & Co., and many others, have inclusive practices embedded into the fabric of their business, are proud to be a part of the progress toward equality, and are forces of change within the community, they will attract the right talent to deliver their brand message in an authentic way, fortify brand relevancy and drive sales.

“The best LGBTQ marketing or public relations campaign your brand can push is the authentic joy your employees feel while contributing their best selves at work,” said Yolanda Londono. Prior to retiring, London served as Tupperware’s former vice president of global responsibility.

Earlier this year, Londono spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Inclusion Incorporated Florida Regional Forum, an event created for businesses and partners to realize the full benefits of fostering LGBTQ inclusion.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of LGBTQ-inclusive practices on a company’s bottom line and its ability to attract and retain talent. To put it simply, diverse teams deliver superior results. Diversity is essential in marketing, but without an inclusive workplace culture, your message will seem inauthentic.

These days, consumers are looking for inclusion beyond rainbow logos and seasonal campaigns. They’re holding companies responsible for their hiring practices because they are looking to support companies that support its LGBTQ employees.

But despite significant progress, nearly 50% of LGBTQ workers nationwide remain closeted on the job, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s, A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide. The report also shared 31% of LGBTQ employees said they have felt unhappy or depressed at work, with many not reporting incidents because they did not think anything would be done to address it.

What efforts can companies take in order to create an LGBTQ-inclusive environment in the workplace?

Integrate diversity training programs depicting realistic scenarios, including those issues reflecting the LGBTQ community, to directly impact office behavior. These programs can be integrated into already existing diversity and inclusion programs and help build inclusivity from the core.

Create and enforce inclusive policies, and establish procedures for dealing with employees who violate your policies.

Ensure your employee benefits, such as health insurance or life insurance, does not exclude your LGBTQ employees.

Develop gender-transition resources and guidelines for your company’s transgender and gender non-conforming employees.

Become involved in the community by supporting or sponsoring local events, such as Pride parades and festivals, or participating in Spirit Day, an annual awareness day created as a sign of support for LGBTQ youth and to speak out against bullying.

The U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FOUNDATION is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for businesses and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

PRSA Orlando’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee attended the program to be able to share key takeaways with chapter members, and learn how to incorporate Londono’s advice within the public relations industry.

Why should diversity & inclusion matter to the public relations industry?

In honor of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Diversity Month, PRSA Orlando‘s D&I Committee asked its members about the importance of diversity to the industry. Check out what members had to say! #PRDiversity

How hip-hop culture can enhance your career as a communications professional

By Tyrone Law, PRSA Orlando D&I Committee Member

According to the 2019 Nielsen Music Mid-Year Report, the R&B and hip-hop genre is America’s preferred musical style, accounting for 26.5 percent of the total volume of all music consumption in the country. In turn, hip-hop culture influences many of the trends and key moments that engulfs society today. Having a working understanding of popular culture, which currently is heavily driven by hip-hop culture, can help communications professionals create more comprehensive and trendy campaign messaging, cultivate strategic partnerships and expand upon or introduce new target audiences.

Analyzing trends and predicting their consequences 

Throughout history, music has represented and influenced dominant societal movements that transcend race, gender, ethnicity, social or economic status, and sexual orientation. Hip-hop is no different. For example, “Same Love” by Macklemore and Mary Lambert, an American hip-hop song, tackled issues of LGBTQ rights and helped bring awareness to Washington Referendum 74, which eventually legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State. Other R&B and hip-hop influencers, including Childish Gambino, Beyoncé, 50 Cent and many more also have created songs and other content that sway American social norms, trends, language, and politics.  As a result of this growing trend, many brands are studying, embracing and implementing elements of hip-hop into marketing and communications.  A recent example comes from DoSomething.org, which recently teamed up with rapper Silento on its new anti-vaping campaign.

