You’ve heard it; you’ve probably been saying it. Communications — especially internal communications — has never been so important. And not just because of COVID-19, but because of the loud and clear call in our country and in our companies for racial justice and equality. As individuals and organizations grapple with how to advance racial justice and lead on diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I), communications professionals who have the ear of the C-suite and ties with HR are stepping up.

Recently SF IABC members gathered for a virtual Networking 9 on “Approaching Racial Inequality and Justice,” where we talked about the communicator’s influential role. A few takeaways from participants:

  • There are people who are willing and eager to learn and do the work, so tap into them! As mentally exhausting as this work can be, especially as a person of color, there is hope. If we’re going to devote energy into this pain-staking work, start there and grow from there.
  • Communicators have an opportunity to advocate for, support and influence unconscious bias training.
  • We have to help our leaders communicate authentically. Knee-jerk solidarity statements and gratuitous “virtue signaling” do not serve the company or its stakeholders well.
  • As facilitators of culture and internal brand, communicators can and should be introducing external perspectives and raising the employee voice to leadership.
  • Some companies are holding “listening sessions” to encourage employees to share feelings, thoughts, fears and concerns about recent events and how they’ve been impacted.

SF IABC member Julie Knight quoted Oracle’s DE&I leader: “Talking about things like racial inequality, unconscious bias and allyship at work is difficult. But it’s never been more important. We have to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.”

Doing “the internal work”

Other IABC chapters are tackling this topic as well. Check out “Time to Do the Internal Work,” a blog by IABCLA executive board member Farida Habeeb, Ph.D., a communications specialist, DE&I expert and Associate Professor of Writing at USC. The chapter is also holding a webinar, “The Race is On — Talking about Identity in the Corporate Workplace,” on August 5 at noon. Register here for the free webinar.

Networking 9 offers SF IABC members a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed, casual (now virtual) setting. It’s one of many great benefits of being an SF IABC member. Learn more about membership.