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!

PRospects for New Pros: Finding Your Footing During COVID-19 and Beyond

On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, public relations professionals came together virtually to discuss current hiring trends and how to move forward during COVID-19 and beyond. The webinar, sponsored by the New Professionals Section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), brought together four experienced PR professionals who shared their experiences and tips with new professionals.

Webinar panelists included Taylor Bryant, an assistant professor (clinical track) in the mass communications department at the University of West Georgia; Kirk Hazlett, APR, adjunct professor of communication at the University of Tampa; Christina Stokes, Vice President and Director of Talent Acquisition at Rubenstein; and Mike Neumeier, APR, CEO of Arketi Group.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many new professionals have struggled to find their footing, whether as new graduates looking for employment or employed new professionals looking for ways to hone relevant skills and advance their careers. Stokes said that, despite the challenges over the past year, “things are looking up.”

Bryant reminded recent graduates that the virtual workplace forced onto companies by the pandemic has created an environment where new professionals in particular can excel. “The virtual environment for us is new, but for students, they are tech savvy…you have what it takes in terms of the technical aspects.” And that’s a huge advantage.

Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities

Hazlett said that, while companies may not be hiring as much because of the pandemic, there are still ways to get ahead in your professional careers. For example, while internships are not jobs, Hazlett said, “it doesn’t hurt to add more experience to your resume.” Every panelist encouraged new professionals to find ways to use this time to take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by the pandemic, such as online conferences and certificate programs.

New professionals should specifically focus on ways to develop professionally that will help get you where you want to be in your careers. “It’s important to know your why and what. What you want to do next and why you want to do it,” said Bryant. She recommended finding a few desirable jobs and looking at their roles, responsibilities, and required skills, and then taking a look at where you can improve and get professional development in those areas. “It’s like mapping your career,” said Bryant.

Make Networking Part of Your Plans

As part of your professional growth, new professionals should focus on networking and making connections. “I believe in authentic connections,” said Bryant. “Focus on building genuine relationships. People are more likely to recommend you when they know you and have a real relationship with you.”

Stokes emphasized the benefit of using LinkedIn to stay connected once you’ve established those relationships. “Stay connected to them…it takes work, but opportunities will come to you that will help elevate you in your career.” Neumeier added that networking “is a numbers game, like the lottery. If you don’t play, you can’t win.”

Neumeier also said that being part of groups like the PRSA New Professionals Section is key because “these are your peers. These are the people you’re going to grow up in the industry with…take advantage of that and use your network,” said Neumeier.

Aside from insights into professional growth and networking, panelists also provided advice for landing jobs early in your new professionals’ careers.

Interviewing Insights for New Pros

When it comes to interviewing, Bryant says to practice. She recommended writing down a list of essential things you want your potential employer to know about you, and then compare that to common interview questions so you can practice making sure those essential points come up during the interview.

Hazlett said that potential candidates make an impression when they come prepared to ask their own questions.

Stokes added, “Interviewing is a conversation with a potential colleague. So look at it that way and it might make you feel more comfortable.” She also recommended doing research about the interviewer and the company. “What’s interesting about them to you and why? I love having a conversation with a candidate and learning what they’re interested in about the company,” said Stokes.

Virtual interviews can present its own set of challenges, but the panelists encouraged new professionals to make the most of it. Make sure your room is clean and that what the camera captures is professional. Virtual interviews can be problematic, but panelists say that’s just part of how things are. “We’re at a weird time where home is work and work is home and the lines are blurred. The reality is that you can’t avoid crying kids or the dog barking in the background…so I like to see how they navigate that…Use your unique environment to your advantage,” said Stokes.

Even with the challenges created by the pandemic, there are ways for new professionals to find their footing and progress in their professional careers. Find a way to get started and move forward. “Get a job, even if it’s not your dream job. Perform well, learn what you like, and your career will develop,” said Neumeier.

What You Should Know As a PRSA New Professional

Becoming a member of PRSA is more than just skimming the daily emails. To truly benefit from being a part of PRSA, we have three tips to help you thrive as a new professional in the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community.

Understand the Purpose of PRSA

PRSA has about 30,000 members in all 50 states. With over 110 Chapters and 14 Professional Interest Sections, PRSA is focused on connecting, supporting, and serving the needs of PR professionals nationwide. Through an emphasis on advocating for industry excellence and ethical conduct, PRSA provides members with professional development opportunities, the latest news and research, and resources to help PRSA members become leaders and mentors in their fields.

