Diversity Marketing with Fabiana Meléndez [Podcast]

Diversity Marketing with Fabiana Meléndez [Podcast]

The Importance of Diversity Marketing with Fabiana Meléndez

Moving Past Suggesting and Implying

Fabiana Meléndez has a clear definition for the work marketers and PRs do. “At the end of the day, we’re storytellers and communicators,” she says. “We take concepts that are not digestible for a mainstream audience, and we draw out the nuggets, so people understand what our clients do.”

As a Senior Publicist for the Austin-based agency Zilker Media, Fabiana uses her storytelling skills to help clients communicate with diverse audiences in their marketing. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news lately understands why these efforts are more important than ever.

In this episode of the PR Talk podcast, host Amy Rosenberg chats with Fabiana about the intersection of diversity marketing and internal diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and how that approach fits into a B2B marketing strategy.

 

What is Diversity Marketing?

Diversity marketing is about more than just having your ad copy translated into Spanish. Instead, it involves companies actively trying to expand their reach by considering aspects of different cultures and subgroups and incorporating them into their marketing. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s received renewed attention lately due to the Black Lives Matter movement and the widespread protests against police violence.

During this time, Fabiana and her colleagues at Zilker realized that many companies aren’t equipped to publicly address these tough topics. It’s one thing to handle these conversations internally through human resources or a DEI consultant. However, it’s another thing entirely to incorporate them externally and communicate company values through marketing. As a result, many companies become paralyzed and require qualified counsel to move forward.

 

Where Do You Even Start?

In Fabiana’s view, any initiative that tackles a difficult subject externally needs to start internally. As she says, “why would anyone listen to us if we’re not exemplifying what we’re marketing?” Before starting diversity marketing, Fabiana recommends seeking advice from qualified experts to make sure you’re doing it right. But this needs to go along with internal conversations to make sure everything is aligned because internal DEI feeds into external marketing. If internal practices don’t reflect what you’re trying to achieve externally, that’s when the message can fizzle out and get muddled.

Some companies are also afraid to go public with these efforts because they fear they’ll be seen as opportunistic or inauthentic. While these are certainly understandable concerns, they shouldn’t prevent a company from expressing their genuinely held values. Fabiana recommends that her clients not be afraid to put out a message about the work they’re doing, with a gentle reminder that they’re never going to please everyone. It’s okay to have fears, she says. But if a company never takes the first step, it could eventually be too late to even begin.

 

Diversity Marketing in B2B

While this marketing approach is most often associated with consumer-facing brands, B2B businesses should also consider how they can express their values in their external communications.

“B2B brands want to represent the companies they service just as well as consumer brands represent the customers who buy their products,” Fabiana says.

Companies that don’t embrace diversity risk falling stagnant. Even if a B2B company is marketing to a very homogeneous group, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a more diverse company out there that could do business with them. Also, company employees want to see themselves represented in the businesses and vendors their company partners with.

Diversity Marketing is Now a Necessity

Marketing and PR pros might have balked at addressing sensitive issues like diversity with their clients in the past. But as Fabiana frames it, “we’ve moved past suggesting and implying.” Diversity marketing is now a necessity, and as professional communicators, it’s the responsibility of marketing and PR pros to facilitate more challenging discussions with their clients and coworkers.

Amy and Fabiana have much more to discuss, including how to handle clients that are reluctant to discuss their diversity initiatives and why the word “publicist” has such dirty connotations, so click through to listen to the entire episode. As always, you can access more great episodes by subscribing to the PR Talk podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio and Spotify.

About the guest: Fabiana Meléndez

Fabiana Meléndez is a communications expert and strategic storyteller currently serving as a publicist for Zilker Media, an Austin-based agency building people-driven brands. As a publicist, Fabiana uses her industry expertise and passion to develop in-depth communication strategies and brand awareness for brands and their leaders. She counsels her clients on the best approach and practices to aid in achieving their personal brand goals while managing their media strategies and outreach.

Connect and follow Fabiana on social media:

Fabiana Meléndez 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 PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Carolynn Johnson, DiversityInc. [Podcast]

Carolynn Johnson, DiversityInc. [Podcast]

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.

