About Me

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Edward Bernays would dig me. Seasoned public relations strategist (10+ years in the game) who has practiced PR in multiple cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago & DC. I'm an observationist and a soon to be card carrying member of the Twitterati. I love comfortable silences, revel in the Seinfeldian absurdities of life and have been described as a habitual line stepper. These are my thoughts...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Got Diversity?

Lately, there has been much ado about Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) hiring of a new African-American woman cast member (SNL has since hired two new African-American women writers to join her).

The issue started when it was pointed out that SNL did not have a single African-American female cast member in its current lineup and hadn’t had one on the show since 2007. Many have found this omission to be pretty remarkable, especially given that the Daily Show easily found the very funny and African-American Jessica Williams to join its group of diverse correspondents. Williams was hired when the faux cable news program needed to replace the talented Wyatt Cenac (another African-American correspondent) when he decided to leave the show.

Since this observation has become public, SNL has received quite a bit of media coverage and not exactly the good kind. Negative PR associated with perceived hiring practices is never a good look, particularly in an era where we have an African-American President, females are leading fortune 100 companies, and every other TV commercial seems to focus on a group of racially diverse friends enjoying good times with a product.

While SNL is hitting back at the problem with its recent hires, all of this talk of diversity and hiring has got me thinking about the holidays. Every holiday season companies across the nation participate in the time-honored tradition of distributing holiday cards to current and potential clients, as well as other stakeholders. The cards are meant as a subtle way to acknowledge the occasion for celebration while letting people know that they’re being thought about.

Most of the time when holiday cards are distributed, via mail or email in this day and age, they typically contain some politically correct greeting, message and image. But every so often people will receive what I’ll refer to as the “this is our company” holiday card which features either all of a business’s employees (usually smaller companies do this) or everyone in a particular department (larger companies tend to favor this approach).

I actually received a couple of the “this is our company” e-cards this holiday season, as well as in past seasons, and one thing immediately jumped out at me when I opened the card – there were no minorities featured. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words and when the image you want to portray to your customers and stakeholders says, “Yup, no diversity here” or “look our workforce is racially pure,” you may be setting yourself up for unwarranted negative PR.  

The moment I saw the image I no longer focused on the card’s intended purpose or message but rather on the possible reasons why this company didn’t have any African-Americans on staff. Surely there was at least one qualified Black person that could’ve been hired. All of those racially diverse beer commercials couldn’t have been wrong in their reflections of Americana, so what’s the deal with this company?  

At the companies I’ve worked for, this was always something I made sure the organization was conscious of – how it was perceived from a diversity stand point. This included what types of images were to be utilized on the website, in publications and with the marketing materials. We would meticulously evaluate photos and imagery to make sure anything used publically accurately reflected organizational values.

At the moment I’m currently in the market for a new position. As a part of my job search, when I’m evaluating a potential new career home, I always make sure to visit a company’s website to see pictures of the staff, particularly the leadership team and board members. It always gives me something additional to consider when I see an absence of minorities and/or women in leadership or the top positions. When it comes to a company’s image, this can be an overlooked facet of reputation management.

Given the fact that not all of a company’s customers or prospective employees belong to a single race of people, it might be beneficial to show the public that not only does your business cater to all people, but is reflective of all people. And that is just good business.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hello, Is This Thing On?

Forgive me Blogger for I have sinned. It has been 216 days since my last blog post.

A funny thing happens when you have to manage an organizational blog that is devoid of consistent voice, purpose, creativity, or personality…it has a tendency to have an effect on the blogging that you do for fun. Well at least that is what happened in my case.

Initially, I thought that my personal blogging would provide the proper creative inspiration and counter balance to all the work related blogging I was required to do. And in the beginning that was the case. However, overtime my personal blogging was what began to suffer. But blogging for work wasn’t the sole reason for the change.

For me personally, blogging is a creative outlet as well as a vehicle to connect with others interested in my professional or other interests. It allows me to share some of the insights I’ve accumulated throughout the years. It also provides me with a constructive way to share aspects of my personality and private life with people that may not know that side of me. Sounds like a good thing, right?

It would have been a good thing if there weren’t a number of bad things that I did as a blogger – key things you should never do if you want to have a successful blog. These things included:

  • Not blogging consistently enough (I should be blogging weekly at a minimum)
  • Blogging two infrequently (sheeesh, it’s been 216 days since my last post)
  • Passing up opportunities to guest blog for others (this could have exposed me to new audiences)
  • Not taking the necessary steps to promote my own blog (if you write it, they won’t necessarily come)

For these transgressions, I apologize to the people who have subscribed to my blog, faithfully commented on my posts, or willingly shared my content with others. You deserve better from me. I can do better to earn your readership.

From a work stand point, I’ve always been a proponent of maintaining a blog. In a communications world dependent upon content creation, blogs rock. An effective blog gives a company/organization an opportunity to connect with its key stakeholders in a more intimate way. It can serve as a forum to share the news and/or stories that your company/organization wants to tell, but might not have otherwise found an audience for through traditional methods.

While there is not a universally established and agreed upon set of criteria for what constitutes an official blog or how a blog post should be written, blogging should never be a painful or demoralizing experience, or an exercise in concentrated boredom. A good blog offers something for the reader as well as the blogger. That is the only path for growing a blog’s presence and audience.

To accomplish this goal, my counsel to any company wishing to establish its own blog is to think about the blogs that YOU like to read on your personal time, or the blogs related to your industry you enjoy visiting on a daily basis. What is it that attracts you to those blogs and keeps you returning to consume more posts? Was it the blogger, content, style of writing, perspective, or readability? If so, those are the elements that your place of business should try to incorporate and emulate in your own voice. Make that blog something that you would want to read versus something you have to do and it will find the life it needs and the space to grow.

Given that premise, I know exactly what has to be done and what should not be done to ensure the success of the next company blog I oversee. And number one on that list is to limit the number of people involved in the blogging process.  Unlike the popular AT&T commercial more is not always better. Adding anyone else to the equation, say beyond the author and an editor, and you court disaster, primarily as it pertains to consistent voice and purpose.   

My recent time away from any manner of blogging has been beneficial. The hiatus has given me an opportunity to read the blogs that I enjoy as well as evaluate the positive traits of some very successful blogs. I’ve also used my time away to pick up some helpful hints and advice that I can use in my own blogging, or to combat the dreaded writer’s block. Here are some of the tips that I picked and hopefully you’ll find them useful too:

If you find inspiration or help in any of this of this information that I’ve plugged be sure to let the author know (and don’t forget to let them know where you saw it shared).

For the year 2014 one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to recommit myself to my personal blog and blogging. So I hope that you’ll stick around for the ride. If there’s something that you’d like to see me do more of or a topic you’d like to see me cover, let me know in the comment section.