A Responsibility Renewed

As professional communicators, we’re consistently providing diversity of thought for our clients. While we’re proud of what we accomplish on their behalf, we know there’s always work to do – to get better and to be better. From the global pandemic to civil discourse, our team’s minds have been stretched over the past few months. It’s been exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding. And, my personal belief that communicators have a responsibility to the world has been renewed.

With a desire to be a better ally – both personally and professionally – I’ve been doing a lot of listening and learning, and recently had the opportunity to hear from three dynamic communicators via PRSA’s Counselor’s Academy. Alexis Davis Smith, Darolyn Davis, and LaTricia Harper Woods are three smart, seasoned, senior level communicators who provide counsel to Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations and small businesses. These ladies are doing exceptional work across the U.S. and are communication catalysts for racial justice and equity.

As one could imagine, the hour-long conversation was chock-full of admonishment and advice. Here are a few pieces of advice worth noting:

  • It’s easy to let the conversation of racial inequality and injustice be diminished by or categorized by political leanings – especially in an election year. Resist that and remember above all—this is a human issue.
  • Today presents an opportunity for organizations and individuals. Be open to learning and changing.
  • Thanks to the pandemic, personal and work environments are no longer separate. The lines are blurred now more than ever before, and personal and profession lives will continue to intersect.
  • Organizations need to stand up; show up; speak up; make a change. And, the work must start at the top.
  • Statements of support are the surface level action. They are important, but work across an organization is where real change and real results can happen.
  • Communicators should have a seat at the table for organizational conversations. We understand our audiences and our brands, along with the intersection points of shared values, beliefs, needs and desires.
  • It’s okay to start small – just get started. Consider an audit. Then make a plan. Focus internally, then externally.
  • Begin the internal conversation. Look at hiring practices. Look at the makeup of all project teams. Consider changes in law your company can get behind. Look at your supply chain. Dive deep – there are no quick fixes, but the work is worth it.
  • Invest in organizations and causes – not for the headlines, but in true support of the mission.
  • Above all, be authentic.

P.S. If you want to follow some organizations highlighted for doing it “right,” take a look at Ben & Jerry’s, Pepsi, Google, Nike and Proctor & Gamble. They understand their responsibility to the world and they are acting on it. And, while sometimes racial equity work is imperfect, I’ve learned that imperfection is much better than silence.