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The Significance of Black History Month in 2021

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

Traditionally, the month of February is dedicated to celebrate the history and accomplishments of African Americans and their central role in American history. However, given the events that took place in the last year, such as protests calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality, Black History Month has more significance than ever in 2021. This year, it is important to go beyond the 28-day celebration and instead leverage our roles as communicators to educate our audiences, uplift Black voices and stories, and continue to advocate for change. 

What follows are quotes from PRSA Orlando members when asked what Black History Month meant to them and asked about its significance in 2021:

Kimberly Allen, Communications Coordinator, Seminole State College of Florida:

“Black History Month means honoring the stories and successes of African Americans and highlighting how these contributions form a vital piece of the collective American history. Personally and professionally, it reminds me of those who laid the foundation for who and where I am today and on whose shoulders my accomplishments rest. As a communicator, the celebration of Black history implores me not only to remember the stories of Black achievement from the past, but also to ensure they live on and that progress continues.” 

 

 

 

 

Richard Alleyne:

“While a 28-day observance hardly does justice to the many contributions people of African descent have made to this country, this year’s Black History Month is particularly poignant given the level of attention paid to last year’s protests around racial equity.  The stark realities and grievances held by this historically marginalized group were laid bare by these civic actions and have sparked long-overdue conversations and policy reform.  I remain hopeful sustained change will come and I’ll continue to do my part to help bring it about.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Shayla Cannady, Senior Manager, Public Relations, Orange County Public Schools:

“As a child, my parents were intentional about exposing me to the history of Blacks in America. Today those countless lessons serve as reminders of the sacrifices made so that I may seize the opportunities that have been afforded to me over my life. Professionally, it is not only my responsibility, but my obligation, to use my education and expertise to share stories of Black Americans past and present, champion for cultural awareness through communication, and promote inclusion for all minority and marginalized groups in America. While this year, we celebrate the inauguration of the first Black woman elected as U.S. Vice President, the tragic events and repeated, fervent cries for racial justice in 2020 highlighted in the media only serve to showcase the progress that still needs to be made in this nation. For the past 45 years, America has earmarked Black History Month as a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of individuals of African and Caribbean heritage. Twenty-eight days, however, are inadequate to cover such a robust history of success, let alone stories that include struggle and strife in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” Acknowledgment of past and current atrocities, as well as the accomplishments of Black Americans has to occur, not just in February but every day, to create a safe and brave space for dialogue, understanding, and healing current and future generations so desperately deserve.” 

 

Vanessa Green-Skyrmes, Founder, VGS Communications:

“As a Hispanic journalist and PR professional, Black History Month has had a positive impact on what minorities are able to accomplish. It has undoubtedly opened professional doors and along with that, it has allowed me to broadcast the importance of this month-long celebration in an act of gratitude. This is the epitome of why I value so much the influence one can have on the message that is received by an audience. Words matter and you must understand that your reputation can take years to build and mere seconds to destroy. This year, Black History Month has an even more powerful message that must be highlighted: BLACK LIVES MATTER. Following last year’s marches, it is only appropriate to heighten the significance of this celebration because the inclusivity of an entire race is worthy of being fought for and acknowledged. Those who attended marches and protests are being recognized during Black History Month along with many others who have made a difference in history because their allegiance to contribute to the greater good is how racial justice is accomplished. It has been a year of awakening and realization that even though some say the politically correct terms in regards to racial injustice and discussions, it doesn’t really mean they truly believe it. We have to be conscious of our actions, intentional with our messaging, and acknowledge that as a country we still have a lot of work to do.” 


Tyrone Law, Public Relations Specialist, Zillow:

“Black History Month began because for so long the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans were often deliberately excluded from America’s history of growth in helping it become the most powerful country on Earth today — and the month has been observed for just four decades — let that sink in. As a professional communicator, I think of Black History Month as an awareness campaign, which has and still is contributing to what I believe is mainstream America’s shift towards a more realistic and accurately-depicted diverse and inclusive American identity. We can see this through media, policy, and various workplace activities. As a Black PR person, I get a thrill out of being able to help shape, spread, connect and influence culture and information in rooms and for organizations that many of my ancestors never had a chance to impact. As an industry, we have a long way to go in the fight towards more diverse representation at all levels, but I feel we are headed in the right direction. Happy Black History Month, PR peeps!” 

 

Kena Lewis, APR, Corporate Director, Public Affairs & Media Relations, External Affairs, Orlando Health:

“Black history is a vital component of American history that, unfortunately, has not been accurately or widely shared. The result is generations of Americans who are unaware of the contributions we, as a people, have made to this great nation or of the actions taken against us to eradicate our history – both literally and figuratively. As a professional communicator, I hold myself responsible for not only providing accurate information but also for calling attention to inaccurate information and correcting it. Telling the truth is not enough. We also have to dispel untruths. Black History Month takes on even more significance in 2021. Some individuals will and are attempting to position the protests and the protesters as something other than what they were and are. We must be alert and engaged to ensure the events of 2020 are presented accurately, especially in history books, so as to not let others twist our story to fit their preferred narratives.” 

 

Aijana Williams, Senior Specialist, Internal Communications, Hilton Grand Vacations:

“Black History month means recognizing the incredible accomplishments of those in the Black community—past and present. It means looking at our past and seeing how far we’ve come, yet, still having so far to go. It also means providing an opportunity for others to see a broader spectrum of who Black people are. We are inventors, writers, musicians, scientists and so much more, and this is the perfect time to put it all on display and celebrate. When I think about my role as a communicator it’s important to share my unique perspective as a Black woman. Hopefully, in doing so, I lend a voice to others who may otherwise not be heard. Following last year’s protests and the light they shined on the continued racial injustices in this country, Black History Month 2021 is a chance for many to recognize that Black history is American history. You can’t separate the two. We all have a role to play in working towards a more just society for everyone.” 

What we learned at supper: PRSA members on Race and Diversity in the Workplace

By: Tyrone Law, Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member and Veronica Figueroa, Diversity & Inclusion Chair for the PRSA Orlando Chapter

Racial inequality is not new in this country. But following a year marred with racial unrest after the death of George Floyd, social justice issues have been brought to the forefront through national conversations about systemic racism, police brutality and social injustice. 

