On June 18, we were joined by 24 communications professionals for a candid conversation on how we as public relations professionals have an opportunity to play an important role in shaping how our organizations, and our chapter, address diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Moderated by executive coaches and senior PR professionals Tracy Imm, APR, and Cathy Nyce, the chat was held as part of PRSA Maryland’s promise to continue to work to be more diverse and inclusive through meaningful and measurable goals.
*Due to the nature of the chat, it was not recorded but below is a quick snapshot of what was discussed.
“Your professional life starts with who you are. By pursuing transformational change, you can, and, and in fact, must change yourself. The act of working for transformation is transformative.”
On a personal level, Cathy Nyce led us in an exercise on how to develop a Personal Declaration to guide our actions. We can begin by asking …
- What do I believe?
- To what am I committed?
- What is my growth edge?
- What is important to me? Why?
- What are the contributions I want to make?
- How will I know when I am standing in my declaration? Note: looks like speaking out, making a contribution; not standing is staying silence
On a professional level, we talked about holding our organizational leadership accountable for statements and making sure they follow through with concrete actions. One challenge discussed was what to do if your organization’s leadership is hesitant to wade into social issues. Suggestions included pointing out that they do not want to be on wrong side of issues or left behind. Broaden their view illustrating where they may already be in that space on other issues. Also, stressing that doing nothing could be affecting future recruitment. The younger generation are activists as well as more diverse and integrated. They are asking about organizations ethics and values; critical talent could be loss if an organization seems uncaring.
We also talked about how important it is to reach out internally to employees. Suggested actions include surveying employees on what they need in terms of resources, offering mental health services to minority employees, and making DE&I part of the strategic plan.
Finally, we asked what we can do as a chapter to support our members. Below is a list of some of the suggestions:
- provide more resources.
- review the chapter’s strategic plan, and add diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives (short term and long-term goals).
- partner with minority organizations such as HBCUs, etc. to increase connections and networking
- offer pro bono work with a minority organizations, businesses, and non-profits.
- survey minority members in their experiences with PRSA.
- reach out to PR minority students. Support internships in agencies.
This is, of course, only one step in the long process of advocating for change within our professional and we welcome all our members to participate in the ongoing conversation. We will be continuing the conversation begun at our 2018 and 2019 annual conferences with expanded dialogue at our 2020 virtual conference on racism in our city, and specifically in our industry, and systematic ways to overcome it. Save the date for Sept. 24 and 25!
Update! We are pleased to announce that after this chat, two participants stepped forward to lead our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. They will be working on building the committee over the summer and begin creating a strategic plan and DEI metrics to be launched in January 2021. Email us if you would like to be part of the initiative.