Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: How to Help Your Employer Be More Inclusive

As employees demand more inclusive work environments, many businesses are moving into 2021 with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). And while DEI shouldn’t be anything new, it may be for your workplace.

If that’s the case, you’re probably the one leading the DEI conversation. After all, working in PR means it’s your job to represent and protect your business’s reputation and help your employers bridge the gaps they simply haven’t made yet. That includes working with human resources or the larger marketing team to ensure your company priorities and values align with staff concerns to create a safe, welcoming environment that’ll continue attracting top talent.

If your business is taking a little longer to get the DEI ball rolling, here are three ways to begin the conversation during Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) Heritage Month.

1. Share the Bigger Picture

Even as the world gets smaller and smaller with live social media updates and 24/7 access to national news, some people simply won’t know where to look to gain an outside perspective. And if their personal bubble is unaffected by larger conflicts taking place out in the world, they may think it’s not worth addressing — to their shareholders, their staff or their customers.

That’s where you (and other PR pros) come in.

It’s your job to give them perspective. You can share a number of resources to support action, including:

  • Mainstream news relevant to this event that will get their attention (local coverage, opinion pieces, responses by other businesses)
  • Any key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics that may support a spike in interest by your customers (a related product you sell that’s out of stock, an uptick of pageviews on related articles/press releases on your newsroom site, comments made on recent social media posts)
  • PR-specific responses suggested for businesses (helpful webinars, recorded town hall videos or even crisis communications examples of what not to do)

Using AAPI Heritage Month as an example, you’ll want to make sure leadership is aware of the recent shootings in Atlanta. Lead them into a larger conversation about the rise of anti-Asian violence and hate. Bring up the fact that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. If you have any Asian Americans on staff, remind your employer. How could this be affecting them, or the larger staff?

Once you’ve got their attention, it’s time to suggest a plan.

2. Introduce an Action Plan

Strategy is key here, mostly because it’s a language your employer will understand. Make sure you pluck the low-hanging fruit:

  • Are there any pre-existing company values you can relate a response to?
  • What goals do you have that stakeholders are interested in? (This will help get higher leadership on board.)
  • Look back at a recent employee survey. Is there any dissatisfaction that DEI could solve and further bolster the argument you’re making?

Talk through any next steps with them. Make sure they’re a part of the process to grow their own involvement and investment.

Using AAPI Heritage Month as the example, this celebration of heritage concerns a lot of different people. Those of Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian descent are included in AAPI. Make sure your workplace gets the “inclusion” part of DEI right by considering all involved.

3. Involve Your Employees

Public relations can be a very secretive and tight-knit profession by nature, but DEI is the time to reach out and include the larger staff. Whether you’re holding a company-wide business meeting, sending out a specific survey or conducting one-on-one interviews, their insight is invaluable.

Here’s some DEI-specific information you’ll want to cover in your meetings:

  • What does DEI mean for your company? (If you celebrate one month’s ethnicity, will you celebrate the next?)
  • How will strategic planning with DEI in mind change your company? (What actual differences can employees, customers and shareholders look for to back up your business’ DEI claims?)
  • How else can the company make positive changes in the DEI space? (Ask everyone you can. The most important insight can come from an unlikely place.)

With a few open, honest conversations, these three areas can help your employer properly include DEI in future strategic planning for your workplace. Just remember that this is only the beginning of the conversation; follow-through is imperative to make real change. Luckily, they have you on their PR team.

Has your company recently added DEI to the conversation? Let us know the role you played in the comments below!

ICON 2020: Offerings for New Pros

PRSA’s international conference is going virtual this year, and that means it’s more affordable than ever for new public relations pros to attend. Forget the travel fees and business cards — all you need to attend ICON 2020 is a reliable computer, a clock set to EDT*, decent internet and your event registration.

From Oct. 26 through Oct. 29, attendees can expect to learn from educational offerings, virtually explore exhibit halls and network with professionals from all over the world.

Not sure where to start? Here are our top, relevant offerings for PRSA New Pros to attend.

Day One: Oct. 26

After attending the 10 a.m. ICON Orientation to make the most of your virtual experience, hop on over to the 11 a.m. Opening General Session. ICON’s keynote speaker, Jon Meacham, is described as “one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals.” Listen in to find out why.

