DE&I In Action

  • Becoming an Ally and Advocate for Black Women by Renea Morris, APR, Fellow PRSA

    As we transition from winter to spring and the frost yields to warmer temperatures, it can be exciting to experience longer days and see new life emerge.

    While I appreciate what warmth and light do for my circadian rhythms, I find myself focusing on other matters during this time.

    With Black History Month and [Women’s History Month in the rearview] looking at the intersectionality of being a Black woman, I realize that none of what I feel or do could ever be encapsulated within a set time. And while I believe it’s important and laudable to set aside special times to learn about and acknowledge the contributions of Black people and women, it will take generations to understand accurately and appreciate fully, the enduring legacy and value of Black women in this country.

    There are so many amazing stories about Black women that it is easy to become fascinated and fixated on the facts without really considering the barriers they had to overcome, and the struggles they were forced to endure, before they realized any achievement. It’s also disheartening in some cases to discover that early strides didn’t always lead to later wins.

    Though Black women attended to birthing women as early as the 1600s, when obstetrics and hospital-led medical intervention emerged by the late 19th century, the work of these women was effectively wiped out. Fast forward to the current day and we are in the midst of a maternal health crisis. Though the United States spends more on health care than in any country in the world, U.S. women have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 40 other countries. The risk of dying is three times greater for Black women than for white women.

    Black women were engaged in the women’s suffrage movement, yet had to wait until 1965 — 40 years later — before there was legislation that granted Black people the right to vote.

    The acclaimed movie, “The Help,” was not a documentary, but the novel from which the screenplay was based, did portray realistic situations. Black women supported white families, my great-grandmother among them, by caring for their children and cleaning their houses — houses they would not have otherwise been allowed to step inside. Many places around the country that were subject to redlining remain segregated today.

    While we are reconciling the past, I would like us to seek more ways to positively affect the present and future. Instead of only focusing on who to recognize at any given time, my challenge is to not let this month end without making a commitment to find ways to help Black women become more valued and included into the fabric of this country.

    Here are a few tips to get you started:

    • Identify a passion project and take note of whether there are any Black women enjoying it.
    If the answer is “no,” then use your influence to open an avenue for a Black woman to get involved. You may discover that she is standing on the sidelines just waiting to be asked.

    • Volunteer at a local nonprofit that serves Black women’s issues.
    Small organizations can almost always benefit from strategic communications support.

    • Mentor a Black woman at your organization.
    Even if your organization does not have a formal mentoring program, reach out to your HR department so that someone is aware of your interest. According to reports from DDI World, only 16% of high-potential leaders are from minority racial/ethnic backgrounds and only 37% of women have had a mentor in their careers. Lift as you climb.

    • Sign up to support voter registration efforts.
    This is one way to foster justice and equality.

    • Support policy initiatives that advance issues related to Black women.
    You can use your communication skills to articulate and advocate for a cause that can have a lasting impact. For example, in states without protection by the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” Black women (and girls) can be subject to discrimination in workplace and educational settings for how they wear their hair.

    As PR  professionals, our work is about influencing, engaging and building relationships. Let’s use our expertise to become advocates and allies for justice and change this month and every month.

  • Broadening Perspectives in PR Josiane Martinez, CEO and Founder, Archipelago Strategies Group

    Q: Tell us about Archipelago Strategies Group’s (ASG) unique and intentional approach toward multicultural marketing?

    A:  ASG creates multicultural campaigns that are as diverse – in both audience and purpose – as our global staff members. Three-quarters of ASG is fully bilingual in English/Spanish and English/Portuguese, and we employ specialists in the most-spoken languages of our communities. Instead of translating marketing materials from English, ASG “trans-creates” unique assets in each key language. This helps ensure that messaging culturally resonates with the target audience, including shared imagery and references.

    Our approach to developing creative assets for multicultural communities also begins with a deep understanding of the audiences we want to reach, and their systemic and perceived barriers to engagement. ASG thus frequently conducts primary research, and analyzes secondary research, to inform communications strategies and test creative concepts. To align with our vision of “marketing with purpose,” ASG specializes in social marketing to influence human behavior. Our team applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate and share content to achieve a more equitable common good.