The power of these conversations was undeniable, and organizations across the country felt compelled to respond by releasing statements against racism, making donations to civil rights groups, and sharing anti-racism resources with their stakeholders. However, as corporations pledged a role in combating systemic racism, the public was quick to point out that many of those organizations’ track record on representation and diversity within the C-suite and in marketing did not line up with their statements. 

The events that transpired in 2020 were the basis of PRSA Orlando’s third annual Dinner, Diversity and Dialogue gathering, where eight PRSA Orlando members of diverse backgrounds discussed race and diversity in the workplace. Attendees brought their unique experiences and perspectives to the conversation and discussed tangible building blocks to help move forward D&I practices in the field of public relations from theory to practice. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the conversation from in-person to virtual, and the Anderson-Devitt Foundation, a family foundation that seeks to help the community be a better place to live, covered the cost of the virtual dinner.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ethnic makeup of the public relations industry in the U.S. in 2019 was 87.9% White, 8.3% Black, 2.6% Asian American, and 5.7% Hispanic American. This statistic sparked a dialogue that made the attendees contemplate some fundamental questions: As a community of public relations professionals, where do our core values lie? Are the typical public relations industry hiring and career advancement opportunities equal across the board? Are we intentional as it relates to the authenticity and delivery of our communications efforts? 

Be Authentic

Companies and organizations have to be authentic in their D&I efforts. The only way to achieve this is for them to build diverse teams at all levels, as well as a workplace culture that is genuinely inclusive. That means including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) employees in decision-making processes. For example, companies who released statements in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement need to have an understanding of Black culture and experience, not just at the lower level, but also in the C-Suite, otherwise their message will not be well-received. “Start at the bottom, promote from within, invest in your team, and train people at all levels to avoid drive-by D&I,” one PRSA Orlando member suggested. 

Representation Matters

Nobody wants to feel alone. During the discussion, one of our attendees shared that “it is draining to attend meetings and events where no one looks like you.” And while diversity is important, the key to reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce is inclusion. For example, simply hiring BIPOC will not boost employee morale, unless those employees are allowed to share their voice and opinion, paving a path of trust and active involvement. 

Studies have shown that younger generations view cognitive diversity as a necessary element for innovation and ideal teamwork. This means that inclusion of people who have different styles of problem-solving and can offer unique perspectives given their backgrounds is becoming more and more important to companies as they look to build thriving in-synced teams. 

Companies that do not prioritize D&I, may not be able to attract the top-tier talent who expects to see a diverse mix of backgrounds represented to help brainstorm new ideas, strategies and tactics. For example, an attendee shared that as a Hispanic woman entering white-dominated spaces, it was difficult to relate to her counterparts or share ideas because she didn’t have the same experiences they did growing up. 

Another member shared that in order to attract diverse candidates, hiring managers need to put in the work. “As public relations professionals, we have to seek out candidates who are not applying. We can’t assume that underrepresented demographics are aware of the job opportunities we are posting about,” the member said. “In the past, I’ve called potential candidates who hadn’t applied or who hadn’t heard of the role. We should be bending over backwards to build diverse and inclusive teams.” 

Empower BIPOC Voices 

While there is still much work to be done, many companies and organizations are making strides toward hiring more diverse talent, or “walking the walk,” but that is just the first step. Once they’ve been hired, companies must also be intentional about retaining, empowering and promoting them.

Attendees suggested in-person or online training at every level, from interns to the executive level, intended to address unconscious biases and help teams understand and embrace each other’s cultures and backgrounds. Businesses with D&I at the forefront of their corporate consciousness encourage employees to be their authentic selves. This empowers team members to share creative, out-of-the-box ideas that would have otherwise not been shared. 

“Employees do their best work when they are comfortable,” one member said. “We sometimes don’t realize that some of our colleagues are anxiously making mental calculations throughout the day trying to blend in. Am I dressed okay? Did I say the right thing? It can be exhausting, but it is how many BIPOC employees navigate work on a day-to-day basis.” 

“I feel most empowered when my leaders and colleagues get to know me, allowing me to show my true self at work,” another member chimed in. “My previous employer made an effort to hire diverse candidates and ensured everyone felt included. It gave me the confidence I needed to share ideas, which led to a promotion.”

Implementing D&I measures that allow employees to feel comfortable at work should be a part of the DNA of every organization, and should be displayed from the hiring process and beyond. 

Creating Genuine and Authentic Campaigns & Messaging 

In order to market well to an audience, companies need to understand their perspectives, and what is important to them. Consult with players on the team who can provide insight into a specific culture relevant to the campaign. Marketing creatives and communicators need to be comfortable in telling their leadership that messaging is inauthentic, according to one attendee. 

When asked about brands that have made an impact through authentic messaging, one attendee mentioned the 2018 P&G ad “The Talk” which addressed the conversations Black Americans have had with their children about racism and the realities of discrimination throughout the years. Unsurprisingly, the agencies that worked on the Emmy Award-winning ad featured diverse teams, and understood the Black experience

Attendees also discussed companies and brands that have missed the mark, such as Adidas. In public and on social media, Adidas condemned racism and called for unity and change, but behind closed doors employees felt the long inaction on racism and discrimination within the company was related to its senior leadership. As one attendee put it, “Adidas profited from Black culture, without addressing its internal problems.” 

A sports league that fumbled the ball with its Black Lives Matter messaging was the NFL. In September, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league would stencil “End racism” and “It takes all of us” in the end zones at each stadium. He shared that, “the NFL stands with the Black community, the players, clubs and fans confronting systemic racism.” 

The move was seen as ironic and widely criticized, given the fact that the NFL did not support San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism in 2016. He has not played since his contract ended in 2017, and has not been picked up by other teams in the league since. 

“[The NFL] could’ve been the first to take a stand and been a leader years ago,” one member shared. “Instead they blackballed players and think we will forget because they took a stand this year. It doesn’t seem genuine, you can’t make it right, and people remember that.” 

“I am young in the sense that I am not jaded, but it starts to ring hollow when brands take these stands and then move on,” another member said. “You have to show you are genuine and you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” 

Moving Forward: How PRSA Orlando Can Support D&I In PR and Membership 

  • Outreach to high school students. Think about ways to give high school students the opportunity to learn about the public relations industry, develop and hone their skills, and network with industry professionals, who they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to connect with and learn from. 