DiversityInc

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 PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) with Serilda Summers-McGee [Podcast]

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) with Serilda Summers-McGee [Podcast]

There Are No Excuses Left: Serilda Summers-McGee on Why DEI Should be a Corporate Priority

 

Where PR Fits Into the Marriage of HR & DEI

 

America is in the midst of a cultural reckoning over the systemic inequities BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities face every day. While many of the ongoing public protests focus on policing, corporate practices are also coming under heavy scrutiny as consumers and employees pressure businesses to take meaningful action on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning companies can’t snap their fingers and fix a DEI problem. Instead, it requires strategy, commitment and wise counsel.

An HR & DEI Expert

In this episode of the PR Talk Podcast, host Amy Rosenberg talks with Serilda Summers-McGee, CEO of Workplace Change, about the role of human resources (HR) in DEI. Workplace Change is an HR consulting company that integrates DEI best practices and fundamentals throughout traditional HR functions like employee and labor relations, recruitment and compensation.

Before she launched her company, Serilda held several high-level roles in both HR and DEI at organizations like Kaiser Permanente, the Oregon Department of Education and the Portland Development Commission. She was also the Chief Human Resources Officer for the City of Portland under Mayor Ted Wheeler. Today, her company helps major organizations like Nike, Intel and Burgerville look at their HR practices through an equitable lens.  

 

What is HR’s Role in DEI?

Amy and Serilda began their conversation discussing the appropriate place for DEI efforts within large organizations. Serilda believes that because DEI is about people and culture, it should rest in the HR realm. However, this is a big debate. Some practitioners believe that DEI should be its own division with a separate scope of practice. But as Serilda sees it, partitioning DEI minimizes its importance. If companies instead integrate DEI into every aspect of HR, it becomes impossible to ignore.

This led to a broader conversation about how HR often unwittingly polices BIPOC employees differently than white employees. As Serilda explains it, because employees of color stand out, their work often comes under greater scrutiny than their white counterparts. This situation creates a vicious cycle where an organization’s inherent unconscious biases can sabotage the success of its BIPOC employees.

 

What Gets in the Way of Change?

It’s easy for many employers to remain comfortable with the status quo, simply because it’s working for them. Changing the dynamic requires top-level management to actively move out of their comfort zones and seek out diverse talent. Here in the northwest, Amy sees two common excuses for avoiding this responsibility. One is that Portland is very white, so diverse talent isn’t readily available. The second excuse, which applies to women, in particular, is that an industry is male-dominated. Serilda and Amy both agreed that these excuses are no longer valid.

To make real change, Serilda suggests that business leaders begin developing authentic and diverse relationships now. That means exiting your comfortable spaces to engage with different groups of people than you typically do and nurturing your burgeoning diverse network in the same way you nurture your traditional networks.

 

Listen to the Episode to Hear More from Our Guest

Amy and Serilda covered so much more during their conversation, including HR’s relationship with PR, tips for leaders trying to diversify their businesses and Serilda’s advice for young Black women who are beginning their careers, so click the link above to hear the entire episode or watch the recording below. 

Also make sure to subscribe to the PR Talk podcast on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play and Spotify. If you’d like more from Serilda, you can read her book, “Change The WorkGame: Building and Sustaining a Diverse Workforce,” which is available on Amazon.

About the guest: Serilda Summers-McGee

Serilda Summers-McGee is a human resources executive with over 15 years of progressive experience in higher education, corporate and government environments. She is the CEO of Workplace Change, which exists to help companies assess their workplace culture, creatively resolve identified workplace challenges, recruit underrepresented executives and staff and retain high-quality employees in an inclusive, positive and high functioning work environment.

Connect and follow Serilda on social media:

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 PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Multicultural Marketing with Alexis Davis Smith [Podcast]

Multicultural Marketing with Alexis Davis Smith [Podcast]

It Shouldn’t Take a National Uprising: Alexis Davis Smith on Multicultural Marketing

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks in the United States. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police unleashed weeks of street protests and have caused many Americans to reflect on the role they play in perpetuating racism and inequality. This unrest and collective soul-searching have also reached the business world. Major brands across the country are now taking a hard look at their internal practices and realizing they’ve come up short in their inclusion and outreach efforts towards minority communities.

