Moving the Diversity Needle with PRSA ICON 2020 Keynote Speaker Carolynn Johnson

Anticipation is building for the virtual PRSA ICON 2020 event, kicking off on October 26th. Last episode, PR Talk host Amy Rosenberg spoke with Del Galloway, chair of PRSA ICON 2020 and Senior Vice President of Communications for Wells Fargo. During the episode, Del gave listeners a preview of the upcoming event, along with a rundown of the keynote speakers. In this episode, we continue our ICON 2020 theme as Amy chats with Carolynn Johnson, CEO of DiversityInc and one of the keynote speakers at this year’s event.


Carolynn describes DiversityInc as the preeminent source of diversity management, data and advice. The company works primarily with blue-chip companies on benchmarking and diversity best practices. DiversityInc also publishes its annual “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list, which is the gold standard in diversity measurements. During their conversation, Carolynn and Amy talk about the awards, Carolynn’s keynote presentation, and marketing’s place in diversity, equity, inclusion and representation (DEI-R).


How Do You Measure Diversity?

Measuring diversity is a complicated undertaking. As Carolynn explains, lots of companies brag about diversity, but as you move up the leadership ladder, representation gets much slimmer. DiversityInc’s “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list attempts to examine a company’s holistic approach to DEI-R by looking at ethnic representation at all levels and how that diversity is developed, brought along and treated fairly.

Companies can’t buy their way onto the list. Instead, they must meet specific submission requirements and share information on six different metrics, including:

  1. Human Capital Diversity Metrics
  2. Leadership Accountability
  3. Talent Programs
  4. Workplace Practices
  5. Supplier Diversity
  6. Philanthropy.

Then, the DiversityInc team analyzes and compares the data and releases their findings.

In addition to compiling their annual list, DiversityInc also offers consulting services to help organizations implement and execute their initiatives. The company also provides benchmarking services, so clients can find out where they are on their journey.


Data Can Drive DEI-R

This rigorous examination forms the basis of Carolynn’s ICON 2020 two-part keynote address. During her talk, Carolynn will explore the relationship between ethnic diversity, business strategy and communications performance as we navigate a world disrupted by the pandemic and social unrest.

“This isn’t about opinion or emotion,” she says. Instead, “what does the data say is the problem, and how can data lead us to a solution?”

During the second half of her address, Carolynn will moderate a panel discussion with industry leaders about continually educating ourselves about systemic injustice to bring about irreversible and sustainable change. The discussion on Diversity and Inclusion will include panel members Adriênne Bolden, CEO, Leverage Miami; Anu Saxena, Business Unit President and Global Head, Hilton, Supply Chain Management; Bill Imada, Chairman, IW Group and Esther Aguilera, President & CEO, The Latino Corporate Directors Association.


Marketers Can Help Move the Needle

Carolynn believes that self-reflection and ongoing education will become critical skills for professionals helping business leaders and companies navigate these difficult waters.

“As communicators, we have to hold ourselves accountable with a level of transparency and honesty that’s missing from certain communication campaigns,” she says. “We are key in how leaders show up, how they’re communicating and what we’re saying about our organizations.”

Now, more than ever, these communications decisions impact how people interact with companies. After all, what you know about a company based on what you learn from communicators tells you if you’re going to invest. These messages also give signals to people who might want to work at a company or as they’re making buying decisions.

That transparency begins by acknowledging the injustices happening in our society. Companies can’t be trusted if they’re not telling the truth about what’s happening around us. Marketers will play a crucial role in this messaging and should prepare accordingly.

“People-leaders and communicators need discernment to understand where their voices belong and how they can prepare themselves to show up right and the people we’re helping communicate show up correctly,” Carolynn says. “That’s the real work that’s going to move the needle.”


Register for PRSA ICON 2020 Today

Listen to the latest PR Talk episode to hear Carolynn and Amy’s entire conversation. Registration is also open for the ICON 2020 virtual event. So, sign up on the PRSA website today to hear Carolynn’s keynote address and panel discussion, and access the full slate of professional development, education and networking opportunities.

To hear future PR Talk episodes and access past interviews, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio or Spotify.

Register for PRSA ICON 2020

About the guest: Carolynn Johnson

Carolynn Johnson is the CEO of DiversityInc, a consulting firm that advises blue-chip companies on best-practices for improving their DEI. Carolynn also leads the company’s annual “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list, considered the gold standard of diversity measurement.

Carolynn has been the director of the DiversityInc Foundation for the past 10 years and is on the National Board of Directors at INROADS. Additionally, Carolynn is a Founding Board Member of the Rutgers Business School Center for Women in Business. While completing her MBA, Carolynn was an elected class officer and was a recipient of the Ted Marousas Award for Expanding the footprint of the Rutgers EMBA.

Connect and follow Carolynn on social media:

Carolynn Johnson on PR Talk

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Josh Friesen
I'm a writer and content marketer at Veracity, telling client stories one post at a time.