“I didn’t even know that public relations was a potential career path I could strive for when I was in high school,” one member shared. “If PRSA Orlando’s intention is to fuel the industry with diverse talent, it should find ways to connect with BIPOC high school students to introduce the idea of communications as a career to them, or create a mentorship program where students can shadow PR professionals.” 

  • Develop dynamic relationships with multicultural organizations. “I’d love to see PRSA Orlando connect with other community organizations and groups that are dedicated to breaking barriers and promoting D&I,” a member suggested. 

In Central Florida, there are countless professional organizations that work to promote and advance BIPOC businesses and professionals, and the attendees agreed that PRSA Orlando should be more strategic in building relationships with underrepresented groups in order to further strides and promote D&I in the profession at large.  

  • Tightening it up at home. Throughout dinner, attendees mentioned the importance and value of meeting public relations professionals who “looked like them,” and several thoughts and ideas on this topic were discussed, such as assigning a designated outreach committee for new members, connecting with them one-on-one, introducing them to other members, and making a targeted effort to invite new members to events. 

Make D&I Part of Vision and Mission

By being inclusive to different demographics, public relations professionals can open themselves and their businesses to more viewers, customers, and clients that they would otherwise miss. A diverse workforce is not only great for the employees who work for you, but also for your company and your bottom line. Everyone agreed that companies and organizations need to make D&I part of the vision and mission. If it isn’t, their D&I efforts will always be seen as reactive. 

Welcome Your Insights

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 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Chair, Veronica Figueroa, to continue the discussion.

Don’t Forget the “B” in D&I Efforts

By: Tory Moore, PRSA Orlando VP, Administration 

Brené  Brown, a renowned professor at the University of Houston and New York Times bestselling author, reminds leaders that diversity and inclusion should consider adding an additional letter to the D&I acronym – a B, for belonging.

We feel a sense of belonging when we can show up as our true selves, bring our talents and our perspectives, be seen, know that we matter and that we’re a part of something,” Brown said at the recent Qualtrics Work Different conference. “The thing that’s very powerful about belonging is that true belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are, it invites us to be who we are.”

Brown’s research focuses on empathy, shame, and vulnerability. Often, she investigates how these elements interact within the workplace and provides leaders with a framework for cultivating a healthy workplace. She elaborates that now, more than ever, we must make room for belonging in the workplace that honors, embraces, and becomes a part of diversity and inclusion efforts.

“The special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness,” she said. “We’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.”

She added that to achieve true belonging, we must consider love in the workplace. While to many this may seem odd, she elaborates on love’s ability to bring care and connection to those we work with. This rings especially true in 2020, where many of our colleagues have faced difficulties during a global pandemic, an intense election and other national and worldwide challenges.

“The thing we also don’t talk about, which doesn’t make sense, is that care and connection and affection for each other is an irreducible need for people at work,” she said. “When you walk into the office, your need for care and your need for respect and your need for connection doesn’t dissipate.”

One of her strongest statements during the talk was that if leaders cannot care for the people they are leading, they should not be leading at all. A profound statement, but she explains the intrinsic need humans have for this level of connection in the workplace.

“We need to rethink how we’re taking care of ourselves, how we’re taking care of each other, how we’re taking care of our communities — we’re going to need to rethink how we’re showing up with each other,” she said.

The best news of all? All of these are teachable skills, she says. If something seems off with a coworker or employee, check-in with them. Listen. Ask questions. She reminds leaders that achieving goals and performance metrics are not mutually exclusive to genuinely caring for team members. The leaders that will succeed through these difficult times are those that will lean in and develop or improve these skills, she says.

“The leaders who are still going to be standing in five years are the leaders that don’t see them as mutually exclusive, but are completely dependent on both,” she explained.

Consider, how are you ensuring true understanding and belonging in your diversity and inclusion efforts? Where can you improve? Take one small step this week and expand on this as time goes on. The key is to get started.

A screenshot of a virtual panel discussion

Takeaways From Adweek’s Hispanic & Latin American Summit

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

Last month Adweek brought together 12 marketing leaders from global brands together for the inaugural Hispanic & Latin American Summit, where they discussed the gap between Hispanic and Latino consumers and the small marketing budgets allotted to them, the lack of Hispanic leaders in marketing, failures to reach the community, and the vibrant diversity found within them. 

Claudia Romo Edelman, founder of We Are All Human, moderated the conversation. She stressed the importance of Hispanic professionals remaining connected to their own roots and living authentically, and referenced P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, who suppressed his Mexican heritage for fear of being labeled. With Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, we wanted to share insights from these leaders on the importance of Hispanic and Latino representation in the workplace and branding.

Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder, We Are All Human

  • The time for Hispanics is now. Hispanics need to be unified, be a community, and help, support, hire and mentor each other.
  • There is a need for allyship to open doors and give the Hispanic community a platform. 
  • According to statistics shared by Claudia, Hispanics and Latin Americans make up 18 percent of the population but only make one percent of elected officials holding office, leaders in the C-suite, and entertainment. “We have to change that equation,” she said. 

Maria Winans, CMO, IBM Americas 

  • In recent months, Maria has learned that brands need to be more human, lead with empathy, and give permission to their teams to be creative in re-imagining the future.
  • She applauded IBM’s advocacy efforts in mentorship, sponsorships, and intern programs dedicated to talent in underrepresented communities. 

Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and founder, Encantos 

  • The Hispanic community is over-mentored and under-invested.
  • “Let’s be crystal clear. We are invisible as a community, we are not acknowledged by brands. […] This is an epidemic across every industry. They love our dollars but they do not show up for us,” he said.
  • Steven mentioned that he’s taken part in similar conversations since the late 90s. “I am over incrementalism. We need to have control over our stories, companies, and leadership,” he shared. His frustrations were what led him to start his own company.
  • To Steven, unless there is a [Hispanic or Latin American] person in a position of power and influence, not in a D&I role, there will not be any change.

Yvette Peña, VP of Multicultural Leadership, AARP

  • Yvette believes that D&I should be everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of the D&I department. 

Ivan Heredia, VP of Brand Engagement and Revenue, The Walt Disney Company

  • If you’re stuck between a place where the world is moving at a quick pace but your corporate environment isn’t, Ivan recommends that employees have ‘owner mentality’ to raise their hands, especially if they are the only Hispanic or Latin American in the room, and build a case study that’ll unlock opportunities to tell more stories, drive the bottom line, and build a path to representation. 

