With a second wave of Covid-19 ahead, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, and the recent 6-3 Supreme Court decision regarding workplace protections against discrimination for LGBTQ employees — Public Relations firms have a spotlight shining on them to see how they rise to the evergreen case for diversity.
Pride, since its birth in June 1969 when the Stonewall riots launched the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights, has always been about protest and policy. At the forefront of the movement, you had many activists, especially BIPOC and Transwomen, leading the way and public relations professionals that helped to elevate those messages. As PR professionals, we are the storytellers for social justice and have an obligation to elevate the most vulnerable among us. The LGBTQ community is wide and diverse in itself. 2020 is highlighting the intersectionalities within the LGBTQ community as the fight for racial justice and protections for trans individuals take center stage. For example, criminal justice isn’t just a Black issue — it is also an LGBTQ issue. LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and trans individuals, are disproportionately likely to be arrested and incarcerated. 40% of young people and women who are incarcerated identify as LGBTQ.
Many professionals fear that being out will affect their career opportunities and potential advancement. To combat that fear during these crucial times, it is important for PR agencies and in-house teams to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive communications and provide support to employee resource groups. If an LGBTQ employee resource group doesn’t already exist, I encourage leaders to empower their staff to start one if they would like and to include intersectionality in their programming. Additionally, I encourage PR professionals to adopt LGBTQ-affirming language including the use of gender pronouns in email signatures and the use of gender-neutral language when referring to work titles (ie., say Chairperson instead of Chairman).
Last but not least, it would be helpful for agencies to include an LGBTQ recruiting and retention strategy as part of their diversity outreach. Due to the overlapping intersectionality within the LGBTQ community, especially with women and people of color, this extension of diversity will help amplify the voices of the most underrepresented and increase opportunities.
About the Author: A champion for diversity, Troy Blackwell is a seasoned communications strategist. He was most recently the Head of Press Logistics for Philanthropist Tom Steyer, where he managed the presidential candidates traveling press and national broadcast operations. Prior to this, he worked as a press advance lead for Senator Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign and an associate in the Obama White House. In 2019, he was the Senior Director for PRSA-NY’s Big Apple Awards where he drove partnerships with over 50 public relations agencies on diversity pipeline initiatives and awarded Beyonce’s longtime publicist Yvette Noel-Schure. He is on the Board of Advisors for the Museum of Public Relations, PRSA Tri-state, and the Black Public Relations Society-NY. Troy was included on CRAIN’S New York Notable LGBTQ Leaders and Executives list, and is finishing his Master degree in Strategic Communications at Columbia University.