By: Courtney Fogle (@courtnxyfogle) 


This episode of PR Hangover features Kayden Grinwis and Thomas Pierce from Grand Rapids Pride Center. They opened up about diversity and inclusion in the media and gave tips for being a better ally. Listen here!

Step 1: Get Educated

As a communications professional, it’s important to make sure you’re educated about diversity and inclusion, especially when you’re working in the media. Kayden and Thomas suggest that journalists should pay attention to who they’re interviewing when it comes to D&I issues. When dealing with racism in particular, journalists need to make sure that people of color aren’t being tokenized and expected to be the ‘say all’ for the community they belong to. Education plays a huge role in properly depicting different communities in the media.

Step 2: Build Relationships

Building mutually beneficial relationships is the public relations motto. That being said, the same goes for media representatives when they’re choosing who to interview on camera. They need to engage with different communities even when they aren’t in the spotlight, such as a conversation about LGBTQ inclusion or racism. This means sharing resources and building personal connections, and PR professionals needs to hold themselves accountable for the same.

Step 3: Be a True Ally

“If you’re going to be an ally, really be an ally,” Thomas says. This doesn’t mean being an ally during only the month of June and ignoring them the other 11. This means actually doing the work, being an advocate, and making sure you’re self-aware. From a professional standpoint, if you see misrepresentation in the media, call it out. If you have a relationship with a journalist and see something done wrong, you should say something, even if it makes people uncomfortable to be confronted.

Thomas gave the example of one of his Facebook friends calling out the new Netflix movie, Dumplin’, for including the theme of a queer propping up a heterosexual person and making them the star. Thomas says this is a theme that holds true with LGBTQ representation in the media. Though he didn’t pick up on it while watching, his Facebook friend brought it to his attention. Kayden and Thomas advise us to say something even if you’re worried about negative feedback.

So, What Does the GR Pride Center do?

For 31 years strong, their goal has been to empower the LGBTQ community. They provide supportive services, advocacy, education and awareness through 10 social and support groups that vary on a weekly and monthly basis. Each group has a specific audience, like their youth group or young adult group. They also provide training for organizations seeking help with their inclusive policies. Partnerships play a big part in their organization, helping them to build relationships with GR community members. They’re always trying to raise awareness.

GR Pride center has an annual Pride Festival, which will take place this year on June 15th in Calder Plaza. Their festival has grown significantly in the last 5 years, and last year they had 11,000 people in attendance.

Quick Tips for Diversity & Inclusion

  • You can say you’re accepting and inclusive, but policies and procedures set your baseline. If your company needs a change in culture, make that happen.
  • Don’t just say it – do it. Be inclusive in everything you do, especially if you’re a business owner.
  • Allies are partners. Educate yourself and do your own research before relying on a community to educate you.

Kayden and Thomas urge you not to be afraid to pick up the phone or stop in the door for any questions you may have. To learn more about the GR Pride Center, click here.




Courtney Fogle is a senior studying advertising and public relations at Grand Valley State University. She’s an active member of GV PRSSA and hosts their podcast, PR Hangover. In her spare time you can find her prepping for her future career in entertainment PR as the Public Relations Intern at River City Studios.