Communicating with integrity about diversity and inclusion

These are landmark times for diversity and inclusion, and for companies and organizations to be accountable for their actions in these areas. As part of the social justice movement that arose in 2020, a worldwide public discussion was sparked around systemic racism, its far-reaching tentacles, and the injustices and inequality that result from it.

In response, companies and other organizations have shared messages of support and solidarity with the movement, for example, by posting messages using hashtags related to Black Lives Matter efforts, or by recognizing Blackout Tuesday last July. In many cases, these actions were done with good intentions and in recognition of the need for change to make society more equitable for African-American and African-Canadian people.

However, in other cases, some organizations that published messages of support and solidarity with the cause did not have a track record of hiring and valuing African-American and African-Canadian people. Some were called out for it, and rightly so in my opinion.

It’s my hope that as we move into 2021, this social justice movement will continue, and that diversity, inclusion and equity will become key pillars that are truly valued across society.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that communications and public relations (PR) professionals are likely the people who are in the position of drafting, distributing and posting organizations’ messages of valuing diversity and inclusion.

Depicting an organization’s true levels of diversity and inclusion

Before jumping on the bandwagon, it will be critical for communicators to take a second look at organizations’ true diversity and inclusion efforts and results before such messages are shared.

Audiences can see through half-hearted efforts or untrue claims from an organization with no track record of implementing diversity and inclusion actions with African-Canadian people in mind.

So, if you’re in the position of being the communications or PR pro who’s tasked with executing a communications plan around diversity for an organization without the track record to back it up, hold communicating with integrity as your guiding star.

I’d recommend being frank with your manager or leader – no matter their level or seniority – to share your concerns about communicating messages externally that don’t reflect the reality of how things are at your organization.

From there, consider how change can happen at your organization to make diversity and inclusion for African-Canadian people a priority.

Although I’m not a human resources (HR) or diversity and inclusion specialist, such a strategy could involve adjusting hiring practices, committing to non-profit or charitable causes, conducting sensitivity training and making investments in the education and training of the future workforce. I’d recommend working with HR, leadership, expert consultants, and, of course, African-Canadian people in the organization to ensure the new approach is the best it can be.

Communications plays a critical role

The goal of this process is to foster change and create an organization that is genuinely inclusive, with a makeup of employees that reflects the importance placed on diversity.

It’s critical for the communications function to be involved in this process. Not only will communications play a role in informing the organization and helping to manage internal change, but communicators will be the litmus test to ensure that the plan is up to snuff based on the external climate.

Only then would communicators be in a position to report on the priority that an organization places on diversity and inclusion from a position of integrity.

Have you faced challenges when communicating with integrity about diversity and inclusion? Share in the comments.

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