By: Mia Cadle, Chairman of NMGZ
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since that day, the movement of racial reckoning has been spoken of nonstop. According to the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, this movement is calling for more intentional efforts of national proposals for truth and racial healing. But what does this mean for companies?
This September, I took a trip to New York City with the National Millennial Generation Z Community to meet with different executives from companies like Padilla, R/GA, and Nielsen. Here is where I learned the answer to that question for many companies: action.
Action is a word that means many things, but according to Google, the term can be used to describe the fact or process of doing something, particularly to achieve an aim. The aim of action in companies should be to create a cycle and one that supports their employees and puts an emphasis on the well-being of their employees.
Action means supporting employees with resources. Diversity, equity and inclusion are great examples of a resource within a company. By providing marginalized groups support, companies show their dedication to supporting their employees.
When employees feel supported, they will have more confidence, meaning they will have more drive to take initiative. Whether on a new project or a new group within the company, the initiative is needed because it restarts the cycle.
Companies like R/GA, a marketing firm dedicated to innovating product experiences, brand strategy, and marketing communications, are taking steps to ensure that action is seen everywhere.
In the diversity of their staff, their clients and their work. Companies like R/GA strive to show they are not just a company that creates campaigns but that they are a company that stands by their people.
Diversity, equity and inclusion was here before the death of George Floyd, and it will be here long after, but not without an emphasis on action. There will only be true impact when action backs words.
Before taking this trip, I had only a brief understanding of what DEI marginalized groups need for success, yet now I understand. Diversity, equity and inclusion need action and people willing to stand by them on the journey they will take.
Photos from Mia Cadle, Chairman of NMGZ
By: Sarah Petrovich
Success in the workplace goes beyond skills and dedication. Rather, it is a combination of being an advocate for yourself and your colleagues. Three guests joined PRSSA Kent to discuss how to practice self-advocacy, navigate your true identity in the workplace and maintain an inclusive and accepting work environment or more commonly known as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI&B).
Emma Weihe, an accessibility specialist at Kent State, aids students by communicating what accommodations would work best for their given disability. Zachary Strickler, the neurodiversity coordinator at Kent State, works to create a better atmosphere for students who face neurodiverse challenges.
Our third speaker, Dr. Mary Ann Devine, is a professor at the College of Education, Health, and Human Services at Kent State. She focuses on Disability Studies and Community Inclusion. She wrote a book titled Inclusive Leisure, which advises people to, “look at what they can do, not what they can’t do.” Devine’s perspective and expertise was aligned with the employer and ADA during our discussion.
Common Discrimination Cases
When talking about some of the most common cases of discrimination in the workplace, Strickler highlighted that different industries experience discrimination in different ways. For instance, higher education has difficulty accommodating scheduling, factory work lacks mobility related accommodations and hospice care is an overall “non-accomodating” occupation.
Devine explained how to open up conversations in the workplace while remaining respectful. She said individuals who do not have a disability are often hesitant when working with individuals who do, but two ways to take action against biases are to navigate company objectives that are inclusive of disabled people and to take a disabled individual's life into perspective.
Another key point Weihe highlighted is that disclosing accommodations at the stage of interviews is critical. Her mindset is that disclosing a disability is a great way to establish a connection with the company during the interview. It can be, in her words, “meaningful.”
“Advocacy is a way of knowing and honoring your boundaries,” Weihe explained. “Recognize that you cannot have all of the answers, and that asking for help is a natural part of the process.”
Towards the end of the meeting, an interactive session took place where each speaker created a scenario about discrimination in the workplace. Attendees analyzed each scenario and determined the best possible outcomes. This allowed members to experience the importance behind handling accommodations for disabled individuals seriously.
“They feel stigmatized from high school; they want to shed that when they come to college,” Devine said. The best way to diminish this is to try eliminating the stigma overall and focusing on tackling work in a way that uniquely fits the disabled individual: “It is not less than, just different.”
Weihe also emphasized that her office offers Accessibility Letters for students who choose not to discuss their disability. These letters remain confidential to the student, Student Accessibility Services and the instructor.
Strickler closed with how to address accommodations to individuals who are showing signs of needing them. He believes that it is crucial to have conversations with these people, even if they are resisting.
“The easiest way to get somebody on your side is to talk to them directly,” Strickler notes. Staying silent has bigger consequences than having a tough discussion. A final note from Devine was for senior leadership to accept diversity and welcome these individuals into the workforce. Her attitude is that creating a culture where everyone is valued “reduces cost in company,” and is beneficial because “turnover is expensive.” Creating a DEI&B safe atmosphere should be a vital part of any company’s public relations strategy as creating good or bad brand image can make or break a company.
This conversation provided students an abundance of insight on how to tackle the workforce in a respectful way. "I learned about the importance of knowing your limits," said Lydia McSwain, a sophomore advertising major. "I believe it was Emma Weihe who said that it can be hard to be 'vulnerable' at times, but self-advocacy is recognizing the importance of representing yourself and making sure your needs are met."
By: Grace Kindl, VP of Fundraising and Community Outreach
PRSA Cleveland Student Day gave aspiring Public Relations Professionals a brief look into non-profit, healthcare, sports public relations sectors, as well as DEI initiatives within branding. Aspiring pros were given the opportunity to network with speakers, employers and other PR students.
Izzy Esler and Sydney Stone spoke about their experiences with City Dogs, a nonprofit organization focused on finding homes for “bully breeds” like pit bulls. They shared some of the challenges the organization faces, such as the nationwide shelter capacity crisis and the effect that has on open intake shelters such as their own. One of the biggest challenges is working with dogs that are often “the most challenging to get adopted.” To solve some of these problems, they have special lowered adoption rates and stage photoshoots with the dogs in fun costumes. Esler and Stone showed many of the students how PR can be used for good in organizations like City Dogs.
Marcus Thomas LLC
Joy Smith, senior equity and inclusion manager, represented Marcus Thomas LLC in her talk about “Why Inclusive Marketing Matters.” Smith provided a variety of data and examples to show how important it is to use PR platforms to make a statement about world issues. She also gave three key ways to speak up: “stay in your lane, take a risk and own your brand’s DNA.” Smith used this opportunity to discuss the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial and the “missed opportunity for authenticity.” She then compared it to a more recent Pepsi commercial featuring Chlöe Bailey. In the recent commercial, Pepsi stayed in their lane and appealed to their target audience with Bailey. Smith also discussed Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. This campaign was a risk on Dove’s end, but they stayed in their lane and stayed true to their brand’s DNA while remaining authentic, making it a successful campaign.
Andrea Pacetti, director, public & media relations at Cleveland Clinic, related her work to topics most students were very familiar with: abortion and COVID-19. Pacetti opened up about her experience with the New York Times following the overturning of Roe v Wade. During this time, Cleveland Clinic was the “only willing hospital system” to do a story on abortion as healthcare. The Clinic allowed photographers into the maternal fetal ward to take authentic photos that spoke to the severity of the topic. Pacetti also spoke about the first reported case of COVID-19, located in Cleveland. Representatives of Cleveland Clinic were preparing for a press conference with the mayor when they were told the news. She took this opportunity to tell students about the urgent need for communications, both internal and external, and the chaos that ensued following the news. Cleveland Clinic took another risk by allowing certain media into the ICU to show them what was really going on, as an attempt to stop the spread of misinformation.