Diversity Thought Leadership

Moving From Empty Diversity Statements to Real Action

speaking out

Individual and systemic racism, police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests have become the center of attention across the United States in the 12 months following the murder of George Floyd. Regardless of our race, these issues affect us all.

Companies now understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and are making them a priority in their organizations by infusing each into their cultures. Many are also taking a stand against racism and communicating their message of diversity to the public.

For companies, the challenge is to communicate authentic, rather than empty, DE&I statements — and to take real action to ingrain those values into their cultures.

Moving from empty statements to real action begins with introspection. Everyone has implicit biases where we unintentionally attribute qualities or characteristics to all members of a particular group.

We must therefore become aware of our own biases, consciously change our thoughts, behaviors and decisions and create authentic messages that help our companies take action against racism and embrace all aspects of diversity — including religion, age, gender identity, disability, opinions and more.

As PR professionals, we understand that communication influences every aspect of a company. And it is crucial that we communicate to corporate leaders how DE&I affects the bottom line.

A 2018 Deloitte study on leaders committed to DE&I found that as fairness, respect and value increase, individual feelings of inclusion also rise by 70 percent, while team performance increases by 17 percent and team collaboration increases by 20 percent.

In addition, the study showed that inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. As communicators, we can present a business case that a diverse workforce is a business imperative.

Daily practices

As communicators, we can help our companies move from empty statements to real action by counseling executive leaders to incorporate DE&I into their daily practices. We can start by being aware of our biases and how they affect our actions and decisions. We might also encourage leaders and staff members to participate in DE&I training.

Voices4EveryoneWe can help company leaders change policies and procedures to reflect DE&I. That can include advocating for leaders to mandate DE&I training for all employees and incorporating people of diverse backgrounds into all projects and practices. Moreover, we can widen our target audiences to include diverse members of our communities.

Other daily practices we can advocate as communicators include learning about diverse cultures and encouraging anti-racism throughout our companies. We can also offer diversity-related resources for staff members, such as documents, books and websites.

Perhaps most important, we can consistently communicate our company’s authentic messages to the public and hire diverse staffs that reflect the communities our companies serve. These practices also help the public believe and trust our messages.

To learn more about diversity and inclusion, visit Voices4Everyone, PRSA’s recently unveiled strategic initiative that supports a national conversation to build mutual understanding, trust and civic engagement through more inclusive and civil discourse.

As PR professionals, let’s be introspective and help our companies create authentic statements and real action.


Shanikka Flinn serves as the diversity and inclusion officer for PRSA’s Central Ohio Chapter. Flinn is a consultant at Precise One Marketing, LLC, in Columbus, Ohio, and has served in PR, marketing and event planning for over 20 years. This post was developed for PRSA’s Voices4Everyone initiative.

 [Illustration credit: Shutterstock]

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Shanikka Flinn

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