Where DEI, Ethics and Crisis Communication Intersect

Societal improvement can be frustratingly slow. As a business leader and communication professional, I find it painful watching organizations repeatedly fail to learn from their mistakes.

For example, major media outlets have had their share of PR predicaments over the past few years related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These situations often have their roots in unethical behavior in the workplace.

Another media company experienced a problem this month when ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols’s hot mic rant went public. Allegedly, network leadership took almost no substantive action until the rant surfaced in a July 4 NY Times article. Again, allegedly, ESPN knew of Nichols’s remarks last year. At some point it suspended a Black producer for two days for making Maria Taylor, the target of Nichols’s rant, aware of the tape. Post-July 4, ESPN pulled Nichols off the air, though she returned subsequently.

Media companies hardly are the only ones falling short in their DEI, ethics and communication challenges. The chancellor of UNC totally missed the mark in a July 6 message about the university’s decision not to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones. In a rambling statement posted on the university’s website, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz failed to heed basic principles of effective crisis communication: Acknowledge the failure.


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