Rosi Ajjam, VP and GM at Estee Lauder’s Aramis and Designer Fragrance Lab Series

  • When Rosi moved to the United States four years ago, she did not know how to network. Through the help of her mentors, she was able to learn how to navigate cultural and business dynamics. 
  • She encourages Hispanic and Latin American leaders to share their stories and become mentors to younger colleagues. 

Andrea Perez, Global VP and GM, Nike’s Jordan Brand 

  • Andrea stressed the importance of mentoring BIPOC and doubling down on the injustices seen in the Black community in order to help address the injustices in the Latino community. 

Susan Betts, Director of Brand Strategy and Management, Google

  • When asked if they identified as Latina because she is Brazilian she said, “There is no one flavor of Latina. We are beautifully intersectional. I can be white, blue-eyed, speak English, and still be 100 percent Latina.”
  • Part of Susan’s agreement with Google is to focus on inclusive marketing, and she shared that three years ago Google began looking at their creative and extracting data. Through the audit, they found that they made progress in increasing the representation of BIPOC in their work. However, in 2019 they learned that only 6 percent of their ads portrayed Hispanic or Latin Americans. As a company, they now know that they need to do more to represent this community through positive portrayals that actively fight stereotypes. 

Fabiola Torres, CMO and Senior VP of Energy, PepsiCo

  • Fabiola mentioned that while brands want to appeal to new audiences and appear inclusive, they often hire “experts” in the Hispanic market that develop work rooted in stereotypes. She notes that their work does not represent the culture of today. 
  • It is important to re-learn and re-educate yourself and consult people outside of your comfort zone.
  • Fabiola shared that brands need to understand that there is a difference between marketing to a U.S. Hispanic market and marketing to an audience in Latin American countries. While there are commonalities, there are things that separate the audiences and brands should take the time to gather insights from focus groups. 

Xavier Gutierrez, President and CEO, Arizona Coyotes

  • Be authentic and admit when you need help in marketing to the Hispanic community. 
  • Be unapologetic about being Latino/Latina and open to the fact that it may cause discomfort. 
  • “We need to promote and support an ownership mentality in our community, business, capital, corporate development pathway, and truly support each other in those factors.” 

If you weren’t able to make the summit, you can catch the recordings here.

Interns pose at a NASCAR event

How To Create A Diverse & Inclusive Internship Program In Your Workplace

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

Building a diverse and inclusive company culture in the workplace has become a primary focus for many organizations, especially over the past year. Whether you’re running a well-known brand or a small business, building the right foundations for diversity and inclusion within your business should be an integral part of your diverse growth strategy. D&I college internships can be a stepping stone at building diversity within your company and can be one of the most effective ways to create meaningful change. 

Interns bring immense value to organizations, often bringing cutting-edge ideas to the table that can lead your company to success. A diverse class of interns means you’ll gain access to unique perspectives and develop an inclusive company culture. However, because internships are often unpaid, they become inaccessible to many in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. 

Jordan Leatherman, Diversity & Inclusion Senior Account Executive at NASCAR, recently spoke to us about her organization’s diversity internship program. Twenty years ago, NASCAR created the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) to create an opportunity for students of color. Over the last two decades, the program has successfully grown to be a staple within the industry with 30 students participating each summer. 

The NDIP is a 10-week paid summer internship aimed at BIPOC who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program or are considered a recent graduate. Eligible participants begin their experience with a 3-day orientation weekend centered around the NASCAR All-Star Race, and throughout the internship, they have access to weekly Lunch & Learns with industry executives, networking opportunities, and a mentorship program. 

If you’re just getting started on creating a diverse and inclusive internship program in your workplace, Jordan Leatherman has shared three tips to select candidates from different backgrounds. 

Diversify your candidate pool.

In order to hire interns who contribute to your organization’s diversity and inclusion goals, you will have to diversify your recruitment tactics. NASCAR currently works with Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and top universities through Handshake to identify candidates for internships. Handshake is a platform that connects students on college campuses with internships and entry-level jobs. NASCAR also partners with organizations like the United Negro College Fund (UNCF),  Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), and National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to promote the internship application. 

Leverage professional associations and organizations focused on serving diverse populations, and consider advertising in and attending events sponsored by those organizations. Niche job boards such as DiversityWorking, 70 Million Jobs, and Hirepurpose are just a small sample of how to connect with new audiences. Throughout the last 20 years, NASCAR has hired more than 20 interns from the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program for numerous roles in the organization including Brandon Thompson, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, and Kathryn Lee, Senior Manager of Marketing Activation.

Pay. Your. Interns! 

Internships are a critical component of a student’s college career, giving them a competitive advantage in the job market and an opportunity to gain experience in their desired field. However, financial barriers often prevent low-income students from pursuing and accepting unpaid internships. Students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may need an income in order to pay for classes, their rent, or other necessities, leaving these valuable internships off the table. 

When organizations limit their internships to those who can afford them, their less affluent peers will graduate without the relevant work experience necessary to quickly land an entry-level job. “Paid internships eliminate barriers to students who would not be financially able to participate in unpaid internships. Historically unpaid internships are typically less diverse than their paid counterparts,” said Leatherman. 

Unpaid internships are a controversial topic in all industries, but with the knowledge that the public relations industry has a diversity problem, it is important to address the issue and enact change from the bottom up. In fact, the PR Council announced last year that its members pledged to pay their interns in the United States at least minimum wage in their market. The policy went into effect on January 1, 2020.

Create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. 

Leatherman says that it is important to institute diversity and unconscious bias training within your organization prior to the start of the internships. These programs are designed to expose employees to their unconscious biases and provide tools to eliminate discriminatory behaviors and thoughts. 

Biases are formed based on experiences, things you hear, media portrayals, institutional influences, and other external factors. When faced with situations that fit into these preconceived opinions people have created, they make a number of automatic perceptions and assumptions that are often incorrect. Making D&I a part of your organizational policies and systems is key to disrupt patterns of thinking and ensure everyone, from interns to your executive leadership, is on the same page. 

As employers move toward full D&I in the workplace, they should incorporate a comprehensive definition of diversity that applies to all hiring practices, including internship programs. For more ideas on how to create an inclusive internship program, check youth.gov’s how-to guide for employers. 

