PR Roundup: the Middle East and Internal Comms, The Guardian Questions Edelman, and Dept. of Commerce Asks for DEI Help

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This week's PR Roundup takes a look at the topic of the Middle East and internal communication, a media report on Edelman's client relationships and its Trust Barometer, and the U.S. Department of Commerce asking the public for help with its new DEI project.

Employees Appreciate Employers’ Communication on Middle East 

What happened: Sometimes it's better to over-communicate than stay silent when it comes to internal messaging.

New research conducted by The Harris Poll for The Grossman Group finds companies that delivered effective communication on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict received high ratings from their employees.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • Confidence in senior leadership, alignment with company culture, and overall employee engagement increased 4 to 6 times for organizations that delivered effective communication on the Middle East conflict, coupled with manager outreach

  • However, only a small number of employees received any communication regarding the conflict. Just one-in-five employees reported that their employer shared an official statement regarding the conflict, and only one-in-six employees reported that their manager directly communicated with them.

  • Employees who said their company did not make a statement reported just 10 percent confidence in company leadership, alignment with the company culture and overall engagement.

Communication lessons: David Grossman, Founder and CEO, The Grossman Group says employee well-being is at stake when issues aren’t handled well internally.

“Hate is not political and impacts more people than leaders may expect,” Grossman says. “Silence from within organizations hurts employee confidence and engagement, and it has major implications for leaders today and during future crises.”

Grossman continues that leaders need to look at how they communicate through a human lens, and that communication professionals can help lead the way.

“We learned through the research that there are 12 elements senior communicators said were most important to a company’s internal communication—such as concern, empathy and authenticity,” he says. “Ensuring communication contains these elements is certainly in a communication professional’s sweet spot.”

However, Grossman says, statements alone are not enough—management engagement is essential.

“In partnership with HR, communication professionals must focus on equipping leaders to have these conversations—helping them listen, show empathy, and demonstrate authentic concern. It’s these two steps together—an effective internal statement followed by manager outreach - where we see trust in leadership, culture and engagement soar.”

Edelman Trust Barometer Questions

What happened: On Nov. 24, Black Friday, while many PR pros took advantage of a long weekend to spend time with family, friends and possibly get ahead on their holiday shopping, The Guardian published a story on how Edelman uses its popular Trust Barometer to “promote the world’s autocrats.” The article looks at the fiscal/client relationships between Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other “repressive” regimes and Edelman and their appearance in the Trust Barometer.

For many years, Edelman’s barometer has reported citizens of these countries strongly trusting their governments, without the firm thoroughly disclosing their financial agreements with these government entities.

According to the article, “an Edelman spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Guardian: ‘As a global firm, we believe it is important to work with clients and in markets around the world that are transforming –economically, politically, socially, environmentally, and culturally.

“We believe our presence in the Middle East can help drive change by counseling influential organizations, advising on expectations for business and brands today, and building new stakeholder relationships.’”

However, the organization did not respond to The Guardian’s questions about whether taking on the UAE government as a client in 2010 was connected to inclusion in the trust barometer 2011, or “whether Edelman offers potential or current government clients the opportunity to be included in the survey as a benefit of hiring the firm.”

Other confusing standards for the barometer include when a country should be dropped. The Guardian reported that Edelman featured Russia in the years between 2007 and 2022, but decided to remove the country in 2023 after the invasion of Ukraine. However, Saudi Arabia stayed in the survey report just months after the death of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Communication lessons: The Trust Barometer remains one of the PR industry’s greatest measuring sticks for global reputation. It is quoted and referenced by thousands of articles and reports, and referred to proudly by the companies featured.

However, it’s important for organizations to be clear when it comes to process, particularly when publishing reports on reputation and the public. Alex Slater, CEO and Founder, CLYDE, says while the report is an extremely valuable tool, client promotion—at any level of PR—needs to be thoroughly examined, particularly on a global level.

“I don't want to speak for Edelman, whose trust barometer is absolutely best in class, but in our industry it’s almost a universal misconception that everyone deserves public relations representation,” Slater says. “[However,] we’re not operating in the legal system or defending constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

Slater believes each firm needs to make their own ethical and moral decisions about who they work for and balance that with their mission. For example, CLYDE recently launched a Democracy Practice— supporting clients that fight authoritarianism, political violence, polarization and extremism.

“If an agency truly believes they can affect change in a country that routinely and flagrantly represses human rights, then the industry should support them in that endeavor.”

U.S. Department of Commerce Asks for DEI Advice

What happened: This week the U.S. Department of Commerce put an ask out to the public, and in particular, human resources professionals, asking for best practices and the impact of those practices when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

Titled the Business Diversity Principles initiative, the effort looks to “foster a more equitable economic landscape by encouraging businesses to learn from each other's successes and adopt best practices and strategies that help promote economic growth in underserved communities through diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives.”

Communication lessons: According to an article in HR Dive, it looks as though the U.S. government seeks to “set a tone for the American workforce,” hoping more government DEIA policies will trickle down to the private sector. Including input from real businesses is the first step in making that a reality.

Emily Miller, Director of the Employee Experience Practice at LippeTaylor, says the initiative is a great stepping stone for increasing awareness and accountability in the DEIA space.

“Naturally the Dept. of Commerce is looking for ways in which their DEIA priorities can improve economic equity, but increasing understanding of all things DEI and incorporating it as a business objective for any organization goes beyond economics,” Miller says. “Creating cultures of belonging and equity result in more successful businesses and more successful people, and there is a lot of data to back that up.”

Miller sees this as a great opportunity for all organizations to take advantage of, and “can’t wait” to see what best practices are included.

“Getting comprehensive DEI ideas and allowing people and organizations to learn from one another is extremely effective in building equity opportunities for employees, consumers and everyday Americans,” she says. “Organizations can learn from this—it goes beyond surveying your own employees or customers. Both are important, but having the chance to see what others are doing through this initiative that seeks to drive inclusion and equity around the country is a great learning opportunity for any organization.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal.