This morning's PRSA program on diversity challenged attendees. "Look around the room," one of the speakers said. "Let's be frank. How many people who are here would identify themselves as persons of color?"
His question was met with silence.
Which was just one indicator that such programs are needed for the Puget Sound Chapter of PRSA.
"Building Relationships in a New Multi-Cultural World" brought together African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American speakers to help communications professionals think in new ways about how to reach ethnically and racially diverse audiences.
Steve Sneed, the managing artistic director for cultural programs at Seattle Center, urged attendees to reach out, to establish trust with partners and prospective clients from other communities and language groups.
Lauri Jordana, principal at Conexion Marketing, insisted that diversity shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be a sustained commitment by professionals to reach, serve, and partner with their audiences.
Chris Nishiwaki, communications director for Sound Mental Health, reminded the audience that what they'd learned in Communications 101 applies to all communities, not just their own:
- Build relationships;
- Don't assume that audiences are homogenous;
- Make multi-cultural connections every day of the year.
Program moderator, Sheryl Wiser, added that "diversity" also means more than racial, ethnic, or language difference. It includes age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and the many other differences that divide and isolate us from one another.
The themes of this morning's program deserve our careful consideration. If you were unable to attend, a podcast of the discussion will be available here soon. If you were there, it's worth listening in again.
PRSA's mission is to develop a profession that serves clients with the very best counsel and expertise. Toward that goal, we could do nothing better than to extend ourselves to build a multicultural community reflecting the richly diverse world in which we live.
Rich Murphy, PhD, APR
PRSA Puget Sound Board member