After that, join The Future Is Now: Recruiting, Retaining and Developing Future PR leaders From Millennials and Generation Z with our very own National New Pros Committee Membership Chair Landis Tindell! He’ll share insights about New Pros with co-speaker Eric Wilson.

At 1:30 p.m., check out Exploring Advocacy, Activism and Related Trends (And What They Might Mean for Your Organization) as you consider how businesses are responding — and which ones you want to work for in the future. 2:30 p.m. begins Navigating Through Crisis With Confidence: Lessons in Crisis Management From COVID-19, which promises to share timely lessons learned.

Attend CCO Therapy: Tips, Tricks and Advice for New (and Aspiring) Communications Leaders at 3:30 p.m. for best leader practices and consider meeting a few industry veterans at the Opening Night Reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Day Two: Oct. 27

The second day of ICON kicks off with Carolynn Johnson, chief executive officer of DiversityInc Media LLC and today’s keynote speaker taking the (virtual) stage at 11 a.m. Next, Bridging the Integration Gap: How Communications and Marketing Can Work Together to Create a Unified Brand Strategy will give real collaborative insight into how you’ll work with Marketing as a public relations pro at 12:45 p.m., though you may consider skipping out early to attend the Silver Anvil Awards at 1:45 p.m. and get a close look at what we consider exceptional work.

Humanizing Communications: How To Create Thoughtful and Inclusive Narratives at 3:30 p.m. focuses on incorporating diverse voices and recognizing unconscious biases. After that, the schedule is wide open for you to attend the Diversity & Inclusion Celebration: Transforming the Landscape event taking place at 6:30 p.m.

Day Three: Oct. 28

Keynote speaker and author of How to Lose the Information War, Nina Jankowicz, will open ICON at 11 a.m. What Every PR Pro Needs To Know About SEO prepares New Pros at 12:30 p.m. with ways to boost search engine optimization. Attorney and keynote speaker Lata Nott is known for sharing insights relating to the freedom of expression and internet speech policy, and will be speaking at 1:30 p.m.

3:10 p.m. reveals many relevant sessions for New Pros, but we think the most promising is Grace Under Pressure: Balancing Human Dignity With the Media Frenzy Around the Coronavirus. Not only will it center on COVD-19 crisis communications, but it’ll specifically tackle tough topics like neutralizing hostile audiences in the heat of the moment and dealing with “fake news” in real-time.

Sessions that look ahead often provide inspiration for our own day-to-day (especially as new professionals who may not have much experience to draw on), and The Future of PR: Today’s Trends That Shape the Profession of Tomorrow at 4:10 p.m. does just that.

Next is networking! If that’s an area you struggle with, never fear — you can easily mix and mingle at the Expo Hall Exhibitor Reception and Virtual Happy Hour. Don’t be afraid to jump into public and private chat rooms from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Day Four: Oct. 29

Our final keynote speaker features Laurie Garrett, an award-winning science writer and author speaking at 11 a.m. The Upside of Downturn: Unlocking the Hidden Benefits of Crisis at 12:30 p.m. offers opportunities to prepare before a crisis (and explains why crisis comms is nothing to run away from).

At 1:30 p.m., Insights on Inclusion: Addressing Covering and Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace tackles very real problems for New Pros and discusses why there’s always room (and a need!) for inclusion in the workplace. A Candid Conversation on the Impact and Challenges of COVID-19 to Hospitals, VA and Health Insurance Providers will feature a panel at 2:30 p.m. with four guests talking about very real public relations challenges they continue to face in the time of COVID-19.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a job or have already secured one, Strategically Developing and Promoting You, Your Image and Your Career: A Career Action Plan Workshop at 3:30 p.m. will offer best practices for navigating your career. The final event takes place at 4:30 p.m., and Finding Resiliency for Your Membership and Yourself During a Pandemic is a great way to end ICON with the confidence and information you need in 2020.

Now that you’ve seen our recommendations, take a look at ICON’s full schedule yourself to make sure you don’t miss any sessions that may better pique your interest. Every offering available on the schedule has been hand-picked by PRSA, and will only benefit you to attend. The sessions listed here may be best for New Pros just getting started, but only you can decide which events will specifically benefit you most.

