Beyond the Black Square: What PR Pros Can Do for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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PRSA Capital Region’s recent virtual event, Beyond the Black Square: What PR Pros Can Do for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), brought local industry professionals together virtually to discuss this important topic with Dr. D. A. Graham, Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at the University of Kansas.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd last year led to protests and sparked a national dialogue around social justice issues and cultural movements, including Black Lives Matter, in the corporate and non-corporate world. Subsequently, many organizations, universities, and individuals were prompted to take a public stance on DEI-related topics that are often left unaddressed.

Now, months after the messages were sent out, it’s time for PR pros to find ways to follow up on the messages shared by our organizations with action. The discussion with Dr. Graham highlighted practical ways to get started and move forward, among them the following three things to keep in mind:

Define Your Terms

Before statements are crafted and sent, an organization needs to define terms. This allows all parties in an organization to understand what inclusion, for example, means to them so they can collectively work toward distributing messages and implementing actions that help their internal and external audiences heal from the trauma influencing the way messages are received and interpreted.

Work With Experts

An expert in the field should advise all DEI committees. Many universities have a DEI Expert on staff willing to meet and review DEI initiatives at other organizations and help guide the way forward, including naming the issues and navigating the emotions a community is experiencing, so the organization can offer the right support and solutions. 

It’s More Than Race

Diversity is everything. Organizations should find creative ways to tell stories that touch on the ways that make individuals unique, aside from their race and ethnicity. What are their interests, passions, weaknesses, and needs? Close attention should be paid to how the organization can make all individuals feel like they belong.

Watch the full recording for more insights on DEI from Dr. D. A. Graham.