It was just two years ago that we witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd, an event that resonated on a personal level with many of us. I remember where I was, who I was with and my deep feelings of horror, shock and despair. And I remember when he called out for his mother.
That moment in time, igniting two critical conversations worldwide on race and policing, was a serious inflection point and loud wake-up call.
First, it signaled that we must consider widespread social injustices and DEI inequities occurring all around us. That reckoning was long overdue.
In addition, the wake of George Floyd highlighted hesitancies of organizations to incorporate CSR into their business plans.
During these past 24 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated us, I wish I could say that we have taken great strides, but while there has been progress, we can and must do better.
So what does this mean for communication professionals?
It means we must continue to be bold and tireless advocates for honesty, steady advancement, ethical behavior and unfailing accountability.
Let’s examine a snapshot of where we are and still need to go.
A recently released HR Research Institute white paper and survey found that only slightly more than half (54 percent) of respondents agree that their organization’s corporate culture is more inclusive than it was two years ago. In addition, just 48 percent say their employee base is more diverse.
We all want to and need to move faster here. Numerous groups have dedicated themselves to this cause. In turn, this encourages organizations to take a harder look at what true progress would mean. While change has been incremental, it must continue to be fundamental. Moreover, we must, at all costs, avoid diversity fatigue, the stress and frustration that can result from efforts to create and then realize DEI goals.
For companies and organizations to succeed in today’s volatile and polarized environment, a commitment to CSR is no longer optional; it is imperative. Employees and outside audiences alike demand it.
For example, Porter Novelli research studies found that 93 percent of employees believe companies must lead with purpose, while 66 percent of respondents consider a company’s purpose when making purchase decisions.
Wharton assistant professor of management Stephanie Creary refers to this mandate as social authorization, or “permission granted by external groups for business leaders to take internal action.” We as communicators can help harness and expand that energy to ensure that our clients and our organizations remain relevant and transparent.
Unified Voice/Genuine Voice
As companies increasingly commit to incorporating CSR into their DNA, it becomes that much more important to consider the potential effect of all messaging on internal and external audiences.
For example, in certain circles alarms are ringing about the dangers of being considered too woke and opportunistic. We all must guard against this consistently. Prior to taking positions or making announcements, consider the myriad constituencies that will receive your message. Be sensitive to the possible ways, positive and negative, these messages might be perceived. When in doubt, align reputation with sincerity.
It is truly unfortunate that it’s taken the George Floyd tragedy to serve as a catalyst to restart and reemphasize these and other conversations so vital to our wellbeing. As we reflect today, we must recommit ourselves to keep shining a light on the world’s injustices. As professional communicators and global citizens, it’s up to all of us.
Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, is 2022 chair of PRSA