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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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Member Spotlight: Colin Trethewey, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Colin Trethewey, APR, co-founder and principal of the public relations firm PRmediaNow. He joined PRSA Tampa Bay in 2010, currently serves as co-chair of the Awards Committee, and has served as a member of this committee for several years.

  1. First news publication you read in the morning?

Using my mobile apps, CNN and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). I was born in Ottawa and worked as a TV news reporter for 12 years before moving to Tampa in 2007.

  1. First public relations job?

Leading media relations for a “virtual world” website for a Montreal tech startup, in 2006. The site was similar to Second Life, which was big at the time.

  1. Most important career mentor, and why?

Michael Smart, who runs his own firm, Michael Smart PR, and a coaching and training program, Smart PR Inner Circle, and taught me some valuable media relations tips early in my career in his seminars and coaching sessions. Michael is a proponent of always being aware how you can adapt and expand your offerings to better serve clients as technologies and media platforms evolve.

  1. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Helping clients succeed with product launches and winning several PRSA Tampa Bay PRestige Awards and PRSA Sunshine District Radiance Awards for those campaigns. Last year we received a few chuckles for our Radiance Award in the category of media relations tactics that we won for Peejamas, a successful crowdfunding campaign with the slogan “look good peeing the bed.”


At our chapter’s 2017 PRestige Awards ceremony, where my firm was honored to take home awards in the categories of media relations and media kits.

  1. Biggest challenge of adapting to the COVID-19 lockdown this year?

Helping clients that are in the mindset of launching products at in-person events to shift their thinking to take advantage of video conferencing forums and Facebook Live interviews. In addition to being essential to use during a period of lockdown, these new platforms offer a wealth of new capabilities and benefits for companies to share their news with their customers and stakeholders in new and compelling ways.

  1. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Join PRSA and immerse yourself in professional development and share your training accomplishments on LinkedIn. Nothing impresses a prospective employer more than someone who makes an effort to master the craft.


With my wife, Cyndi, having fun beside a cutout of the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, at Amalie Arena during the annual Tampa Bay Canada Day celebration, on July 1, 2019.

  1. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?

Working on a wildlife reserve to protect endangered species. I love all animals, but I would focus on cheetahs, because they are critically endangered and having a particularly difficult time with the loss of habitat and territory they need to hunt and breed.

  1. Favorite movie?

Lawrence of Arabia, with Gandhi a close second. Both movies are as profoundly relevant today as the original historical events they depict and should be mandatory viewing for all aspiring politicians before they take office. 

  1. Favorite vacation?

A safari in South Africa last year at Zulu Nyala Game Lodge, where we experienced lions walking within a few feet of our vehicle after being chased away by rhinos. Here’s the video I shot of the exhilarating moment.


On safari in South Africa with my wife, Cyndi, and our ranger, James.


One of my favorite safari pics, with three zebras and three giraffes sharing a water hole.

  1. Any three dinner guests?

Jane Goodall, Bill Gates and my dad, John Trethewey, who always kept things fun and lively at dinner parties.

 


I’ve played hockey since age 4 and continue to play in the Brandon Ice Sports Forum league. Once a year we get a chance to play an exhibition game at Amalie Arena. This is us in the dressing room.


And here we are at center ice at Amalie.


One more hockey photo, showing my team at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum after winning the 2019 Keg Cup in the over-35 league!

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PRSA Announces Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, Committing to Diversifying the Profession

PRSA recently released its 2020-2022 diversity and inclusion strategic plan, which is designed to guide and build on the group’s commitment to be a more diverse and inclusive organization.  

The plan was released in early May before members of the Minneapolis Police Department were arrested in the killing of George Floyd. This killing and others have sparked a nationwide outcry and conversation about matters of police tactics and institutional racism.

At PRSA Tampa Bay, we believe there has never been a more important time to refocus our own efforts on diversity and inclusion. So we encourage you to review the PRSA 2020-2022 D&I Strategic Plan.

The overarching goal of PRSA’s plan supports four objectives:

  1. Increase awareness and understanding of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among its members and staff by 15% by 2023.
  2. Increase diverse representation among leadership throughout all levels of PRSA by 25% by 2023.
  3. Increase awareness of PRSA as a diverse and inclusive organization among external stakeholders by 15% by 2023.
  4. Increase and retain the number of multicultural students in PRSSA and new multicultural professionals into PRSA by 15% by 2023.

This three-year plan will guide PRSA in the achievement of targeted milestones and position PRSA as a model for the communications profession, reflecting exemplary leadership in diversity and inclusion.

The result of a robust 11-month research initiative with input from myriad audiences across the entire organization, the plan is based on three phases of qualitative and quantitative data collection including interviews, focus groups and a survey, which had an 18% response rate representing the opinions of 3,700 PRSA members.

In businesses and organizations large and small, the importance, relevance and impact of strategic diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, including the critical “business case” for D&I, is becoming better understood. At PRSA Tampa Bay, we support members of all backgrounds and are committed to building a community that reflects these principles.

This new strategic plan represents a “shared model” for action. Together, we are embarking on a journey that is transparent, intentional and consistent, pushing thoughtful efforts and actions as we accept the call to bring PRSA’s vision to reality in Tampa Bay. Now it’s time to work!  As we do, we acknowledge that it is a process, and it will take time. We may not have all the answers, but we are absolutely on our way. In fact, be on the lookout for information on our upcoming Courageous Conversations events and our Diversity & Inclusion program in October.

If you’re interested in getting involved with our diversity and inclusion initiatives, please contact PRSA Tampa Bay Co-Chair, Kecia Carroll.

 

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PR Pros, Get Your 2020 AP Stylebook Updates!