Know Your Member Benefits

As a member of PRSA, you will receive the latest news and information from PR professionals across the nation through PRSA publications, including regular newsletters, the monthly newspaper, and the blog. Utilize these resources to stay connected on the latest trends and happenings within PR and communications.

Your PRSA membership also comes with a wealth of professional development opportunities. Check out upcoming webinars (many of them are free to members) as well as on-demand online training opportunities and workshops. If you’re looking to enhance your skill set, check out the PRSA’s certificate programs, or consider pursuing the professionally-recognized APR designation.

Don’t forget that, aside from what PRSA offers, individual chapters and professional interest sections also offer their own webinars and value-added opportunities. Keep an eye out for those through forum posts and newsletters.

Get Involved

Anyone who says that their PRSA membership wasn’t worth the cost failed to take advantage of one of the most important aspects of PRSA: the opportunity to get involved and network with a wide range of PR professionals. As a new member, take advantage of the PRSA forums by introducing yourself, asking for advice or resources, connecting to local or speciality-interest mentors, and putting yourself out there.D

If you’re looking for further service and involvement opportunities, many of the chapters and professional interest sections have need for board members and collaborators. Volunteer to serve on a board, write a blog, or contribute to a project.

PRSA also hosts its annual conference, and various chapters and professional interest sections host regular conferences and trainings as well. While those typically have registration costs in addition to your PRSA membership, they provide unique opportunities to learn and network in a PR-focused environment.

Becoming a member of PRSA shouldn’t stop with paying your membership dues and skimming the daily emails. To truly benefit from being a part of PRSA, understand what PRSA stands for, know your member benefits, and get involved.

Using Employee Narrative to Defend Corporate Reputation: Southwest Airline’s Flight 1380 Crisis Case Study

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light more than ever the need for public relation practitioners to have the proper skills in crisis communication management. While this has always been known to experienced practitioners, it makes the case for those new to the industry to see if they need more knowledge and training in this area.

One of the ways to gain more knowledge is looking back at the past and learning from these case studies.

As a part of Ball State’s online master’s in public relations curriculum, students are required to take leadership courses — one being dedicated to case studies. The work completed by our students not only builds their critical analysis skills of how professionals handle public relations issues in global, digital and ethical contexts, but also provides an opportunity for recognition.

Two of my graduate students won third place in the 2020 Page Student Case Study Competition for their case study, “’Nothing to Hide.’ That’s Southwest. Navigating Crises Fast and Well With Human Stories in the Era of Misinformation.”

The case study took a deep dive into Southwest’s response to Flight 1380’s mid-air emergency, where the aircraft’s left engine exploded shortly after takeoff, causing the plane to plummet toward the ground. Shrapnel from the explosion broke through a passenger’s window, creating a vacuum that sucked her body halfway out of the plane before other passengers could pull her back inside to administer CPR. The crew managed an emergency landing, but the incident left one passenger dead and eight others with non-critical injuries.

Already known for its mission of “Transfarency,” Southwest maintained their core principle of transparency throughout the entirety of the crisis. During and in the immediate aftermath of this crisis, the airline remained transparent with its public, regularly communicating updates regarding the situation via press releases, Tweets, press conferences, sympathy letters, videos, inspection updates, compensation packages and blog posts.

After the incident, crew members and passengers of Flight 1380 were featured on various media outlets as a part of a media tour. Through the stories shared by crew and passengers, a narrative of faith and trust developed in Southwest’s messaging. These reputation tactics are only a few examples of what helped the airline recover from the crisis and gain back the public’s trust.

Studying how corporations and organizations respond to the public during times of crisis can provide a way to diversify your skills and critical thinking in your current and future public relations career. Employers are always seeking candidates with these sets of skills. If you think you may need more education or experience to help further your career, consider pursuing your master’s degree.

Ball State’s master’s in public relations is entirely online, so you can continue working while earning your degree. What you learn in our courses can be applied to your career the very next day.

Interested? Apply today. Applications for the 2021 Spring semester are due January 5, 2021. Use the code PRMA2020 before December 31, 2020 to waive the $60 application fee.

 

 

Dr. YoungAh Lee is an associate professor and Graduate Studies Director in the Department of Journalism. Her approach to public relations emphasizes the role of reputation, believing that businesses succeed best when they align their communication and business goals.

To learn more about Dr. Lee and Ball State University, visit the university’s Department of Journalism.

LinkedIn: Dr. YoungAh Lee

 

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)