2020 was a year of racial reckoning in America. Following the murder of George Floyd, the country collectively looked inward to see how we are failing to address racial discrimination and perpetuating issues facing marginalized communities. Many companies began to create diversity, equity, and inclusion committees and brought in professionals to give seminars about race. While these are reasonable steps for companies, public relations professionals must hold themselves to a higher standard. It is crucial that PR professionals see the importance of diversity in the field.
We have all seen disastrous PR campaign fails that offend people and completely miss the mark. From Kendall Jenner infamously suggesting the way to solve police brutality is by sharing a Pepsi to Dove disastrously creating a commercial that implies white is beautiful, it is clear that major brands aren’t safe from these disastrous blunders. These often lead people to ask, “How did no one see the issue?” The answer is painfully simple: the exact people that these ads hurt weren’t in the room when these campaigns were created. Having a PR team with diverse individuals helps prevent these mistakes and will ensure that different perspectives are addressed when creating campaigns. Diversity is not only ethically necessary but vital to creating and maintaining a successful campaign and brand image.
PR practitioners play a crucial role not only in brand image but also in media in general. We tell the story of our clients and stakeholders and are mainly responsible for the content that journalists put into the media cycle. We are storytellers, and our influence reaches far and wide. It is of the utmost importance that we make sure that all stories are being told in a way that represents reality. A concept that we need to be familiar with is “counter-storytelling,” which entails telling stories that go against the status quo and give a more holistic representation of reality. Counter-storytelling is especially important when speaking about marginalized communities. If PR is diversified and people from these communities are given the opportunity to share their experiences and challenge people to think outside of their established views, then stereotypes will begin to break down. PR practitioners play such a crucial role in influencing the stories the media tells, and it is our responsibility to ensure we are portraying reality.
Business-driven goals and ethics make it evident that PR professionals need to start recognizing the importance of diversity. It is simply not enough to have diversity training; we need to ensure that people of diverse backgrounds have a seat at the table. At our places of work, we must advocate for ourselves or others to create a more diverse and inclusive field and society.
Daisy Frankum, Account Executive