PR Needs Bigger Role in DEI, Webinar Speakers Say


For diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to be most effective, companies need to expand it beyond being a function of HR, according to panelists at this week’s PRNEWS webinar, “Communicating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Actions to External Stakeholders.” The question, then, becomes what the role of PR should be in this expansion.

Webinar speakers included Alicia Alston, VP, global communications, Prudential Financial; Toni Harrison, managing partner & president, Etched-Ten35 and Linh Le, external communications manager, PwC.

“PR and strategic communication have an incredibly important role to play to help define the corporate character [of a company],” Alston said. “We act as the conscience of the company and challenge our leaders to step up and show up in ways that make sense.”

Remaining Relevant

“If you’re not speaking to diverse audiences, you won’t remain relevant. It’s about future-proofing your business and industry,” Alston added. “If we want to solidify ourselves as a leader, we have to understand how to reach consumers where they are and how they want to be reached.”

But those without a thoughtful approach will be accused of virtue signaling. For example, in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, many brands posted black squares in solidarity, pushed out statements committing to equality and posted messages of support of diverse colleagues and networks.

The problem, in many cases, is a lack of diversity at the table, the panelists agreed. “The reason things fall flat is the experience of the recipient,” said Harrison. "When you have a PR team that lacks diversity or insight into the audience you are trying to speak with you are speaking to them.”

“Would you ask a vegan to help you write a plan for a burger, solo? No, so would you ask a team of all men to write a #Metoo [statement]?...The same thing goes with diversity on our PR teams.”

Click here to watch the full conversation.