Monday, April 6, 2015

Need engagement? Add diversity

For many organizations, diversity is a nice-to-do function. When resources get tight, however, efforts to grow a diverse workforce can lose top-of-mind status.

But a quick look at many PR departments and agencies’ staff rosters – and the cheery photos accompanying them – leave the impression that few communications organizations pay much attention to diversity. One example: an agency in upstate New York features a slick video reel on its website with quick clips of its employees leading meetings and brainstorming. There’s not a person of color in that montage.

By The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles,
 CA, USA (Anime Expo 2011 - the crowd) [CC BY
2.0 (],
 via Wikimedia Commons
We all talk about engagement. When will we do more than talk about it among ourselves?

You’ll hear abundant reasons to bring diversity to a PR or marketing communications workplace. The one I advocate is the need for diversity in innovation. If everyone on your team agrees, you’re not getting that “out of the box” thinking everyone desires. Creativity is squelched. Period.

To avoid this become a long-winded harangue, here are three easy ways to diversify your organization’s creativity and ability to innovate:

  • Look around. If your team is all women, congratulations: you’re helping to shatter a glass ceiling. But you’re not availing your team of a different point-of-view. And you may be sending a “Charlie’s Angels” message in a society that may elect a female U.S. president in the next decade.
  • Recruit experience. Many PR organizations skew younger, assuming that social media is a mystery to executives over age 50. Nonsense. Not every candidate with gray hair carries a flip phone.  Sure, you want great social media skills. But you’ll appreciate when someone on your team understands how ethics and crisis communications experience can rescue you and your client when unexpected tweets detonate online.
  • Seek out people of difference. You need the experience of people of color who’ll point out when a campaign looks too white bread, or artificially urban. Clients struggling with mature markets will appreciate insights of people with disabilities, whose experiences in dealing with everyday transactions is vastly different than those of someone with no impairments.  
You don't grow engagement by visiting . Try reaching beyond the convention of a homogeneous workplace.