In this episode of the PR Talk Podcast, host Amy Rosenberg chats with Alexis Davis Smith, CEO, and president of PRecise Communications in Atlanta, Georgia. Alexis and her firm specialize in connecting leading consumer brands with multicultural consumers, focusing on African American and Latinx consumers. As a Black woman, with over twenty years of multicultural marketing expertise, Alexis offers unique insight into how companies should approach this historic moment.

An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Alexis began her career at Ketchum PR in Atlanta, working with well-known brands like Delta, Nokia, and BellSouth. During her tenure, Alexis was also a founding member of the African American Markets Group, the first in-house multicultural team created by an international PR agency.

In 1999, Alexis left Ketchum to launch PRecise Communications because she wanted to practice PR on her terms. Although she initially planned on being a solo practitioner, her company grew quickly. Today, PRecise Communications provides strategic multicultural marketing counsel to brands like Toyota.

 

The Case for Multicultural Marketing

Too many brands treat multicultural communities as a marketing afterthought, or worse, ignore them altogether. However, the work Alexis has done proves there’s a strong business case for engaging multicultural communities. African Americans have $1.3 trillion in buying power alone, and by reaching out in the right ways, minority groups can drive profit, sales, and growth.

However, successful companies need to be doing more than just marketing to multicultural communities. Instead, they should be leading the fight to address racial inequity.

As Alexis pointed out, it shouldn’t take a national uprising for corporate America to want to step in and address societal and political issues. It’s simply the right thing to do. A critical part of leading in this area is for companies to examine how they promote diversity and inclusion throughout their organization. Companies that drag their feet will be challenged in the marketplace by consumers who increasingly make buying decisions based on how organizations interact with the community. It won’t be just about what these companies say, either. Consumers will also be making buying decisions based on what’s happening within a company.

 

Multicultural Marketing vs. D&I

This led Amy and Alexis to discuss the crucial differences between multicultural marketing and diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. As Alexis explained it, multicultural marketing focuses on consumers and external stakeholders, while D&I is about a company’s internal audience as well as recruiting and retaining. Both approaches are very important, and there is some natural overlap between the two focus areas. That’s why, over the last few years, PRecise has moved into the D&I space, to advise on rules and best practices.

Amy added that she believes external marketing is talk. While companies that are doing the real internal D&I work are walking the walk. As this issue continues to grow in importance in the culture and for consumers, Amy believes PRs need to flag D&I as a PR issue.

Towards the end of their talk, Alexis reminds us that the United States of America has a rich history of oppression, and for many people, those experiences are not that old. Corporate America is a microcosm of the country at large, so people bring their biases into the office with them every day. D&I and multicultural marketing are about being courageous and stepping out of our comfort zones to find something new and better that we might have otherwise missed.

For marketing and communications professionals, these issues should be at the forefront of their work. Alexis reminds us that if you understand your client’s consumer face and recognize that they’re not 100% caucasian, but your marketing strategies don’t include a nuanced approach to addressing those issues, then you’re not doing your job.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the PR Talk podcast on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play and Spotify. There’s more great content on the way that you won’t want to miss.

 

More From Our Guest

Listen to the entire episode for the full conversation between Amy and Alexis, including Alexis’ career advice for young, multicultural PR professionals. If you’d like to hear more from Alexis, subscribe to her podcast, Culture & Convos. In upcoming episodes, Alexis will cover the intersection between politics and black consumers. Follow @precisecommAtl on Instagram for more information.

About the guest: Alexis Davis Smith

Building on more than 25 years of experience, Alexis Davis Smith has established a reputation as a respected communications strategist and leader in the PR industry. She is president and CEO of PRecise Communications, a 20-year-old, award-winning Atlanta-based marketing communications agency.

Connect and follow Alexis on social media:

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 PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.