Looking at Recent Racial Equity and Diversity Statements from PR Agencies
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
By Ethan Chiu, Internal Operations Coordinator, Fall 2020
With the recent increased awareness and conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement and racial equity, a lot of brands and companies have been releasing statements on their stance. Many of these statements have a similar backbone, in which they do not condone police brutality and racial discrimination and how we as a society must do better. But what sets some statements apart from others is a commitment to change. Specifically, in the advertising and public relations industry, it has been interesting to see how an industry that centers around carefully crafted language and brand marketing has spoken about the movement. One statement in particular that caught my attention was a statement from Golin, and their commitment to actionable change. This was one of the few posts I saw that had tangible, actionable steps towards improved racial equity at their company. You can find the statement here. Here are two things that I found most effective in this statement:
Transparency: Golin was very transparent with sharing their diversity data and stating that they are not very proud of it. In their data, they show a large disproportion in the racial makeup of their staff. While this can be due to a number of reasons, Golin makes it clear that this will change.
Reflection: This statement comes from a place of looking back and determining that change needs to take place, and Golin making improvements in areas that need it the most. This reflects on the conversation about equity vs. equality, making sure that action and resources are going towards areas that need it most instead of just being equally distributed.
While this is a well-crafted statement, it is not perfect. But being able to critically analyze that is a crucial part of understanding how to think more equitably. One thing in this statement that did not stick too well with me was the following point:
“Change our hiring strategy to ensure at least one Black candidate is interviewed for every open position in the agency, and that there is a Black finalist candidate for every senior position”
While this does come off with good intention, it brings in the idea of racial quotas in the workplace. While there should absolutely be a focus on bringing in more BIPOC staff, it should be for the intention of bringing in their skill/talent, not simply for their race. Being seen as a "token" employee can have negative effects on job performance and mental health.
Furthermore, I want to emphasize practicing what you preach. Looking at a different communications agency, this agency posted 32 articles in the between May-August, and only 3 of them were related to social justice. Most of their posts were centered around how brands can deal with COVID and its repercussions on business, but only 3 discussed how to work with social justice and brand accountability. A post from them shares 5 steps towards being accountable and actionable, though I have yet to see them follow their own words.
As we as communications professionals make decisions on behalf of our agencies and create client work, these are things we should be thinking about in our work. Is our work and are our actions promoting equity for everyone? Are we practicing what we preach in our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion? DEI is not a one-time conversation, it is something we must continue to work on and weave into our everyday operations.