See you at the conference!

*All listed times represent Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

The Best Webinars on Social Justice & Equality (and Where to Hear Their Recordings)

In June, we saw Black Lives Matter erupt in protests even as the world was recovering from a global pandemic. But after Glassdoor had just reported that 42% of U.S. employees have experienced or seen racism in the workplace last year, was it really such a surprise that the human rights movement started in 2016 was still alive?

Now in July, dozens of helpful resources have similarly sprung up in the interest of social justice and equality. As the public relations professional in your workplace, it may be up to you to begin these conversations.

Below are some of the most authentic and insightful webinars we have found around Black Lives Matter. Watch them, learn from them, and — most importantly — share them.

Brands Taking A Stand Against Social Injustices – When Staying Silent Is No Longer An Option

This PRSA webinar is free with your PRSA membership and digs into how different brands can genuinely address social issues in line with their own company values. Specific topics include:

  • Evaluation Before Engagement (tactics & possible outcomes)
  • Value-Based Action (genuine reactions and leadership)
  • Identify Decision-Making Moments (when to take a stand as a brand)

Watch the recording as a PRSA member for free here: PRSA – Brands Taking a Stand

Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on African Americans and Communities of Color

This free webinar was coordinated by the American Bar Association and is part of their COVID-19 Webinar Series. This particular webinar concerns the “current and foreseeable implications of the COVID-19 pandemic has on the African American Community.” Specific topics include:

  • Healthcare (testing site availability, health insurance assistance, health disparities)
  • Economic Security (minority small business relief)
  • Voting (voter turnout, accessibility)

Watch the free recording here: American Bar Association – Implications of COVID-19

Solidarity Convos: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders for Black Lives

This free webinar is just one of Act to Change’s many panel videos that cover hard topics that must be discussed to move forward in a modern and safe society. It’s also worth noting that actively encourage live participation in their recordings. Specific topics include:

  • Solidarity (especially the need for it between communities of color)
  • Accessible People of Color (privilege and perspective)
  • Change (what can be done for the next generation, now)
  • Inclusion (in this moment & going forward)

Watch the free recording here: Act to Change – Solidarity Convos

The Black Lives Matter Movement and Your Organization

This free webinar by Paylocity covers Black Lives Matter in the workplace using real examples of what employees (and consumers) expect from businesses. Specific topics include:

  • Employee Expectations (common questions & best responses)
  • Support in the Workplace (how to encourage employees)
  • How Businesses Can Lead (and why you should)
  • The Danger of Silence (how it can translate to acceptance)
  • Inherent Bias (the hiring process, inclusion & diversity)

Watch the free recording here: Paylocity – The Movement and Your Organization

“Do Black Lives Matter in Europe?”

This free webinar is presented by the Council for European Studies to discuss the protests and reactions to Black Lives Matter happening beyond North America. Specific topics include:

  • Racism & Anti-Racist Struggles in Europe (especially amid present dynamics)
  • Global Connections to Black Lives Matter (why it transcends the U.S.)
  • Protests Amid the Pandemic (how we make sense of it)

Watch the free recording here: Council for European Studies – Black Lives Matter

Have a valuable webinar of your own to share? Link it in the comments below!

Careers in a Post-Pandemic World: Should You Seek Essential Jobs?

Summer is here, and so is COVID-19 (still). In a month where we’d normally be distracted by fireworks and cookouts, it suddenly isn’t uncommon to read about massive layoffs, learn that another colleague has just been let go, or even receive a flyer that a favorite local business has permanently closed its doors.

The only thing that seems reliable these days are essential jobs — but what is “essential,” anyway?

ES·SEN·TIAL, first used as a noun in the 15th century, is described by Merriam-Webster as being both “basic” and “necessary.” In February, it might’ve been described as a skilled job that required education or experience to fill. Today, it very clearly means a role that keeps society running (i.e., healthcare workers, grocers, delivery drivers, cashiers, food servers, etc.).

For public relations professionals, that means finding a business or personality to represent that is considered essential (as known by the latter description). And while influencers and celebrities alike are sticking to safety guidelines and quarantining themselves away, that leaves essential businesses as your next bet at a job opportunity.