An group of employees have a discussion in an office meeting

How To Create An Equitable Workplace For Older Workers

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

Nearly 2 out of 3 workers ages 45 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination on the job, according to results of a wide-ranging AARP workplace survey. More than 50 years after the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was signed into law, forbidding employment discrimination against anyone over 40 years of age in the United States, “age discrimination remains a significant and costly problem for workers, their families, and our economy.”

An investigation by ProPublica and the Urban Institute found that 56 percent of workers over the age of 50 reports that they were pushed out of their jobs by their employers before they were ready to retire. Some of the comments these employees heard include, “older workers can’t handle the day-to-day demands of the job,” and “they can’t be retrained and are too hard to manage.”

Patti Temple Rocks, author of “I’m Not Done: It’s Time To Talk About Ageism In The Workplace,” writes that ageism in the workplace produces slanted messaging and it is bad for business. She shares that the idea that workers become less valuable as they age ignores reality. “The years of experience and the confidence that comes from an expanded track record of success can make employees more effective,” she said. 

She observes that when it comes to the creative world of advertising, the belief that people get better with experience is often replaced with the belief that the only answer is innovation, making us believe that innovation can only be achieved by young people. 

What many companies do not understand is that older workers possess a depth of knowledge and experience that is worth paying for. They believe that investing in younger workers is cost-effective and less risky, when in fact according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers 45-54 stayed on the job twice as long as those 25-34, so concentrating on training those over 40 was seen as a sound investment. 

In 2019, the median age of workers in advertising, public relations, and related services was 38.5. It is no wonder that advertising is considered a “Peter Pan” industry, meaning few employees make it long enough to retire from their roles. 

Organizations that sincerely value their employees and actively encourage them to reach their full potential need to create an equitable workplace where workers of all ages feel respected. So, how does one go about that? 

Remove hidden bias from the job description.

You’ve seen the job descriptions looking for a high-energy, savvy digital native that can outline a communications strategy in their sleep. While many managers do not intend to exclude older job applicants, common phrases in job descriptions may seem that way. “Digital native” for example, may discourage qualified applicants who didn’t grow up with an iPhone attached to their hand, scrolling through different social media feeds. “High-energy,” “ninja,” and “guru” often refer to younger candidates. 

More often than not, job applications require candidates to share milestone dates and information, such as college graduation year or highest GPA achieved. This can discourage older candidates from submitting an application, giving the perception that your company is searching for younger candidates. The best and brightest should be given an opportunity, regardless of age. 

Portray a diverse public persona.

Many times, before submitting a job application, candidates will visit your website and social media profiles to see what the culture at your agency or organization is like. If you’re lucky enough to work in a diverse office, share that! Ensure that your agency’s public profile demonstrates racial diversity and generational diversity. If you’re using stock photos on your website, make sure that they portray diversity and inclusion. 

Train your management to recognize hidden biases. 

Are leaders in your organization making assumptions that older workers cannot grasp changing technology? How are you training your leadership to eliminate age assumption practices? Managers need the training to help acknowledge and remove those biases. 

Update your policies. 

In a perfect world, it would be enough to trust your employees to treat each other with respect, but that is why it is important to place policies in place and enforce them. Update your workplace harassment policies to include that your employees cannot discriminate based on age and stress that they will not tolerate unfair treatment. Additionally, if your company has the ability to, consider offering a competitive retirement incentive plan to encourage your employees to stay for the long-haul. 

Offer professional development opportunities across the board. 

Professional development should be an ongoing process throughout an individual’s career, ensuring that employees remain relevant and up to date with knowledge and skills. Like their younger colleagues, older employees will leave companies if there aren’t opportunities to continue to grow in their careers. Do you encourage your younger employees to attend industry seminars or to earn certifications but do not do the same for your older employees? There is always something new for your employees to learn. Offer training and career advancement opportunities, fair to all ages and levels. 

Do you have any tips on creating an equitable workplace for older workers? Share them with us!

Tips For Making Social Media Content Accessible To The Blind; Visually Impaired

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

Last month marked 30 years since a major milestone in our nation’s history – the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law by President George H. W. Bush. In three decades we have seen how the lives of Americans have transformed, ensuring equal opportunities and access to the 61 million adults living with disabilities in the U.S. when it comes to employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

And although increasing physical accessibility has been a central focus, it is important to recognize the obstacles that remain in place, such as creating accessible and inclusive social media content for the blind and visually impaired. 

Today, our lives revolve around a constant stream of breaking news alerts, status updates, tweets, memes, images, and videos. Social media has shaped our public discourse, from allowing us to connect with loved ones to reacting to happenings around the world.

Many aspects of social media are still inaccessible for the 2.2 billion people worldwide who suffer from vision impairment or blindness, despite the best efforts of social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. Creating a social media strategy inclusive of your audience takes time and effort, so we’ve shared a few tips below to help you get started. 

How Does A Blind Person Use A Smartphone?

Despite the iPhone being accessible to the blind and visually impaired since the launch of the iPhone 3GS over a decade ago, many still do not understand how they navigate their phones. The iPhone and other Apple products use VoiceOver, a screen reader program found in the phone’s settings. Android smartphones use TalkBack.

Screen readers are assistive technology that attempts to interpret what is being displayed on the screen. In the case of an iPhone, users can touch or drag their finger around the screen, and VoiceOver will read or describe whatever the user has selected, from reading sentences to describing images and emojis. The phone even has the capability of assigning commands from a gesture. And although the iPhone has the capability of “reading” an image, if the social media manager who posted the image originally is not following best practices for social media accessibility the screen reader tends to miss a lot.

Include Alt-Text.

Screen readers describe the content, images, and charts to the blind and visually impaired using alternative text, or alt-text for short. When developing a social media strategy, marketers should keep descriptive alt-text in mind when drafting captions for future social media posts.

  • Avoid saying, “This is a picture of…” They know. Because the screen reader will automatically recognize an image, you can assume the user is aware as well. An alt-text caption of a picture, for example, could read, “My very excited one-year-old nephew and I were ready to have fun at Universal Studios Orlando and posed in front of the globe outside of the park entrance,” rather than, “This is a picture of my nephew and I outside Universal Studios Orlando.” 
  • Everyone loves a laugh. Be descriptive and don’t be afraid of using humor. 
  • Some blind and visually impaired social media users lost their vision gradually and are familiar with color, so don’t be afraid to mention it. 
  • Don’t overthink your caption! Your captions are being read by a robot, but don’t feel like you have to write like one. 
  • Screen readers read everything, so avoid using excessive emojis on your captions or alt-text. No one wants to hear, “face with tears of joy,” fifteen times in a row. 
  • Transcribe text. Screen readers won’t be able to read images such as a picture of a historical marker, plaque, chart, meme, screenshot, or GIF. Summarize what the image is showing.

