By Suzanne Boys, Ph.D, PRSA Diversity Chair
One of Cincinnati PRSA’s goals it ensure we are “consistent and well-rounded in diversity and inclusion initiatives.” One of the ways we hope to move toward this goal is to host regular diversity-focused programming. This summer, we hosted a panel discussion with three local communication specialists who had a lot to say about communicating with minority audiences.
Crystal Harrell has worked at P&G since 1999, moving from a chemist’s role into a communication role in 2004. She is now responsible for P&G’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Citizenship communication strategies. According to Crystal, “this is one of her most rewarding assignments because it requires bold, transformative, and authentic storytelling, rooted in undeniable consumer and cultural truths.”
Lorena Mora-Mowry’s MujerLatinaToday.com was birthed out of her own experience as an immigrant. She began blogging, then built her website “to create awareness, advocacy and action towards empowering the Hispanic / Latino community in Cincinnati, Ohio and beyond.” Her website is a platform for sharing stories that would be overlooked by other platforms.
Shabana Shakir-Ahmed is the Tours & Talks Chair at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. She has an MBA from Xavier University and is the founder of Cincinnati Muslim Women, a prolific local charity. Because of her role at the Islamic Center, she is often called on to give talks and host cultural sensitivity trainings around the region.
These panelists shared an overview of their work, and spoke about issues facing minorities in the U.S. A common theme was the fear minorities face as they go about their daily lives, especially in unsettled political and cultural times. Whether marked as different by skin color, language, or dress, minority individuals often face or fear discrimination. Understanding this is an important first step for communication professionals who want to successfully engage minority populations. This engagement is essential given the second common theme: the economic power of minority communities. Each of the speakers noted that it is to a corporation’s detriment to overlook culturally diverse consumers.
The speakers also offered several tips for communication professionals wanting to engage diverse audiences. First, they spoke about the need for cultural sensitivity. Citing several recent instances where corporations produced offensive content, Crystal encouraged communication pros to vet content with community members. Second, they spoke about implicit bias. The presumption that one has no bias can be a significant block to deep level diversity and inclusion. This issue was raised by our recent Cincinnati PRSA diversity survey, and we plan to offer an implicit bias training early in 2020. Third, the speakers noted what a difference courageous leadership can make. When P&G launched their My Black is Beautiful campaign, it won both awards and hostility. Crystal noted how important it was to have senior leaders who were committed to honest engagement of complex social issues. Fourth, the speakers emphasized the diversity among minority communities. Lorena noted the language differences and naming preferences among peoples of South and Central America. She emphasized how important it is to know how various communities refer to themselves (e.g., Hispanic or Latino). Shabana noted that Muslims come from all points on the globe and do not share a single culture. Communication professionals would be well served to educate themselves on the rich nuances of any cultural group.
We are very grateful to Crystal, Lorena, and Shabana for sharing their insights. We are also grateful to those who attended the event. If you are interested in diversity and inclusion issues, contact Suzanne Boys (firstname.lastname@example.org) about serving on the diversity committee. We would love to have you join the conversation!