Anywhere that essential workers are operating generally falls under that essential business umbrella: restaurant chains with delivery or drive-thrus; supermarkets deemed too important to close; retailers with essential goods we couldn’t safely (or humanely) get by without.

Got a few brands in mind? Not so fast — “essential,” after all, doesn’t mean “safe.”

The Advantages

Maybe the essential employers thriving during the pandemic are businesses you’ve never considered before. But don’t dismiss them just because they’ll cause confusion on your resume — future employers will understand why you represented a grocery store during a pandemic. Plus, there’ll be some skills you can learn or grow that’ll move with you when the chance arises to get back into your preferred industry.

Here are a few easy reasons to look up an essential business’ career website:

  • Essential businesses are likely hiring, or at least one of the many not drastically downsizing.
  • An essential business is one of the few locations (both legally and naturally) that consumers are very carefully spending their cash right now.
  • PR jobs could especially be in demand, especially as COVID-19 continues to fall under the high-paced “crisis communications” category.

The Disadvantages

Especially if you’re new to the job market or just had a long-term role eliminated from underneath you, essential businesses may look like a safe harbor in the storm. But before you hop aboard, consider the bigger picture.

Here are a couple of cons to essential jobs that could cause a wrinkle in your plans:

  • Because they’re getting extra business, an essential employer may only be hiring for temporary or freelance roles that could be cancelled at a moment’s notice.
  • Since they’re one of the few hiring and the job market has turned on its head in favor of the employer, they may low-ball you on pay.
  • If they’re essential, they may have special permissions to work around specific safety measures — and possibly put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

Check out the business’ corporate website (which is where you, as a PR pro, will probably be working) and identify their values. Do they align with yours? Could you see yourself working for them long after the pandemic, or will you trade job satisfaction for job security?

Don’t put yourself in a bad situation out of fear, or pride.

Have something to share about essential employment? Put your thoughts in the comments below!

We’re Over the Rainbow (Logo): 3 Other Things Your Company Should Do to Show Their Pride

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is an American right in 2015, rainbows and ally badges have been steadily making their way into the corporate landscape. Today, it’s not uncommon to see a LinkedIn feed full of colorful company logos that marketing teams schedule to hit on June 1, the start of Pride Month.

Although representation remains incredibly important in such public spaces, there is something a little shallow about dozens of companies who may not otherwise advocate for the LGBTQ+ beyond the rainbow logo. In fact, some have even taken to calling it “rainbow-washing,” which Wired’s Justice Namaste defined in a 2018 interview:

“Rainbow-washing allows people, governments, and corporations that don’t do tangible work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year to slap a rainbow on top of something in the month of June and call it allyship.”

As the PR professional representing those relations with the public, we’ve compiled a simple list of things you can do to help your company more genuinely follow-through on their promise to the community when they incorporate rainbows this month.

1. Create an Internal Pride Committee

If your company really doesn’t know where to start, remove the pressure and start by looking to your staff. Do you have LGBTQ+ folks working at your organization who feel comfortable sharing ideas to make the workplace more inclusive? Or worse, have they already submitted some ideas, but were left unheard?

This is your chance to create a real space for pride within your company all year long, not just during June.

2. Show Up at Your Community’s Pride Celebrations

While the fight to keep LGBTQ+ rights is still very real, plenty of Pride events take place all over the U.S. in celebration of how far acceptance has come. Even if your company is not based in a large city, your community probably has some sort of non-profit organization or city committee that hosts a parade each year. Consider pitching participation to your employer and inviting employees out to enjoy the event under the company’s registration.

If you don’t have the large staff or budget to attend community events, consider offering a discount for those organizations that arrange them. It is Pride Month, after all.

3. Share the Importance of Pride with Staff

Maybe your company is so unsure of where they fit into Pride that they don’t even do the rainbow logo during June. As the PR pro, it’s up to you to start those conversations, and there’s nothing wrong with simply starting with your staff.

Consider creating a Pride newsletter full of historical facts that you can share, or working with your graphics team to publish a temporary internal webpage on a staff-exclusive communications site. This can help your business be more inclusive for their people, and possibly for the community as an ally in the future.

Has your company gone above and beyond in support of Pride? Share in the comments below!