How-To Add Alt-Text.

The automatic alt-text social media platforms use does not always work and will use general terms such as “food” as an automatic descriptor when you could be describing dishes such as “a succulent roasted pig, with a side of crispy Brussels sprouts in a bowl,” or “a hearty, warm chicken soup.”

The character count for alt-text varies by the social network. We’ve linked to each social network’s how-to below, but it is easy to figure out once you upload an image and choose edit or advanced editing options.

Write Your Hashtags in Camel Case.

Make your hashtags accessible by capitalizing the first letter of each word. This format is known as camel case and allows screen readers to read the words individually rather than as one long, jumbled word. #YourHashtagsShouldLookLikeThis

Color contrast.

Color contrast is important for colorblind social media users. According to W3C, the contrast between text color and background should be 4.5 to 1. Problematic color combinations include red and green, green and brown, green and blue, blue and gray, blue and purple, green and gray, and green and black.

Earlier this year Marks & Spencer, a British retailer, posted an image regarding some of their new measures in place surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The initial image was incredibly difficult to read, but once enough of us tweeted at them, they swapped out the image for one that was easier to read.

First Version:

Second Version:

These tactics are only a small glimpse at how social media marketing can be inclusive and accessible to the blind and visually impaired. And while social media giants like Facebook have opened many doors to these users, they continue to encounter many glitches and problems with the programming and feel as if there isn’t enough manpower dedicated to addressing these issues. By making a few adjustments in your social media strategy, you are opening your brand up to a wider audience to fall in love with you. 

The original version of this blog post appeared on Laughing Samurai.

Black and white puzzle pieces

PRSA Unveils D&I Strategy, Outlines Steps To Building Diverse Organization

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

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we have seen a national outcry and protests against racism, injustice and police brutality occur worldwide, calling for change. Finding words to respond to social injustice isn’t easy, but there are steps we can take to navigate these issues with sensitivity. 

At PRSA Orlando, we believe addressing diversity and inclusion, especially during this time of crisis,  has never been more important. PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee recently unveiled its 2020-2022 D&I Strategic Plan and new D&I Toolkit, outlining the organization’s efforts to become more diverse and inclusive. 

The strategic plan’s four objectives lay out the framework for PRSA, and its nationwide chapters, to fulfill its mission to position the organization as a model for the communications profession:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among its members and staff by 15% by 2023.
  • Increase diverse representation among leadership throughout all levels of PRSA by 25% by 2023.
  • Increase awareness of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among external stakeholders by 15% by 2023.
  • Increase and retain the number of multicultural students in PRSSA and new multicultural professionals into PRSA by 15% by 2023.

Additionally, the organization has acknowledged the lack of diversity across its membership and leadership and has shared definitive steps they are taking today: 

Improve Diversity of Board of Directors

While the current Board is among the most diverse in the organization’s history, PRSA has asked the Governance Committee to reexamine the Bylaws and to recommend amendments that can help move barriers that have kept Board leadership out of reach for so many members, particularly members of color. 

Increase Committee Participation

PRSA plans to engage more members from diverse backgrounds, including Black members, members of color, and LGBTQ+ members, with their national committees to ensure a range of perspectives and ideas are represented. 

Expand Delegate Representation

PRSA is asking Chapter leadership to reevaluate how they choose delegates for the annual meeting of the Leadership Assembly and consider the ways in which they can bring new voices and members of underrepresented communities into the process. 

Deliver on Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan

The three-year D&I Strategic Plan, published earlier this year, builds on research and investments by the Board that began in 2019 calls for an expansion of tools and resources across the organization to help build an inclusive community. Additionally, PRSA published a new D&I Toolkit that provides best practices and will help accelerate success and scale our efforts throughout the organization and the industry.

Develop Programs to Further Guide New Professionals

PRSA will be launching a pilot program to support new professionals of color, expanding upon past programs established by the College of Fellows and creating a comprehensive process to build more substantive and effective relationships. The program will launch this quarter and be available to the entire membership by the end of 2020.

Strengthen Relationship With HBCUs and HSIs

Our PRSSA students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) need more advocates and resources to help bridge the gap between racial inequality and career advancement. Working closely with the faculty advisers at these institutions, PRSA will forge a deeper bond and connection with students interested in pursuing a career in communications and become a better ally to our future leaders.

Launch Training at the National and Local Levels

PRSA will provide unconscious bias training for all PRSA staff and Chapter, District & Section leadership this year and continue the instruction annually. They will also host professional development courses for all members focusing on D&I in the workplace and communicators’ roles in leading the conversation internally and externally for their organizations.

Pledge Support to Diversity Action Alliance

Along with the PRSA Foundation, PRSA is an active member of the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) and has fully committed to the tenets of the coalition’s goals and objectives. Rooted in a mission to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communications and public relations profession, the DAA will provide transparency into the industry’s progress and hold stakeholders accountable and ensure we’re all working toward fulfilling our commitments.

PRSA Orlando believes that a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment fosters creativity, new perspectives, innovation, and better employee performance. Our chapter first introduced the Diversity & Inclusion Board Chair three years ago, in our continued efforts to increase focus on this important issue. Since then, our chapter won a 2018 PRSA Chapter Diversity & Inclusion Award, hosted its second annual Dinner, Diversity, & Dialogue gathering, and has continued to focus on providing meaningful blog posts and programs on the topic. We stand behind PRSA’s strategic vision and efforts to diversify our industry and create long-lasting change, and will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our underrepresented members. 

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.

The City of Orlando Leads The Way in LGBTQ+ Inclusion

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

Last year was a banner year for the LGBTQ+ community in the city of Orlando and throughout Central Florida. Not only did Orlando receive a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of equality in municipal laws, but Orange County adopted the city of Orlando’s resolution to better integrate with certified LGBTQ-owned businesses in Central Florida. 

For Orlando, showing its support to the LGBTQ+ community is not just an act of civic responsibility. According to Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Senior Specialist for the City of Orlando, supporting LGBTQ-owned businesses is an important economic development strategy. 

