I don’t have to explain why this particular topic matters more than ever today. You are literally seeing the fruits of hundreds of years of frustration and anger from Black Americans and their friends and allies. And on top of that, Black professionals showing up at work this week in corporate America are feeling a particularly acute sense of their blackness as their white peers and leaders either shower them with empathy and sympathy, or completely avoid the conversation altogether. It’s as serious of an experience as it is awkward -- and it comes with a side of anxiety, lack of focus, self-doubt and stress, particularly for Black men.
The onus is on not just company leaders to take action, but now communications professionals. No, you’re not going to solve the problem of racism or inequality with the stroke of a pen, but as communicators, you/we have the unique opportunity to open the door to conversations and interactions that will change Corporate America forever. Take advantage of this moment and this momentum to affect tomorrow and the days to come.
Here are some ways to address the gaps in diverse content at your company:
Add more diversity to visual communications. Easy example: Choose photography that isn’t just white people looking successful and in charge. (Also, not all black people are light-skinned with long curly hair so avoid always using that trend, too.)
Do more featured internal and external content that involves diverse experiences. REAL STORIES about hardship and hard-fought success. And don't be afraid to dive into confirmed historical accounts here, too.
Add voice to content. Hearing Black people speak in public forums helps to normalize that different Black people speak and articulate in different ways. When doing videos, conferences, webinars, and town halls, tap a person of color or another diverse person to be the moderator and/or panelist.
Partner more with employee resource groups on their communications. Nine times out of 10, they not only want more communications and branding help, but they want more expertise and to shine a bigger spotlight on what their doing so that more employees take notice. Employee communications pros in particular can use their very particular set of skills to entice employees to join these groups’ events.
Strongly encourage your white, heterosexual male leaders to talk more about diverse issues in their engagements with employees and clients.
Strongly encourage your white, heterosexual, male leaders to show up and talk at volunteer events with employees and clients.
Partner with local community organizations on communication activities that speak to diverse issues (i.e. financial education, higher education, health, trafficking, career advancement, justice). These are great opportunities to have company leaders and employees show their interest and learn about an issue that’s quite literally close to home.
Solicit questions from employees on the hard topics, anonymously or in a public forum. Let's talk honestly about race and racism! It'll be hard and uncomfortable, but it will help your people grow. What we’re all seeing right now is a lot of people who are not Black come out of the dark and say “I don’t understand.” Some don’t understand and don’t want to understand; others have just been scared to admit they don’t understand and finally feel like they have an opportunity to ask, “Can you help me understand this issue?” Companies miss opportunities like this every year. Communications pros can create engagement campaigns alongside HR that encourage discussion and question-asking on topics that people are scared to talk about.
I hope you found this instructive and actionable. Please feel free to share this with your network and add on to this list.