    Q: Last year, you were one of the Boston Business Journal’s LGBTQ Business of Pride Trailblazer Award recipients. As a well achieved Latina who identifies as LGBTQ, what is your recipe for success? How have both identities impacted your career?

    A:  This is something I’m very proud of. It wasn’t too long ago that a LGBTQ woman with an accent wasn’t winning awards, or getting asked to bid on a big contract, or even part of the conversation. I think we have shown our value, our work ethic and our results speak for themselves. As the make-up of our great country continues to evolve, there will need to be a greater focus on including a wide range of perspectives at all decision tables. Those who choose not to adapt in that way will most certainly be left behind.

    Q: Boston’s theme for PRSA’s 75th anniversary is Communication Evolution. Talk about some ways that you’ve seen the communication and marketing industry morph since you’ve been in business?

    A: I created ASG to help our clients reach and engage with important constituencies and populations that too often are overlooked, not seen or heard, and forgotten about. For too long, non-English speaking communities and immigrant populations were always thought of last when a PR plan or a marketing plan was being created. We set out to change that so that these important communities were integrated into every aspect of a client’s strategy. The way media is consumed is changing and we saw an opportunity. Not everyone is reading The Boston Globe or watching a local newscast, so we had to create a new game plan to meet people where they are.

    We have prioritized hiring people who reflect the rich diversity of our city and our region; people who speak the languages, and understand the cultural gifts that make our communities so vibrant. With that type of competency, we are no longer talking TO certain populations, but we are engaged in dialog about what they want and need and how our clients can best serve them. It is a win-win situation for all involved.

    Q: What was the last thing you binge watched?
    A: My wife and I are raising a 4-year-old, so we binge watch Encanto.


  • DE&I In Action with Kelley Chunn

    In DE&I In Action on

    Black excellence, advocate for positive social change, and accomplished are just a few words to describe Kelley Chunn. She is the founding president of the Roxbury Cultural District in Boston and Principal of Kelley Chunn and Associates, specializing in branding, strategic planning, civic engagement, and other services.  Chunn is a speaker, trainer, multicultural/cause-related public relations and marketing consultant, and has been a professor at Simmons University, Tufts University, and Emerson College.


    What led you to pursue cause-related and multicultural PR?

    My overarching goal throughout my career has been to use the power of communications to promote social change and help people to navigate social upheaval and disruption. Change is hard and risky – though when you are young, risk often looks like a great adventure. A few years into my career in TV news and public affairs, I quit my job at WBZ TV to live and work in Nigeria as a consultant to the federal government. After some 18 months, a bloodless coup forced me to leave the country with pay and the experience of a lifetime–but without a contract or further immediate employment prospects.

    Years later when I quit a tenure track position at a university to open my own public relations and marketing consultancy full-time, my sense of adventure and risk were less fervid. I made sure I had sufficient client relationships, revenue, and contracts in place to last at least one year.


    What is the most fulfilling part of your work? Are there any accomplishments you’d like to share?

    I built my collaborative consulting practice on the notion of “providing culturally smart strategies to promote social change,” especially relevant during a time when the multicultural dynamic of our country is undergoing transformation. I leverage my commitment to positive social change and my intimate knowledge of diverse racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups to meet the needs of client partners who understand the value of connecting with this broader market.

    Key accomplishments include the pioneering Tobacco Education Campaign for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This led to a portfolio of health-related projects that focused on myriad health disparities and eventually included an award-winning obesity prevention campaign for the National Institutes of Health. Through this work, we helped to spark a wellness movement among health care providers who serve Boston’s communities of color. In addition, we have worked on the formation, administration, and marketing of the Roxbury Cultural District (RCD). We are also proud of the civic and community engagement work we have conducted as part of the restoration of the Shaw 54th Memorial on Boston Common. Working on behalf of the City of Boston, the National Park Service, the Friends of the Public Garden, and the Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill, we have used the restoration as a platform for civic dialogue to explore issues of racism and social justice. Other highlights include my being invited to the Obama White House, and being honored by the Public Relations Society of America, Boston Chapter with the prestigious Diane Davis Beacon Award.


