By: Riley Youngs (@YRileyAnne)
Receiving a negative review or worse creating some type of scandal is not the way to begin a conversation about diversity. Beginning with awareness, take initiative to educate yourself and others about cultural diversity. Social media and the internet, in general, have made it difficult to shelter your awareness. Conversations are happening and support is everywhere for those who want to find it. Gaining cultural awareness is the first step in creating your PR strategy or evaluating within your company.
Finding your niche and your people is a wonderful way to feel comfortable and accepted. Becoming too comfortable soon becomes a weakness if your environment diversifies. We can forget how to interact with different people. Moving away to school, I found a new group of friends and we became quite close. When I went back home over break, my old group of friends said I had changed. At first, I was worried, but I later came to realize making myself uncomfortable and putting myself out there to make a new different group of friends was the greatest way to grow personally.
Creating an open and diverse workspace opens the flow for communication and increases the number of viewpoints and solutions for client needs. The value all attitude is appealing to clients and will help you retain employees. Maintain an open workplace and voice and avoid cultural appropriation.
Paul Garbett from HBR stated that “the strength of cross-cultural teams is their diversity of experience, perspective, and insight. But to capture those riches, colleagues must commit to open communication; they must dare to share.”
Working with international brands opens opportunities for growth when organized and presented respectfully. Cross-cultural communication plays a major role in PR in creating a campaign that goes global or with international partners. This is not simple, but with understanding and knowledge can be very successful.
Begin by reflecting on your own culture and identify cultural differences between yourself and others. When you notice these differences, you can adjust your perceptions and create an open door for conversation and knowledge of other cultures. Avoiding overgeneralization and stereotyping is a better way to assess a situation before asking questions, and remember not to assume. When asking a question, make sure not to single out one person or group, wait for an appropriate time to speak and make sure they are okay with answering questions.
Living and working in Grand Rapids has opened my views and exposure to cultures my hometown has probably never seen. I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse set of students and professionals every day.
College has opened my views to so many new ways of viewing respect. Grand Valley offers events through Multicultural Affairs, and I attended some of these events. My original reason for attending these cultural awareness events was usually a class requirement or extra credit opportunity, but I am so glad I took the initiative to immerse myself and really try to take something away from them. As stated by Deirdre O’Donoghue from G2 “more times than not happens in PR when professionals use minority cultures for financial or commercial gains without any genuine understanding or interest in the culture.” Brands are caught all the time sending out hurtful and stereotypical content that sets a negative view of their message. With better understanding, the PR industry can avoid hurting marginalized groups with their content.
Facing these issues head-on begins with hiring a diverse group of employees so with a conversation, awareness is spread and enlightenment can be shared within the group. It is difficult to become fully aware of all cultures and expectations, nearly impossible, but with eagerness to learn and share quality content can be created.
Riley is a senior studying Advertising & Public Relations. This is her first year in both PRSSA and Grand PR where she works as an account associate. After graduation, she plans to stay local and work for a small Public Relations firm in Grand Rapids but is open to new plans that support personal happiness. When she isn’t in class, Riley nannies for local families and can be found home decor shopping for her apartment.