Strategic hip-hop partnerships and activations

A strategic partnership in the hip-hop space can build campaigns that speak appropriately to cultural nuances and resonate with audiences time and time again. This concept has already proven to be successful by several brand activations over the last five years. Some of the most memorable campaigns containing elements of hip-hop are Sprite and Drake, Mercedes Benz and A$AP Rocky, and General Mills and Travis Scott Reese’s Puffs cereal box collaboration. These examples and numerous more have resulted in millions of media impressions and hundreds of stories. The Pew Research Center projected that by the end of 2019, millennials will surpass baby boomers to become the largest living generation in the United States. It just so happens that this same demographic group (millennials) is also the top consumer of hip-hop music.

Embrace the hip-hop culture

Hip-hop culture is everywhere. Broadway has even embraced the genre.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is said to be one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time, holding the record for the most Tony Awards nominations. Communications professionals should immerse themselves in a diverse range of cultures. If you haven’t already, give hip-hop a try; watch hip-hop-themed movies; listen to a new hip-hop artist; hire someone who is more attuned with hip-hop culture to help inspire content and messaging that can bring your results to the next level.

PR campaigns should speak to what is manifested through popular clothing, art, attitude, style, music, video and language. Although culture is a revolving door of rapid changes, I’d bet hip-hop isn’t going to lose steam any time soon. Think critically on how to authentically implement this trend in your communications, and it just may lead you to that award-winning campaign or that promotion you’ve always wanted.

Editor’s note:  October is PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion month. This post supports the organization’s effort of recognizing the importance of continuing to create awareness of this essential topic, and to recommit ourselves to actively promoting change for the betterment of the industry. PRSA is devoted to building consciousness by increasing visibility of D&I standards, resources and best practices for racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, as well as diverse skill sets, mindsets and cultures at all levels of the organization.

Diversity and inclusion must be business-driven to be successful

By Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Chair

“If enhancing diversity and inclusion is not for the right thing, then do it for the business case,” said Deloria Nelson, President of Authentic Culture & Engagement Solutions.

Nelson consults with Fortune 500 companies on how to better their diversity and inclusion goals by developing customized workforce solutions for their teams. She likes to give company leaders the business case for why engaging diversity and inclusion matters—not just for people, but also for bolstering the company’s productivity, performance, and bottom line.

Once an executive team understands the business case, the Human Resources department typically takes the reins. But it takes more than implementing a new hiring policy to become a company with an inclusive culture.

“Diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be business-driven and integrated in the business culture, not just a standalone HR initiative,” Nelson said. “CEO support and transparency are critical to creating longevity and stickiness in company culture because it drives accountability and credibility.”

Nelson recently spoke to members of the Florida Diversity Council at its May program, sharing plenty of statistics and examples of how engaging in these practices will keep your company at pace with evolving needs for better workplace practices.

“We are living in a political era in which more companies are determining that they need to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts,” she explained. “But it is not political; it is a people thing.”

Nelson says it’s okay to be vulnerable when making decisions in diversity and inclusion engagement, as long you’re sincerely trying.

“Just be willing to take the risk—even if you make missteps along the way,” she advised.

She does, of course, recommend some important guidelines. Keep in mind this advice when evaluating your organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

 

Be aware of unconscious bias

Write objective skill sets in job postings and take a deep look at your words, phrases, and sentences that may be biased. Ensure there is a diverse slate of candidates interviewed by a diverse hiring panel. Diversity officers at the company are great, but how can one person define diversity and inclusion? Look at your leaders, too. Notice that representation is typically minimized as you move up in leadership positions. Be sure to give adequate support, tools, and resources equally for deserving individuals to progress at the company.

 

Be careful with “culture fit”

What does your office culture really mean? In our minds, we struggle with reconciling a new image of an old position. Be careful with “culture fit”—culture should evolve to let more people in it. Instead of looking for a “culture fit,” look for a “culture add,” or a candidate who will bring diverse opinions and experiences to the company’s culture.

 

Set goals and be humble

Balance strategy and tactics to keep people engaged. Be strategic, but don’t be so strategic that no one knows what you’re doing. Ensure you provide transparency, have CEO support, and have a “champion.” There’s no one way to do it right, but any movements, even baby steps, will take you in the right direction. But don’t toot your horn just because you’re better than you were before. The goal should be forward improvement, not to compare to others, or to compare to your lack of progress in the past.

