The value of diversity & cultural awareness in public relations
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Diversity has recently become a buzzword in light of outcries for justice and law enforcement reform across the United States following the murder of Black Americans.
Given the complex dynamics of diversity in our country, it's increasingly important for PR professionals to thoroughly understand the importance of effectively communicating with a wide range diverse audiences and know the landscape of race and equity in our country. Here's a good place to start.
Hiring people with rich cultural backgrounds enhances a company's abilities to create content and messages that resonate with various demographics. This is an important component of ensuring your messaging is on point and effective. The value of having a diverse group of communicators, aside from providing career opportunities to people of all backgrounds, lies in creativity. If a creative development team is homogenous, generated ideas and content will become uninventive and bland. Differences allow for out-of-the box ideas that lead to inspiring content and campaigns that meet your clients' needs and exceed their expectations. The call for a more diverse workforce in PR is longstanding as the industry remains overwhelmingly female and white, according to the PRCA 2019 census. There have been small improvements in recruiting people from other ethnic backgrounds, but there's a great deal of improvements left to be made.
KNOW THE LANDSCAPE: CULTURAL AWARENESS
Understanding a culture, which is a set of beliefs, a worldview and customs that guide how a group of people interacts with others and the world around them, is vital to effective communications. Understanding doesn't mean just spouting out facts and figures. Rather, it's deeply fathoming the history and customs that inform the way a group thinks, speaks, eats and lives. Raising awareness is a common objective of many PR campaigns, so it's vital to understand how and why a culture communicates with each other to maintain relevance and elevate the reputation of your brand. If you're saying something in a way that misses the mark with a demographic, you've also missed an opportunity. It's important to recognize that becoming culturally aware is a process and can take some time. It requires intense and active listening, open mindedness, research and studying, so don't rush or force it. Rather, do it earnestly and full-heartedly.
WORK WELL WITH DIVERSE COLLEAGUES
Hiring a diverse workforce in one thing. Working alongside people who are different than you is another, and it can be a sizable adjustment for many professionals. Emphasize and encourage diversity among employees to create a safe space for creativity, collaboration and support. If done effectively, the benefits of this kind of workplace is two fold. First, work environments that welcome differences allow for a high volume of creative solutions for clients' needs. Secondly, prioritizing diversity reduces talent turnover as employees who feel valued are far less likely to leave.
AVOID CULTURAL APPROPRIATION
Cultural appropriation, the adoption of customs, practices of ideas of a minority group by a majority population, happens often in PR and communications but is never excusable. With access to immediate information and resources online, the industry must ensure the stop of harmful and insulting stereotypes that do little to create trust among your target audiences before campaigns are launched. The best way to avoid culturally appropriated messages and content is to hire a diverse workforce. However, if somehow you find yourself in the red for sending something offensive, be sure to respond with humility. Own up to the mistake, apologize sincerely and communicate your next steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The U.S., and especially Los Angeles, are some of the most diverse areas in the world. The opportunity to advocate for positive changes in the PR industry and at your company are ripe for the reaping. I urge you to advocate for diversity in every aspect of your work and workforce. If you're already doing that, look for other ways to further educate yourself and your colleagues to make even bigger strides.