Explainer: What is an ERG?

A graphic of question marks provides the background art for our PRNEWS Explainer series which today asks what is an audience?

[Editor’s Note: Even the most experienced professionals need a refresher on basics from time to time. Whether it’s how to become a better writer or a review of PR ethics, PRNEWS aims to provide readers with explainers on a variety of topics and issues. Hence, our Explainer series is born.]

For our initial foray, we look at the definition of and some best practices for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

What is an ERG?

An ERG starts when employees volunteer to lead a group whose missions, goals and objectives will contribute to improving their company. 

ERGs can focus on a variety of connecting demographics. These can include race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion.

Typically, ERGs fall into one of four categories: diversity resource groups, volunteer groups, affinity groups and professional-development groups, according to Indeed.com

The first ERGs formed as early as the 1960s, in response to racial tension in the workplace. At the time they were known as Workplace Affinity Groups.

ERGs can provide many benefits, including showcasing a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition they provide employees with a safe space and camaraderie.

 Best practices for starting an ERG

  • Gather employees who may be interested in starting an ERG and decide what it should accomplish. 
  • Start with an intention and purpose. Consider how an ERG can improve and influence the organization. Once participants do that, they can develop the ERG's mission.
  • Write a formal ERG mission statement to hold the group accountable.
  • Appoint an executive or managerial sponsor who can represent the group when interacting with senior leadership. 
  • Create subcommittees for ERG programming, membership and communication.
  • Develop a relationship with important stakeholder departments like human resources and public relations.
  • Develop a communication plan to brand and promote the ERG. This can include anything from logo and tagline design to newsletters and a launch event. 
  • Utilize internal communication tools to spread the word about ERGs, including platforms like Slack, Teams and Zoom. Also employ corporate intranet sites and lunchroom posters.

More PRNEWS resources on ERGs in PR and communication:

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