 

Be yourself and learn from others

Don’t wear a mask! Think about how much energy it takes to be someone else at work just to fit in. And on the other side, learn from others. Don’t say things about someone’s culture without actually getting to know someone in the culture. Remember that we have more in common than we have differences. With proper relationships, you can avoid a diversity and inclusion crisis. When you prioritize inclusion, diversity will happen naturally because people enjoy working where they feel included.

 

Why isn’t it working?

If your company culture has not changed after implementing new practices, understand why. Nelson says it’s typically because of one or more of the following factors: fear of change, privilege, traditions, culture fit, loss of culture, or “sacred cows”—an idea or custom held (unreasonably) because it’s been ingrained in the company for a long time. There are often psychological and system barriers in place that can hurt behavioral change. Don’t be afraid of removing them.

 

One thing you can do immediately is make it mandatory to diversify candidate slates.

“It’s just like online dating,” Nelson explained. “When you open your scope of exposure, you open your culture to diversity.”

The Florida Diversity Council is a nonprofit organization that serves as a resource for diversity best practices and leadership development in Florida. The May program was part of a monthly series of events with the goal to influence leaders in the Central Florida community on what it truly means to engage diversity within company leadership.

PRSA Orlando’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee attended the program to be able to share key takeaways with chapter members, and learn how to incorporate Nelson’s advice within the public relations industry.

Things to consider when recruiting PR talent from diverse backgrounds

By Tyrone Law, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member

Not long ago, in an effort to elevate my career to the next level, I shifted into “job search mode” and my quest to step into a new public relations role began. After several interviews, I began to more deeply contemplate the notion that I’d only be willing to take my PR talents to an organization that embraced diversity in a dynamic way—a company whose senior leadership truly reflected diversity and inclusion.

According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers say that when evaluating companies and job offers, it is important to them that the company has a diverse workforce, and when it comes to leadership diversity, the survey showed that two in five people do not think their company has a diverse executive team. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 78% Caucasian, 17% Hispanic American, 13% African-American and 6% Asian-American.

In 2019, it’s easier than ever for jobseekers to log into sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to absorb firsthand what a company’s current workforce looks like. Future talent also can effortlessly see right through companies or organizations that merely go through the “diversity and inclusion checkbox” while failing to staff a truly diverse workforce or leadership team. You know those companies that claim they “champion diversity and inclusion” because it’s all over their website, but show very little concrete evidence in support of that statement.

Staffing your top-level PR positions with a diverse mix of talent representing a multitude of different cultures, disciplines, ideals, gender, disabilities and sexual orientations, fosters campaigns that truly reflect the society in which we live. Unique perspective is invaluable. A study from global management firm Boston Consulting Group found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.”

Get out of your comfort zone and engage diverse communities

Collaborating with local organizations that support communities underrepresented in the PR industry, recruiting talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and networking with organizations made up of professionals with disabilities are great examples of ways companies can step out of their typical recruiting tactics and engage talent in new communities.

The PR industry certainly isn’t the worst industry in its diversity and inclusion efforts, but there are still many strides that must be made towards representation and inclusion. Recruiting diverse PR talent isn’t just a matter of morality, it affects a company’s bottom-line and evolves with the changing demographics of our audiences.

Engaging the unengaged: Focusing on minority audiences in the tourism industry

By Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee 

Our need for exploring and adventure connects us as people, allowing us to create lasting memories. And while traveling can be stressful at times, for persons with disabilities the challenges can often feel overwhelming.

According to The World Bank, one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.

With an awareness that understanding the needs of disabled persons can result in increased visitation, Experience Kissimmee (Osceola County’s tourism authority) is leading the charge locally in promoting diversity and inclusion in their marketing and public relations efforts.

Recently, Experience Kissimmee partnered with leading accessible travel blogger Cory Lee (pictured above) from CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com, where he visited the destination and shared wheelchair accessible activities in Kissimmee–from soaring over alligators at Gatorland to exploring the town of Celebration.

Cori Powers, director of communications at Experience Kissimmee, shared with us why diversity and inclusion are crucial to the travel and hospitality industry.

Why is it important for Experience Kissimmee to promote accessible tourism?

As a destination, we promise a vacation where sunny hellos, out-of-this-world adventures, and wow-worthy experiences are always included. That promise pertains to everyone. Part of Kissimmee’s appeal is its accessibility. We put the focus on fun, so that accommodations, transportation, and access is as worry-free as possible. It’s important our messaging promotes that in Kissimmee, the entire family, no matter age, race, style, or culture, stay and play together.

Why should diversity and inclusion matter to the travel and hospitality industry?

The travel and hospitality industry needs to be representative of the population it serves. As buying power shifts, the industry needs to work to acknowledge and pivot messaging and communications efforts to fit individual audiences and needs.

How else is Experience Kissimmee featuring diversity and inclusion in their public relations efforts?

Whether we are talking to consumers, groups, event planners, event rights holders, or travel agents, our messaging is that Kissimmee is accessible. We work to educate different audiences that all are welcome here. We achieve this by promoting our partners and events that share our focus on inclusion and diversity, making it easy for us to tell that story.

As you already know, we hosted blogger and disabled traveler Cory Lee in Kissimmee. At Gatorland, he was able to zipline 350 feet through the air right over the Alligator Breeding Marsh on the Gator Gauntlet. We’ve also worked with LGBTQ influencers such as Perez Hilton, distributed a press release touting Kissimmee’s autism-friendly attractions and accommodations, and constantly showcase our hotels and vacation homes’ ability to accommodate any special needs.

We also have established local events that help promote our destination as inclusive and diverse. Experience Kissimmee sponsors PrideFest Kissimmee in June, a celebration grounded in welcoming and acknowledging the impactful contributions of our local LGBTQ community. Our area celebrates diversity through many multicultural events, such as the Caribbean Fusion Festival and the Cuban Sandwich Festival.

As public relations professionals, we need to engage a focus on minority audiences to make them our regular audience because ultimately, diversity and inclusion is something that all customers, including discerning travelers, notice and value.

Silence is not golden when there is an expectation of caring

By Alyssa Badalamenti, PRSA Orlando Diversity and Inclusion Chair

When you don’t respond to something within a crisis, your silence makes it seem like you don’t care.

We know this specifically as public relations professionals because this is PR Crisis 101.

When a large mistake is made within your company and it affects people negatively, people expect a company response to show you care.

When a tragedy happens within the public, people expect (or at least appreciate) a company response to show you care.

If you don’t publicly recognize that you do care about diversity and inclusion, your silence will make it seem like you don’t care.

What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do in this situation?

Big brands responding to a lack of diversity and inclusion in recent years has created a shift and an expectation for all companies to step up. Each of your stakeholders in the case of diversity expects you to publicly address it as part of your company values.

Will silence be seen as indifference?

Calling out that you’re supportive of actionable policies and positive changes made to address diversity and inclusion is the expectation. If you’re not part of this message, it could be perceived that your company is indifferent to it.

Will those who matter to us expect us to do or say something?

It’s become equally as important to the public as it is to employees and stakeholder groups that you are using good workplace practices and taking steps to make everyone feel included and recognized.

And minority group or not, your most loyal and active audience expects you to be on top of diversity and inclusion. With appropriate diversity and inclusion messaging, even a latent public can become closer to your brand, which is good for business too.

If we wait to respond, do we lose the ability to influence the outcome?

You know the saying, “Now is already too late.” And chances are you’re already behind on this effort.

But in this case, it’s never too late to take a stance publicly because your audience expects your efforts to constantly evolve.

This isn’t a “set it and forget it” message.  Diversity and inclusion messaging should continue as long as you expect your company to thrive.

Give diversity and inclusion the time it’s worth by making company efforts more dynamic, then communicate the message that you do care loudly and often. Your audience expects it.