By Jennel McDonald

Words are powerful. Images are powerful. Actions are powerful. They are artifacts of human society and the communicators’ tools that we use to shape our worlds. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen our tools in action – used in both terrifying and hopeful ways.

The white supremacists’ demonstration in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 12, which left one woman dead and our country shaken, capitalized on these communications tools. Their acerbic rhetoric was meant to both rally support and create division; their hateful imagery intended to strike fear and embolden followers to cling to ideas that we naively thought had grown cold and dead. On that day, we saw how terrifying and violent communications could be.

But on the days that followed, we also saw the power of communications in action to heal, to bridge, to love. 15 chief executives, including the heads of Merck, General Electric, Intel, Campbell Soup, and others quickly and decisively resigned from government councils and issued public statements denouncing racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazis. James Murdoch, son of the conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, also denounced these hateful beliefs and pledged $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. And countless leaders across our companies have reached out to our diverse workforces to share feelings of sadness, loss, unity, hope, and protection.

Yes, communications are powerful indeed.

At SF IABC, we stand with our community in denouncing hate in all its forms. As Bay Area residents, we’re proud of our diversity, and we celebrate our differences, using them as an opportunity for us to learn and grow – but even here, we’re not immune to what we saw in Virginia last week. That’s why our members are so important. You are uniquely positioned to influence the stances our business leaders take and shape the messages that reach the ears and eyes of our employees, customers, and friends. And in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, SF IABC is here to support you in your journey to find a point of view, be a force for good, and master our common communicators’ tools, wielding them responsibly and with precision.

How are you helping your leaders and companies use these communications tools? Share your photos or stories in the comments section, or via TwitterInstagramFacebook or LinkedIn – we’d love to hear and learn from you.


Jennel McDonald
SF IABC President