How to Cultivate Diversity and Inclusion as PR Professionals

By Juliana Marquez

More than 30 PRSA Tampa Bay members recently came together to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) as part of a Courageous Conversations series. The three virtual meetings were the first of many D&I conversations the chapter will have in the weeks and months ahead.

This is a summary of the recent conversations, which allowed people to express diverse perspectives and personal experiences related to the topic: ageism, gender equality, racism and lack of diversity in the workforce.

“The further I’ve advanced in my career, the more I saw the lack of diversity,” one participant shared. Others were hoping to become more educated and bring knowledge back to their companies.

To kick things off, facilitator Elana Powell of the Florida Diversity Council posed the question: “What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?”

A common stance shared by many participants was how they defined diversity as having representation from everyone in your community no matter race, religion, gender. Diversity is layered, it is more than what meets the eye. It is diversity in thought, expression, experiences etc. One participant stated, “My experience as a black person doesn’t speak on every black person, I don’t speak for an entire group of people, I have been the only black person in the room and it’s been stressful.” While describing the relationship between diversity and inclusion, this analogy was used; “Diversity is being invited to the party while inclusion is being asked to dance,” essentially stating that only true form of inclusion is by including everyone at all times.

Why does D&I matter to public relations professionals?

Diversity and inclusion are important to PR professionals because of their direct relationship with audiences. We must communicate a cohesive, authentic and transparent story. Without D&I we would only be telling a part of the story. Participants acknowledged that acquiring diversity in thought will likely point out whether a campaign may be offensive: “different people mean different meanings”. To expand, what is appropriate in one language or culture may be offensive to another. Keeping in mind that “bringing ideas and innovation makes business and emotional sense”, as another attendee stated. One of the participants informed that organizations with better diversity programs are 70 percent more likely to reach a new market. Throughout the three meetings it was expressed that professionals will not hesitate to leave an organization that lacks diversity. For this reason, a diverse and inclusive environment is essential to retain talent. It was also discussed that people prefer a comfortable work environment than obtaining higher salary. Participants also agreed that as PR leaders, they have the responsibility and the opportunity to be both storytellers and change agents for their respective organizations. The result is more vibrant and sustainable organizations.

How do we turn conversation into action?

Establishing trust in the workplace, even though challenging, is a step in the right direction to encourage diversity and inclusion. Participants shared that offering vulnerability and being intentional is an effective way of getting to know a person. This includes asking people about their wellbeing on a regular basis. “One way to build trust is to spend time on their level, be intentional it makes a difference in morale.” A huge part of diversity and inclusion is making sure people can be their authentic self. Campaigns should be a reflection of this environment. During one conversation it was suggested that “Communications professionals should not issue a statement unless they are willing to invest the time and resources to do what they say they are committed to.” Many PR campaigns lead to a loss in business trust because their statements are not followed by actions and the audience recognizes that.

So what should PRSA Tampa Bay do next?

The initial goal was to listen and learn from each other in order to build an even stronger, more diverse and inclusive membership. This was a great start, but the intent is to keep the courageous conversations going. If you’re interested in joining us, consider:

  • Sharing your time and talents as a member of the Diversity & Inclusion committee. Email co-chair Kecia Carroll at [email protected] for more information.
  • Making your voice heard by getting involved in PRSATB leadership and one of many committees
  • Engage with us on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts
  • Sharing your comments below.


Juliana Marquez is a University of Tampa student who attended all three of the sessions described above.

Return to list