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Recap: Aligning Your External DEI Commitments to Your Internal Organization

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is top-of-mind for most employees, but conveying those values and garnering buy-in from leadership, clients, and customers can be challenging. Communications experts during a PRNEWS webinar shared where to start and how to approach these sometimes uncomfortable, complex conversations.

The featured speakers were:

  • Elizabeth Harrison, Chief Executive Officer, H&S
  • Paula Ngon, Senior Publicist, Brand Communications, People; Chair, Blackprint, Meredith Corporation
  • Melissa Vela Williamson, Chief Communication Architect, MVW Communications

View key takeaways from the candid discussion below, or watch a full recording HERE.

  • Addressing cultural blind spots becomes easier with a more diverse staff. Organizations finding themselves searching for blind spots should consider their makeup. With a variety of perspectives and experiences, blind spots will often reveal themselves, shared Ngon.
  • When figuring out how to even start difficult conversations with leadership or clients about DEI, it is important to use specific, direct language and tactics. As Williamson shared, there aren’t “fun icebreakers” in this work.
  • DEI work cannot occur in silos. That’s where major mistakes get made as we’re often not aware of or in tune with our own biases.
  • To make sure everyone has a seat at the table, it’s important to break down levels of seniority and focus on sincerity to want to see change, said Ngon. Having leadership visible and actively engaged in these discussions helps show that not just those who have experienced issues in this space have to shoulder the burden of this critical work.
  • Leaders need to empower their teams to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Making sure your team knows you have their back – even when that calls for calling out clients or customers – gives them more agency to speak up, said Harrison.
  • When dealing with leaders that are anti-DEI or exhibit anti-DEI behaviors, “sometimes you can be the change, and sometimes you have to make the change,” said Williamson. If even after speaking up and putting in effort to enact change, if an organization is compromising your integrity or doesn’t align with your values, you may need to move on and go somewhere that does.
  • When negotiating, you have to put yourself in that person’s shoes. How are your words impacting them? Does offering an alternative dimmish their value in a way you may not see or intend? Harrison advised if you’re in a position of hiring, promoting, and/or reviewing people, slow down and be thoughtful about how you approach conversations.
  • Ngon shared, ally should be a verb, not a noun, and that the concept of a “culture fit” needs to evolve.
  • Don’t pursue this work alone. Seek out committees, groups, or councils to offer perspective, support and learn from each other.