Vanessa Wakeman, The Wakeman Agency

As the founder of a communications agency focused on social justice, I’ve grown particularly aware of the profound importance and impact of the words and language used to represent various demographics. This fact has been illuminated over the past year and a half, due to the racial reckoning that was launched with the murder of George Floyd. When I first entered the public relations sector two decades ago, long before diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) had become part of our daily lexicon, there was often confusion about how to speak about people of color, underrepresented populations, and efforts towards inclusion. The tides are not so much turning yet as they are churning, and we as a sector continue to struggle TO UNDERSTAND and TO EVOLVE the language that we use.

I approached the Institute for Public Relations to conduct this survey on the use of institutional language, knowing that how people communicate is the literal foundation of how institutional cultures are created and sustained. Language is powerful — it shapes our reality and perceptions. It’s doubly now relevant now, as the crucial role of communicators in revealing and combating systemic oppression has been in sharper focus. As a communications expert, I feel strongly that our industry has a responsibility to take a leadership role in reflecting the importance of the use of language and how it relates to social justice and the creation of ecosystems that hold DEI principles and most essentially, practices, at their core. It makes sense that we would be gatekeepers pushing for evolution in how we communicate with colleagues and external stakeholders. My agency is actively involved in partnering with companies to create lexicons reflective of their aspirational values.

Before we can lead that charge, though, we need to gain insight into the current perceptions and use of language in our ranks. This survey sought to learn more about how the PR industry views its respective efforts to talk about DEI issues internally and externally and the perceptions around the impact of language. Lack of clarity around language plays into power dynamics — perpetuating and even exacerbating inequity in the workplace and roadblocking authentic inclusivity. Strategic attention to the use of language and creating clarity and consistency amongst how PR professionals are using it will no doubt help propel the mission. Communications professionals are in a unique position of possible leadership for this reason. Let’s view this survey as a jumping-off point.

Vanessa Wakeman
Founder & CEO, The Wakeman Agency

This post summarizes a roundtable discussion by the IPR Measurement Commission.

Recently, members of the IPR Measurement Commission participated in an online discussion about internal communication measurement. Led by IPR Measurement Commission Member Sean Williams, the IPR Measurement Commissioners discussed how to measure internal communication outcomes and behaviors.

Some key takeaways from the conversation included:
  • Analyzing workplace channel engagement on platforms, such as Slack or Teams, and surveying employees on their experiences are two important metrics of measuring internal communications.
  • The influence of communications is intersecting with HR more than ever.
  • Communication professionals are now more involved in the aggregation and analysis of employee data.
  • Metrics for measuring internal communication must be specifically tailored for an organization.

Public Affairs Council examined how and why companies get involved in social issues related to discrimination, environmental sustainability, human rights, immigration reform, and other issues. 

A survey of 82 companies was conducted in July 2021.

Key findings include:
  • 91% of major companies believed the pressure to engage on social issues has increased in the past three years, a considerable jump since 2016 when 60% felt increased pressure.
  • An even higher percentage of firms (96%) believed these expectations will rise further in the next three years. 
  • 80% of the companies surveyed engaged with civil rights issues (race, gender, and sexual orientation equality) much more frequently than any other category of issues.
  • The most common actions for engaging in social issues also increased over the past five years.
  • 70% of companies joined a coalition compared to 64% in 2016.
  • 65% of companies issued a press release/public statement versus 49% in 2016.
  • 52% of companies signed a petition versus 43% in 2016.

University of Southern California, Annenberg; Zignal Labs; Golin
USC Annenberg, Zignal Labs, and Golin created The Polarization Index to analyze national political division, as measured within social media conversations.

The Polarization Index measures engagement with polarized content on Twitter, with polarization calculated by combining the volume of shares with the bias and reliability ratings of the media sources publishing the content.

Key findings include:
  • Immigration has become more polarized since the 2020 presidential election and remains the most polarized issue analyzed for the third quarter in a row.
  • The polarization is largely due to increasing amounts of shares from less reliable, right-leaning sources, which account for 61% of all engagement over the past three months.
  • Policing policy ranks as the second most polarizing topic within the last three months.
  • Policing policy became more polarized due to increasing engagement with less reliable, right-leaning sources, which comprised more than half (53%) of the shares.
  • Racial equity and gun legislation are the next most polarizing issues, driven roughly equally by both right-leaning and left-leaning sources.
  • This implies they are likely to remain divisive for the foreseeable future, with the potential for increased volatility.

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