Every Day is World Day for Cultural Diversity for the PR Professional

by Susan Hess

Image Courtesy: Union of National Employees

(Image Courtesy: Union of National Employees)

In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. By marking this day, we have an opportunity to better understand and appreciate the values associated with cultural diversity, and in turn, the potential to learn to live together more harmoniously.

Nine years later, in 2011, a grassroots campaign Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion— was launched by the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The campaign’s three objectives are to:

  • raise awareness about the importance of intercultural dialogue;
  • build a community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and everyday life gestures;
  • improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures to combat stereotypes.

In the world of Public Relations, we are often responsible for bringing diversity to the forefront by helping others better understand cultural differences and the value those differences bring to the organization. We fight stereotypes constantly through the articles we write, the statements we tweet and the photos and images we place in publications and on the web. We include the perspectives our different team members bring to our projects. We communicate the value diversity brings to our world, either intentionally or unintentionally, in everything we do. We “Do One Thing…” every day just by being PR professionals.

So, although May 21 may be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, let’s continue to make every day an opportunity to communicate the variety of differences that make our world so interesting and help others to understand and respect those differences.

Note: for more information about the Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion program, go to:  facebook.com/DoOneThingforDiversityandInclusion

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Sergei Samoilenko

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th in many countries around the world as a special day to honor outstanding women’s achievements and publicly acknowledge call for equality. This significant day first started as a social political event on March 8, 1857 in New York City. On that day, women from clothing and textile factories had staged a protest against poor working conditions and low wages. The idea of holding an international day for women was first proposed at an International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, as encouragement for women to press for their demands for equal rights and suffrage on a single day of celebration. International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. Women in these countries demanded the right to vote, to hold public office, and the right to work, according to the United Nations. More European women also began rallying against World War I. For example, in 1917 Russian women went on strike for bread and peace in protest of the deaths of more than 2 million Russian soldiers in the war, according to the U.N.

A few decades later, the political motives of the holiday moved to the background and now March 8th is celebrated in more than 100 countries. It is also an official holiday in many countries, including Angola, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Eritria, Kazakhstan, Laos, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, among others. In Russia, this beautiful spring holiday is most often celebrated in the family circle or with friends. Men and women give flowers, postcards with poetry, chocolate, and jewelry to their mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters. At school, children bring their female teachers flowers. Yellow mimosas, tulips, and roses are especially popular flowers on this day. In companies and organizations, women receive flowers and small memorable gifts from their co-workers and the management.

Strong-WomanThe International Woman’s Day theme for 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The United Nations observance on  March 8 will reflect on how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, and other commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and human rights. An independent campaign, separate from the UN, is being run by financial firm EY with other corporate partners, organizing events around a #PledgeForParity hashtag. National Women’s History Month reaches the global community and celebrates women’s accomplishments in a global recognition that honors women of all nations.

In our profession, women make up 63 percent of public relations “specialists,” according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and 59 percent of all PR managers. Other estimates say the female workforce for PR is closer to 73, or even 85 percent. Ragan.com … reported that 73 percent of the Public Relations Society of America’s members are women. Leeza L. Hoyt, president of the Hoyt Organization, examined the reasons why many women choose public relations for their career. The reasons are numerous and in some cases, may be the opportunity to raise a family and have a successful career with greater work-life balance, flexible hours, and telecommuting options. One thing is clear for both men and women in the field; public relations careers allow professionals to enjoy a variety of responsibilities, engage with key influencers, pursue a swiftly-moving career, and evolve constantly. Public relations practitioners serve the public by bringing attention to important social and political issues.

International Women’s Day is becoming deeply ingrained in history and culture of many countries. This is a perfect opportunity for many companies and organizations to honor and celebrate women’s achievements in the personal, public, and political spheres. Happy International Women’s Day!

Building From the Blacklash: How Sound Public Relations Strategies can Help the Oscars Rebuild Trust

By: Correy Hudson

Academy Award Trophy "Oscar"#Oscarssowhite. The hashtag heard (well, read) around the world following the announcement of the 2015 Academy Award nominations. Social media’s most trending topic last January was in response to the annual award show’s failure to nominate anyone of color in the major acting categories. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body responsible for the nominations, was facing one of its biggest public relations tests in the age of hashtags, retweets, and likes.

In the minds of actors and movie lovers, there was no way the academy could ignore the bad press and calls for an improved effort to diversify its membership and nominees. Surely, 2016 would be different.

Or so we thought.

As Hollywood prepares for its annual celebration of excellence in film, #Oscarssowhite has dominated the headlines for a second year, bringing along with it a host of high profile boycotts and condemnation. The academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, has promised more aggressive efforts to address the organization’s diversity problem.

In the world of public relations, we know that acknowledging the problem publicly is a great first step. However, regaining the public’s trust is difficult without taking strategic and authentic steps that show we’re doing more than reciting talking points.

Here are a few strategies that the academy should consider when planning its next steps.

Engage your audience

Although voting on the nominations is limited to academy members, #Oscarssowhite has served as a public rallying cry. With that in mind, the hashtag provides the organization a great opportunity to have a public dialogue with movie lovers about how they plan to address the diversity problem. Considering that the conversation began on social media, why not create a new hashtag that gives the public an opportunity to weigh in on what diversity in film means to them? The discussion might uncover some issues and solutions that have not yet risen to the surface.

Leverage your star power

Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee are two of the academy’s most high profile members that have spoken out about the diversity controversy. It is critical that the organization include those who feel affected in the discussion on ways to improve. This engagement may also provide well-known and trusted ambassadors who can advance your messaging on improvements in the public dialogue.

Go public

Sharing your improvement plan and providing constant updates will be key to winning back the public trust. Don’t just tell us you’re improving your recruitment efforts. Share the stories of new members, and the steps that you’re taking to ensure that all voices are represented in the voting process.

 

Strategic partnerships and Community relations

When I was a student at Hampton University, the Scripps Howard Foundation partnered with the university to create what would eventually become the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. One of the goals of the school is to increase diversity in newsrooms across the nation by training future journalists and communications professionals of color at the historically black university.

The diversity controversy surrounding this year’s Oscar nominations presents a very similar opportunity for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The organization should consider drafting, and implementing, a strategic community relations plan that shows that they are committed to partnering with organizations that are training aspiring film leaders of color. What better way to increase recruitment than by reaching potential new members before they get to Hollywood? Who can better speak on your work to diversify than those who have benefited from your investment in their future?

The academy’s diversity controversy should serve as a reminder that, as public relations professionals, we must be at the forefront of ensuring that our organization’s leadership is attuned to the current public discourse (whether directly related to the organization or not). Additionally, we must help them to be proactive by shaping content that shows what you’re already doing well, and how you plan to continue.

Remember, the next negative hashtag is only one bad decision away.