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Looking at Diversity through a Communications Lens

by Camila Rodriguez, PRSA Tampa Bay member and co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Diversity is defined as many things to different people. It encompasses everything from visual diversity (what you see) to age diversity to diversity of experience and diversity of thought. One of the best definitions I found comes from Queensborough Community College, a part of the City University of New York: “[Diversity] means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.” As public relations professionals, we should take this definition and apply our everyday lives so that we can be smarter resources to those that surround us – client or not.

One way to look at diversity, both as a communications professional and as a consumer, is through media examples. There are so many examples of good and bad use of diversity in the media but here are some examples to discuss:

Bad: Super Bowl 2020 State Farm commercial

Why is it bad? Although the representation of Black people is always important and valued, this refresh of an iconic State Farm spot fell flat. As a viewer, I was expecting the original commercial and instead viewed a remake that did not value the new talent involved. This really made “Jake” into a token and represents a missed opportunity to really appeal to the Black community. State Farm listened to the negative feedback and used that to change its approach when introducing Isa, a new Spanish-speaking spokesperson for State Farm.  

Good: Facebook COVID-19 Ad & Oreos ad w/ Becky G

Why is it good? The Facebook COVID-19 ad used a spoken word poem, which is more common in communities of color, and user-generated content to drive home (pun intended) its message that staying home keeps your loved ones safe, and the now more than ever it’s important to stay connected. This ad featured all races, ages, genders, experiences, and a variety of other diversity factors. It was executed in a way that made me, as a viewer, feel like the parts of the world were being represented fairly.

The Oreos ad was very effective in targeting Hispanic/Latinx consumers because of its family-oriented message. Becky G is a Latinx singer and actress that travels often for appearances and filming, but with a secret Oreo package in her suitcase from her brother, she can still share in family moments. This ad also depicted a busy, multi-generational home, which are both very common occurrences in Hispanic/Latinx households.

There are many, many other examples but now you are probably asking, Well, what can I do?

I am not an expert on diversity but as a person of color, I’ve learned there is no right way that applies to every single person. Similarly, the people of color in your circle are not the spokespersons for their entire community – they can only speak for themselves and their experience. This is where research comes in. Likewise, any conversation with someone who is different from you is an opportunity to create a longstanding relationship of honesty and trust, which can also extend to clients and their respective brands.

Ultimately, diverse thinking starts with you, the individual.

The good thing is there are plenty of resources available to learn more about an intentional application of diversity. There are plenty of resources provided by the Black Lives Matter movement. LinkedIn Learning has diversity courses such as Unconscious Bias Training and Become an Inclusive Leader. PRSA at a national level has a starter guide, Diversity & Inclusion ToolKit, on how to implement Diversity & Inclusion in your local chapters.

Diversity is a topic we can never stop learning about so be intentional and curious in all facets of your life.

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