What D/E/I will mean for us as a chapter this year

For the past few years, the Hoosier Chapter PRSA has had an Advocacy board role and committee covering both Ethics and Diversity/Multi-cultural Affairs. As was true for many organizations, these areas received some focus, but neither was at the forefront of everyone’s mind on a daily or even weekly basis. Then came 2020, and the subject of social justice and racial reckoning was on everyone’s hearts and minds, though not all in the same way, of course.

Amazingly, before the pandemic and before the reckoning that began in late spring, we met as co-chairs of the committee, to get to know each other over coffee and lunch, and to discuss the huge challenge the industry and the organization have in terms of racial diversity. So, when the spotlight shined brighter on our work, we were ready to put some structure to our thought.

Step one was to form a committee, which we have done, and we’re thrilled with the great team leading the work. Here is a little more on our plans, which we hope inspires you to get involved in the work, too!

Goal: Focus on diversity/equity/inclusion to create a more representative and welcoming environment for our members, potential members, partners and sponsors.

Research: We conducted a D/E/I survey in August 2020, which we plan to repeat in summer 2021. We received a strong number of responses, and the answers confirmed that we have much work to do in terms of diversifying our membership and communications, while making visitors feel welcome. That said, the strong responses also showed that there is passion to see the industry and PRSA be better in this area, with everyone’s help.

Strategies to get started:

Fortunately, chapter leadership has prioritized diversity/equity/inclusion as an important element in our chapter’s strategic planning process, so everyone understands that this is truly a group effort. It will take all committees focusing on diversity/equity/inclusion to start to make a difference.

One of the most basic and most difficult goals on which we need to focus is to increase the number of BIPOC (Black/indigenous/people of color) members of our chapter. This will take all of us inviting people we know, making every guest feel welcome, discussing the reasons to join PRSA and building relationships to get more people involved in the activities of the chapter.

There are scholarships available to help offset the cost of joining, so please let us know if you find that the cost of membership is a barrier.

We plan to recruit more diverse speakers for PRSA professional development and, in programming, to more directly address the challenging issues related to diversity and inclusion within the communications/public relations industry. On the one hand, there are many positive stories to tell of the diversity within the industry – many of which we haven’t heard – and on the other hand, people of color are woefully underrepresented in our industry. Both sides of this reality merit sharing.

Ideally, we hope to provide members with resources for self-exploration and professional development, to help members individually become better versed in diversity/equity/inclusion issues in their organizations and the industry.

A team is focused on chapter communications, so that the website, social media, e-newsletter and other vehicles represent all members.

We know that truly making a difference in the diversity of the industry will take many years, but we need to start before people are working professionals. For this reason, we are planning presentations to high school and undergraduate students to share about PRSA and the industry as a great career.

There are bold metrics in place for all the strategies above. But our most important task is to be sure everyone in the Hoosier Chapter – including you – does whatever small or big thing you can to help make our chapter and our industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Thanks for joining us in this critical and worthwhile endeavor!

[Update June 30, 2021]: Read our PRSA Hoosier Diversity and Inclusion Statement.

By Brytnie Jones and Jennifer Dzwonar, APR, Fellow PRSA