Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room: Inclusion and Why it Matters

Diversity is a common element in communication, PR and marketing campaigns, which reflects just how far we’ve come in creating equitable opportunities for women and minorities. We’ve made great strides yet still have some ways to go. Far too often, we miss the mark when it comes to diversity because we often ignore or forget the inclusion side of the equation — and it shows.

By now, most of us understand diversity as recognizing and appreciating differences: in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status or physical disability. But it’s not enough to have representation: there should also be active participation, recognizing all members of the team. As diversity and inclusion consultant Vernā Myers famously said, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Example

Last year, Gucci came under fire due to the release of its balaclava sweater that was widely criticized for being an example of blackface. Following the incident, the company removed the sweater from shelves. Gucci also issued a lackluster apology with no significant action plan or without claiming responsibility. This only seemed to ignite calls for widespread boycotts.

In an effort to further diffuse backlash, Gucci created a set of action items. One was to be more inclusive in their hiring. In addition, they promised to hire global and regional directors of diversity and inclusion. While there are no metrics to determine the success of their crisis management, it is safe to say that talks of boycotts decreased, news media coverage waned after a few months, and the story stopped trending on social media.

There have been a variety of perspectives shared about this PR debacle. And almost none of them reference what would have happened if designers of color had been in the room when the decision was made to launch the product. In addition, a diverse PR team could have stopped Gucci from making a costly mistake to its brand and reputation. Inclusion could have made all the difference.

Why it Matters

Companies that effectively integrate diversity and inclusion into their businesses acknowledge, respect and seek out the lived experience and insights that make various cultural groups unique. In our field of PR and communications, diversity and inclusion:

  1. bring fresh ideas and richer perspectives to our work environment that stimulate creativity and provide a more dynamic vision for the production process
  2. enable focus groups to offer more relevant experiences and opinions to support better decision-making
  3. support more genuine messaging for marketing campaigns based on a stronger understanding of the target audience
  4. make our work more relevant, meaningful and mission-driven

Diversity and inclusion together are integral to our industry as we work with companies of all stripes. Especially since boardrooms and C-suites still do not reflect the multiculturalism of their customers. We can lead by example by including diverse perspectives in pitch meetings, content discussions and client interactions.

These are lessons we all can learn from. Our impact is greater when our diversity and inclusion mission statements align with our actions. We shouldn’t run from differences.. For the sake of the future of the world we live in, we should be running towards it.

Janeal Garry is a Communications Assistant at Beaumont Health and a PRSA Detroit member/chair of the Diversity committee.

Feature picture from pexels