How to Give the Gift of Inclusivity

by: Quinn LeMelle, PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter member

Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.

This analogy has become more and more common, and recently came up in PRSA Tampa Bay’s Courageous Conversations series. These intimate discussions, moderated by the National Diversity Council’s Elana Powell, ranged from social equity in Tampa Bay to inclusive communications.

With each discussion, the faces in the Zoom boxes changed, but many same points, topics and questions arose in each session.

As public relations professionals in the Tampa Bay area, how do we ask someone to dance?

Below are just a handful of ideas to spread inclusivity this holiday season.

Getting More Perspectives

As communicators, we know how powerful words can be. With this, we have a responsibility to be mindful of what and how we’re communicating.

In fast-paced worlds, such as the world of public relations, there’s hardly a moment to spare. But taking a moment to step back and asking for other opinions may reveal problems that you or your team didn’t see before. Take for example Dove or Bud Light.

I’ve heard someone say “we’ll just post it and take it down if someone gets offended” in response to someone pointing out a word or phrase that could be taken the wrong way. Not only is this dangerous for the brand,  it deters a collaborative environment.

How to: Encourage collaboration among your team by setting up brainstorm meetings to talk about projects from both the idea stage to reviewing specific verbiage. Try doing this separately from a regular team meeting to make it a little less structured. Further this collaboration by getting different perspectives on projects and communications from those outside your immediate team. By sharing projects with other departments or teams, we allow our work to be seen by those with different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. This input allows you to take a step back and get a better picture.

Question the “Good Fit” Mentality when Hiring

What comes to mind when you think of someone being a good fit? Are they a similar age? From the same school? As mentioned before, it’s good to get more perspectives. This brings up the importance of having diverse teams because if each department/team has the same background or culture, then this collaborative thinking will only go so far.

How to: If you find yourself preferring a job candidate because you think they’d be a good fit, ask yourself why. Is it because they look like you? Or is it because their answers align with company values and motivations? Then ask yourself why the other candidates are not. Asking ourselves these questions will help address our own biases.

Me, Myself, and I Meets He, She, Ze

Identifying and respecting someone’s preferred pronouns is not just a way to be inclusive, but also shows  respect.

To clarify, using the correct pronouns is about gender identity, which is different from sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. Gender identity, according to Human Rights Campaign, refers to one's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Here are some other helpful terms and definitions.

How to: Add pronouns to your email signature and social media channels. It’s a small way to support a bigger initiative and community. Doing so brings awareness, shows respect and empowers others to be themselves.

Encourage Others to Join a Resource Group (or Start Their Own)

Employee resource groups increase cultural awareness within a company. These opportunities give employees an additional support network, exposure to leadership and embolden a company’s culture.

How to: Join a group yourself and encourage others to do the same. Demonstrating allyship as a peer or leader helps ingrain the value of diversity and inclusion in your team and company. If you don’t have ERGs established, consider reaching out to your Diversity and Inclusion team, HR team, or executive leadership team to see how you can spearhead this initiative within your organization.

Knowing Which Holidays Are Important to Your Team

In most industries, you won’t see deadlines set for Christmas Eve. Being mindful of other holidays or commitments among your team will help foster an inclusive environment in two ways. First, it will create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable pointing out that a deadline or meeting falls on a conflicting date. Second, it will let employees feel like it is OK for them to take that time off.

How to: Use a shared calendar and ask your team to put holidays and possible vacation days they could be taking that year. Then you can use that knowledge when planning for the year. For example, if you know that a member of your team celebrates Diwali, avoid having a big project due at that time. (Diwali (pronounced Dee-VAH-Lee) is the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world.)

These were just a handful of ways to help cultivate an inclusive environment in the workplace. Share additional ideas in the comments of how you’re asking others to dance.


Quinn LeMelle (she/her) is an associate communication manager at Raymond James. She sits on PRSA Tampa Bay’s diversity council and is the education co-chair of the Florida Diversity Council Tampa Bay chapter.

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