“The City of Orlando is a city for everyone and we are proud of our diversity. [The LGBTQ+ community] is the backbone of our economic growth,” he said. “The goal of our diversity program is to support minority, women, and now LGBTQ-owned businesses by giving them educational opportunities and exposure to potential contracts.”

With this resolution, Orlando recognizes the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s certification process which certifies that LGBTQ+ individuals own at least 51 percent of a business, tracks the city’s contracts and spending with certified LGBTQ-owned businesses, and commits to increased outreach with the Pride Chamber, Orlando’s local chapter of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. 

“Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council truly believe in making sure that our residents have equal opportunity to thrive in our city,” Rodriguez added. “This is yet another clear example of how the City Beautiful leads the way in Florida. Our message to LGBTQ+ business owners is simple – the City of Orlando wants to do business with you.” 

Cities across the nation have given underrepresented minority groups an opportunity to land public contracts. Now there is an effort to include LGBTQ-owned businesses in that process. Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez shared with us the value of becoming an LGBTQ-certified business in Orlando and marketing tips for businesses and their allies. 

What are the benefits of becoming a certified LGBTQ+ business owner? 

Felipe: “The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce offers a network of over 200 corporate and government partners seeking to do business with LGBTQ-owned businesses. They also have more than 1,000 certified businesses ranging from technology to professional services and newly-certified businesses will have full access to this incredible network. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community spends $917 billion annually, and 75% of these individuals are likely to buy brands that are LGBTQ+ inclusive. The certification can lead to greater business exposure and greater appeal to consumers looking to spend money on businesses known for welcoming and inclusive nature.”

How many LGBTQ+ owned businesses does the city of Orlando have? What industries are represented? 

Felipe: “As we are only able to track the businesses that choose to get certified, we don’t have a definitive number of how many LGBTQ-owned businesses there are. We estimate that there are hundreds in Orlando and the surrounding area, if not more. Businesses who get certified are usually business-to-business because of the benefits involved, and a majority of our local LGBTQ-owned businesses are directed to consumers. Some of the industries represented are hospitality, professional services, technology, construction, and real estate, to name a few. 

Whether they make delicious treats like the ones sold at Se7en Bites or provide incredible event pictures like the ones taken by J.D. Casto Photography, our LGBTQ+ community is thriving with innovation. We encourage all LGBTQ+ owners to get certified. Our local Pride Chamber is happy to help anyone interested in the process.”

What are your best marketing tips for businesses that want to identify as LGBTQ-owned or friendly? 

Felipe: “The typical LGBTQ+ consumer is very engaged and they never forget positive inclusionary steps taken by large corporations or small businesses. Businesses seeking to attract them as patrons should consider financially supporting local LGBTQ+ nonprofits, sponsoring LGBTQ+ events, and placing ads in their local LGBTQ+ publications. Other steps could include using symbols such as the rainbow and transgender flags inside their business and creating nondiscrimination policies to protect their LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination.”

What does Pride mean to you? 

Felipe: “As an immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there is never a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on the meaning of ‘pride.’ When I first came out my mother did not accept me and when I moved to the United States, I learned firsthand the obstacles faced by immigrants. These experiences shaped who I am today and I believe they made me stronger. I am grounded in our long history as a community and our fight for equal rights. Pride is not just a month of the year; it is our collective commitment to continue working towards a world where children won’t have to experience discrimination or family rejection. We come from a long line of leaders who fought before us. It is our duty to continue their legacy. Pride is walking in our neighborhoods, holding our loved one’s hand and hoping that one day that won’t be a sign of courage, but simply a display of love. I chose to work under the visionary leadership of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Patty Sheehan because they truly believe in inclusion. They have never shied away from doing the right thing for our community, even when it wasn’t popular. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity and we are working hard to make sure our LGBTQ+ residents have a voice in their local government.”

Orlando’s inclusive policies date back to the 1973 non-discrimination ordinance. Since then, it has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ inclusion. The city became the first government agency in Central Florida to create a domestic partnership registry in 2011; enforced City and Federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; supported multiple local LGBTQ+ organizations such as the Zebra Coalition and the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida; created programs in support of LGTBQ+ youth; and provided resources for those affected by the Pulse tragedy; among many other initiatives, you can learn about here

Through their inclusive efforts, Orlando has paved the way in advancing LGBTQ+ acceptance and, in turn, has attracted new businesses to the area and helped their bottom line. PRSA Orlando has a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we believe that efforts such as the ones taken by the City of Orlando are essential to creating a thriving culture of belonging. 

Key Takeaways From Adweek’s Diversity & Inclusion Summit

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

Adweek’s inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Summit, brought thirteen chief marketing officers and brand leaders from top global organizations together for a virtual event to discuss how diversity, inclusion, equality and equity are growth drivers across all business sectors. 

Diversity and inclusion in business and marketing are often pushed to the sidelines during times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, but these brand leaders agreed that now is the time to double down on those efforts and find ways to creatively and meaningfully engage with underrepresented communities. 

Continue reading to see how some of the featured speakers at the summit are creating more inclusive workplaces and navigating D&I in their business and marketing strategies, and the takeaways you can incorporate into your own practices. 

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at P&G

Marc’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“During these times of crisis, diversity and inclusion, and equality in general, take a step back. The people who have been historically discriminated against tend to suffer disproportionately. What is distressing about it is that the very people who are marginalized are those working in the frontlines, such as women, African Americans, Hispanic Americas, Asian Pacific Americans, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.”

Marc’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Don’t wait for anybody. If you’re not doing multicultural marketing in the US, you’re not doing marketing. Get your company to embrace D&I. If they don’t, leave.”

How P&G has taken action: 

“We recognized very quickly that many groups of people did not have access to the most basic of products, so we pivoted our annual relief efforts to COVID-19 relief efforts to make sure that we were supplying families in need, focusing on the hardest hit communities.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Refuse to snap back to what and who is familiar, and instead step forward on equality and inclusion.
  • Restart equal. Hire equal. Pay equal. Share equal.
  • Join forces to be a force for good. Don’t admire the problem, shine the light on it.

Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Facebook

Antonio’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“We need to make sure that diversity and inclusion isn’t one of the casualties of this pandemic. There is a need to accelerate progress, and I am worried that things will go back to square one, which will not work moving forward. The business case has proven time and time again that diverse teams perform better, and as roles continue to be cut or furloughed, we need to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront.”