By Joseph Priest, APR

It’s that time of year again, when copy editors, journalists, language professors, English teachers, and, yes, public relations professionals find out the latest updates to an indispensable resource that guides the way we write – the Associated Press Stylebook.

In recent years, the editors of the AP Stylebook have announced these changes at the annual conference of 
ACES: The Society for Editing (formerly known as the American Copy Editors Society), which is usually held in March or April. The announcement has become something of a tradition at the conference that is regularly one of the biggest sessions and always draws a jam-packed room.

This year, though, there was no room full of people or audible group groans as the updates were announced. Instead, as if with so many other events this year, the in-person ACES conference that was planned for Salt Lake City was replaced by a day of online sessions.

An image promoting some of the sessions and sponsors for this year’s virtual ACES: The Society for Editing national conference.

These sessions, of course, included the AP Stylebook changes, and on May 1 a group of about 1,000 editors gathered virtually to get the lowdown on some of the latest changes happening in our language.

 

The AP Stylebook session at last year’s ACES: The Society for Editing annual conference, in Providence.

The session at this year’s condensed annual conference, held virtually and led by Paula Froke (top right), executive director of Associated Press Media Editors and editor of the AP Stylebook, and Colleen Newvine (bottom right), Associated Press product manager, AP Stylebook, and introduced by Neil Holdway (middle right), secretary of ACES, and assistant managing editor, copy desk, of the Daily Herald (Chicago).   

With all that has been happening this year with COVID-19 and other crises, this year’s AP Stylebook session, thankfully, lacked some of the controversial updates that have marked past AP Stylebook sessions. Some of those previous changes have been earth-shattering, like taking the hyphen out of “e-mail,” allowing “over” to indicate quantitative relationships as well as spatial ones, and permitting “they” to refer to a singular subject.

Here’s a rundown of some this year’s updates that may be helpful for PR pros to know:

  • Capitalization of “Black” - This just in! On the occasion of Juneteenth, on June 19, the AP Stylebook made the momentous announcement that its style is now to capitalize “Black” in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity, and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The announcement followed a long discussion that the stylebook’s editors had been having among other editors, news leaders, and various external organizations, and the change also followed one that had recently been made by such news outlets as NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, and the Gannett newspaper chain, including USA Today. The editors are continuing to discuss within the U.S. and internationally whether to capitalize the term “white.” In addition, the AP Stylebook now capitalizes “Indigenous” in reference to original inhabitants of a place. The changes, which are consolidated in the stylebook’s race-related coverage section, align with the long-standing capitalization of other racial and ethnic identifiers, such as Latino, Asian American and Native American. More specifically, the use of the capitalized “Black” recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that, especially in the U.S., the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone. Important to note, neither “Black” nor “white” should be used as a singular noun, except when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction: “The authors of the book wrote separate sections to address the special challenges that Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian Americans faced during the 1900s.”
  • No more print versions - One of the biggest changes announced is that the AP will no longer print a new version of the stylebook every year. Not surprisingly, sales of the print book have fallen off as more people have migrated to the AP Stylebook Online, and many people do not buy a new hard copy every year.
  • Gender-neutral language entry - Another big change is a new entry on gender-neutral language, which is intended to use descriptions rather than labels. The gender-neutral language entry “aims to treat people equally and is inclusive of people whose gender identity is not strictly male or female.” The entry says further that writers and editors should “balance common sense, respect for the language, and an understanding that gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is evolving and in some cases is challenging to achieve.” The entry cites examples like using “search” instead of “manhunt” or “door attendant” instead of “doorman,” but it also cautions against using contrived-sounding constructions like “snowperson” or “freshperson.”
  • “Older people” - A particular case in point that was cited is referring to someone as “senior” or “elderly,” which is “identity-first language” because it says nothing about the specific person, and one person’s idea of what constitutes “elderly” might not be another’s. Mentioning someone’s age, when relevant, can replace the label. So the stylebook now prefers “older adults” or “older person,” acknowledging that those terms are also imprecise. The new “older adult(s), older person/people” entry started with discussions between the stylebook team and the American Geriatrics Society. The society had worked on research that found many people associate the terms “elderly” or “senior citizen” with negative stereotypes.
  • “Homeless” - A similar point is how is how “homeless” is best used as an adjective: “’Homeless’ is generally acceptable as an adjective to describe people without a fixed residence. Avoid the dehumanizing collective noun ‘the homeless,’ instead using constructions like ‘homeless people,’ ‘people without housing’ or ‘people without homes.’”
  • “Climate change” - Another change is that “climate change” is now defined as a more accurate term to describe rising global temperatures: “The terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are often used interchangeably, but climate change is the more accurate scientific term to describe the various effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases on the world because it includes extreme weather; storms; and changes in rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level. Global warming, the increase of average temperature around the world, is one aspect of climate change. The terms ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ are used by some scientists, policymakers and others, and are acceptable.”
  • “Mistress” - Stay away from “mistress”: “Do not use this archaic and sexist term for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like ‘companion,’ ‘friend’ or ‘lover’ on first reference, and provide additional details later.”
  • Plus symbol - “Disney+” is now acceptable: The symbol is OK to use when it is pronounced as part of a company, brand or event name: “Disney+,” “Apple TV+,” “ESPN+” or “CompTia Network+.”
  • “Preheat” - It’s also now OK to “preheat”: “Acceptable to refer to heating an oven to a specific temperature before cooking.”

 

Any questions, suggestions or criticisms for this year’s AP Stylebook updates? Any from years past? Would love to know anything on your mind. Please send them to [email protected].  

 

Merriam-Webster Inc. Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski kicked off this year’s virtual ACES: The Society for Editing online national conference with the session "The Invention of the Modern American Dictionary."

 

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