How future communicators are embracing DE&I in PRSSA chapters

Students at the University of Florida and Ohio University shares what DE&I means for their career journeys and how they are to educate themselves and their peers.

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The economy is shifting. Business decisions are increasingly being centered around stakeholders, not just shareholders, and consumers no longer want just a good product. They want to support companies with good values and that care about the intersectionality of their targeted publics.

As students, we are the next generation of communicators who will shape organizations’ public images. To succeed, it is imperative that we understand and promote the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of business and society.

Scripps PRSSA

Ohio University’s Scripps Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter (Scripps PRSSA) is working hard to spark essential conversations around diversity and inclusion. For example, the chapter is hosting a virtual “Women in the Workforce” panel which will feature a range of ethnically diverse women, all of whom are striving to compete and excel in fields dominated by men.

Scripps PRSSA is also in the process of planning a virtual event with such other organizations as the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Institute for International Journalism. This event will be an open discussion on how on-campus organizations can better incorporate diversity in virtual meetings.

Continuing to educate our members, we use multiple resources, including curating social media campaigns, sharing empowering stories and presenting diversified speakers. Each step, big or small, brings us closer to effective and long-term change.

UF PRSSA

The University of Florida Public Relations Student Society (UF PRSSA) had fallen behind on D&I efforts and members didn’t even realize it. It was all talk and no action. We weren’t showing up for our peers that needed us the most. This year, we’re working to more proactively support them and ensure every voice is heard.

To broaden their outlook, our members are highly encouraged to attend meetings of the Black Public Relations Student Society (BPRSS), Hispanic Public Relations Student Association (HPRSA) and Asian Public Relations Student Association (APRSA) meetings. We coordinate our events to prevent overlap, so no student has to choose between two of the department’s organizations. Students are also encouraged to explore other organizations to expose themselves to a breadth of diverse viewpoints.

We are also advocating for our entire executive board to approach each decision they make through the lens of: “How can we do better?” Every meeting has time reserved to speak about D&I. Other steps we are taking include:

  • Each semester, the board chooses from a list of books and movies that represent diverse experiences, and at the end of the semester we meet, discuss and learn how our views have changed, if at all.
  • When we introduce ourselves, we say our name, position and pronouns. Board members are also encouraged to include their pronouns on their Zoom screens.
  • Each speaker is invited with a purpose, to make sure that they represent our student demographic. To date, we have had inspiring presentations from Bill Imada, chairman and chief connectivity officer for IW Group and Kamelya Hinson, senior health communication specialist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DE&I starts in the classroom

“PR cannot overcome things that shouldn’t have been done.” – Harold Burson

Diversity and inclusion are not temporary trends, but instead require ongoing discussions on how to bring about true cultural transformation.

Every October, PRSA celebrates D&I Month, and this year’s theme is “Transforming the Landscape.” As PRSSA students prepare to become communications professionals, we need to make sure we continue to embrace change and encourage others to “do the right thing” by learning about each other’s backgrounds and exposing ourselves to new stories, inside the classroom and out.

The more stories, thoughts and ideas that are present at the decision-making table, the higher the likelihood of accurately targeting diverse publics. Lack of diversity, equity and inclusion leads to risks, irrelevance and the erosion of trust.

This won’t work for Generation Z. Change is us, and we must start now.

 

Rayna van Beuzekom is the 2020-2021 Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Opportunity for the University of Florida PRSSA Chapter. Follow her on Twitter @raynacosette and connect with her on LinkedIn.

 Alyssa Gormley is the 2020-21 Executive Vice President and diversity committee leader of Scripps PRSSA at Ohio University. She also is a PRSSA District Ambassador and is part of PRSSA’s Social Media Squad. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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