Antonio’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Everyone likes to talk about the nice part of D&I, but it is hard. It is supposed to be hard. When you have a diverse group of people bringing different experiences, it is going to create some friction, but unless you’re willing to look at someone in the eye and accept the fact that their thinking is going to make your campaign better and move the company forward, then talking about D&I means nothing.”

How Facebook has taken action: 

From the beginning of the global health crisis, Facebook has been supporting the global health community’s work to keep people safe and informed by providing factual information in all six United Nations languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish), among other efforts.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Stay vigilant and address inequality head on.
  • Keep measuring your progress.
  • Take action.

Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer at Verizon

Diego’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Cannes was cancelled this year, and when the organizers put out their statement, they said that the creative community wouldn’t be able to put forward the work that would set the benchmark because of the circumstances. I would say that many brands are putting out some of the most meaningful, purpose-driven and diverse work at this time.”

How Verizon has taken action: 

“We are very focused on Pride month, but this year the parades won’t be there. We decided to launch a virtual campaign in June called “Voices of Pride,” that’ll amplify and promote the stories of that community.”

Additionally, Scotti touched on adfellows, a diverse and inclusive fellowship program created by Verizon designed to help individuals break into marketing and advertising. “Bringing all of these voices together to tell their stories… is the best way that we can keep moving forward.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Collaborate.
  • Help each other.
  • Champion outside-the-box thinking.

Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder of We Are All Human

Claudia’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“The Hispanic community is disproportionately affected and equipped. Many of them do not have enough information on the coronavirus pandemic because it is not being correctly translated or it is not reaching them. Now is not the time to stop engaging with this market. This is the time in which you have to increase representation in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes, and let us know that you see us. The Hispanic community is loyal and they want to see you champion and invest in their community.”

How We Are All Human has taken action: 

We Are All Human’s Hispanic Star Response & Recovery Plan has provided a resource directory and a marketplace for talent and services during the pandemic. They, along with their corporate partners, have also provided necessary resources such as food and routers to underserved communities.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Maintain or increase your ad spend in the Hispanic market.
  • Support Hispanics as employees, consumers, and community.
  • Hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics within your workplace.

Cynthia Chen, GM and President of Consumer Health at RB

Cynthia’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“There has been a lot of stigma toward the Asian community. When you think about the United States, the word ‘united’ stands out, but it has felt very divisive. It is 2020, and this is not acceptable. What our leaders say has a huge impact on their audience, and as a brand we have the unique responsibility to spread the truth.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Involve the community.
  • Build coalitions beyond Asian Americans.
  • Provide utility – empathy is not sufficient, utility is critical. It is about the lives and livelihoods of our people.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO at GLAAD

Sarah’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Include LGBTQ+ people in your ads because it really does move the needle and drive acceptance and policy that supports that community.”

“When you market to a marginalized community, make sure that your company understands D&I and that there is an inclusive culture in your organization. You are not just marketing, you are joining a movement and that means more than putting a rainbow on a product. That means that we need you to stand up for us, and we will expect you to do so. There are going to be missteps. Don’t let fear stop you. The most important thing is the intention, that you’re looking to embrace and engage with a marginalized community, not just make a dollar from them.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Don’t just market to our community. Join our movement.
  • When done right, LGBTQ+ inclusion in ads is good for your bottom line and can also advance LGBTQ+ acceptance.
  • Ensure trusted experts from the community are brought in on your ad or campaign.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient

Marc’s thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis: 

“One of the things that is very clear is that today, in this moment of crisis, D&I and equality for all is a business imperative. We are seeing the gender and racial gaps widen, and if we don’t activate change consciously we will widen the gap. This is our opportunity to get rid of junk and bring forward the positives. Look at the things during this crisis that have led to creativity and equity. Let’s not rewrite history, let’s create our future together. Shut that door and bring open a new one in advancing women and equality.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Create metrics that matter and hold yourself accountable.
  • Ensure you are not only filling your pipeline with diversity, but are also mapping the pathway for success.
  • Life stage accommodations to ensure you attract and retain the best talent, not just the available talent.

Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer at William Morris Endeavor

Marc’s thoughts on current events: 

“What are we doing? Are we going to keep having these nice conversations about diversity and inclusion and expect something to change? We need to ensure that this conversation doesn’t stop with hashtags.”

“I challenge us to be uncomfortable having the conversation. Don’t sit by—when you’re quiet your silence is a weapon too. We can’t have nice conversations anymore. I want everyone to be enraged like I am enraged. I am an angry black woman today—and I want you to be too.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Be enraged.
  • Be enraged.
  • Be enraged.

Stephanie Buscemi, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Salesforce

Stephanie’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“Business is a platform for change. Businesses have a responsibility to give back and create change.”

“Instead of creating a separate team that audits things for inclusivity, it’s in the DNA of the company.”

“Tell the stories of underrepresented communities. You cannot be what you cannot see.”

How Salesforce has taken action: 

In 2014, Salesforce launched Trailhead, a series of free online tutorials that coach beginner and intermediate developers who need to learn how to code for the Salesforce platform, with the goal of driving the creation of nearly 3.3 million new jobs by 2022. Through Trailhead, Salesforce hopes to attract more women and minorities and other diverse audiences to the software world.

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Amplify diverse stories and hear across your community.
  • Scale globally, while providing your community with the tools to mount their own local campaigns.
  • Educate your entire organization on the need for deeper structural changes that value all of us.

Jason White, Chief Marketing Officer at Curaleaf

Jason’s thoughts on implementing D&I in business and marketing: 

“The cannabis industry has been built on the backs of people in jail, and as the industry flourishes, a lot of these folk are not allowed to participate. There is a stigma attached to this industry that needs to change. How do we allow people to participate in this industry and honor the communities and the people who have been marginalized?”

“If we’re going to be part of change, we have to make it part of our business model.”

Key Actions You and Your Company Can Take:

  • Send a message – hold recruiters accountable for DE&I (diversity, equity & inclusion).
  • Shine a light – invite us to the community of normalcy, while requiring the same accountability and transparency.
  • Change the narrative – encourage careers in cannabis and don’t perpetuate the cannabis stigma.

If you weren’t able to make the summit, you can catch the recordings here. The original and extended version of this blog post appeared on Laughing Samurai