    What does DEI mean to you?

    Diversity gets you invited to the party. Equity and Inclusion mean that you get to dance and choose the playlist.


    Why is it important for companies and organizations to have DEI initiatives and policies in place?

    As noted author James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” At this moment of “racial reckoning” and the “Great Resignation,” companies who do not address DEI in a meaningful way will be at a competitive disadvantage.


    What is a common mistake that companies and organizations make regarding DEI and DEI initiatives? How can they avoid that mistake?

    If we do not change the systemic policies and procedures embedded in organizational structures, we are skimming the surface. Companies and organizations must have commitment to DEI starting from the C suite. Attention must be paid to the development of policies and procedures related to recruitment, retention, and professional development of staff. The makeup of the board, senior management, and vendors must also reflect commitment to DEI. Measure your progress.


    What advice can you give to those looking to get involved in DEI initiatives?

    Do your homework by researching the needs and concerns of the organizational landscape both internally and externally. Develop clear goals and metrics to measure your progress. Talk to and vet DEI professionals who have a demonstrated track record in helping organizations to achieve their DEI goals. Understand that achieving DEI is a process. It takes time and will not happen overnight.


  • DE&I In Action with Jolene Peixoto

    In DE&I In Action on

    With over 20 years of high tech and business to business expertise in global public relations, digital communication, analysts relations, and social media, Jolene Peixoto talks about how to make an impact through communications for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality Initiatives.


    What has been the most challenging obstacle you’ve had to overcome by working in global public relations, digital communications, analysts relations, and social media?

    My forte has always been PR primarily. It’s the part I love the most, and I feel like that has changed the most since I started my career. My first internship at a PR agency was right after 9/11, and it was really hard to find a job after graduation that year because there were no jobs around. But the PR industry was so different then, and a lot of it was really driven by the press release and the traditional news avenues. Now it’s all truly about relationship building. They care less about brand new technology or new offices that just opened. It’s more about finding the right relationships, cultivating them, and being a resource for that they’re going to want to come back to over and over again.


    What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you?

    It means that everyone should have a voice and be heard. I feel that there are so many people that I met at my company that did not feel heard, and they had a unique perspective or a story to tell that normally wouldn’t have been told. Maybe they wanted to share their own coming out story and be a voice to someone who may be struggling with coming out. Maybe they’ve grown up, or lived their life with a child with major disabilities and wanted to share how they have dealt with that throughout their life. Learning and really seeing that there’s so many other perspectives out there, and to understand that perspective, is why everyone’s voice should be heard and embraced.


    Why do you believe it is important to be an engaged member in DEI initiatives?

    I think it makes you more empathetic. It makes you understand others’ perspectives a lot better and realize there are a lot of other perspectives – some you may agree with, some you may not. It’s important to educate yourself and get involved by asking questions and learning.


    What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone who is looking to get involved with DEI initiatives? And how did you originally get involved with DEI initiatives?

    Just raise your hand. I did. I knew we were going to be launching a Diversity Council, and I wanted to get involved. They were identifying people from different teams to join and have a different role, and they needed somebody from marketing. I joined to tell the story externally on social media, on our website, and I helped create a diversity report, which we’ve never done before. Ask if your company has a Diversity Council, and if they don’t have one, start doing

    something similar by getting a group of people together that are just as passionate about it. If they are passionate about DEI, you can build it from a grassroots effort, which is what I started, and it grew from there.


    What is some advice that you can give to empower women in the workplace or others who are underrepresented?

    Finding a mentor at your company or place of work is really important, and have that person not be on the same team or department that you are so you can get a different perspective and learn from them. It’s a great way of getting involved. Also, raising your hand for different projects outside of your own role or team is the best way to get visibility and exposure to different people and leaders. Get involved in different groups that are either local here in Boston, or virtually. There’s so much more out there than ever before for women and for underrepresented groups.


    Interviewer: Audrey Tumbarello