Equity is at the core of all the major discussions taking place in our society today — from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color to the protests for racial justice still occurring months after the murder of George Floyd. How can companies approach this important issue with sensitivity and intention?
As with any major conversation, before jumping in, it’s essential that businesses approach the topic and related work with the right intentions and goals. Often, that means taking a step back and asking fundamental questions about what equity means in your industry and whether your company should comment on it at all.
For many businesses, “equity” is defined as the existence of fairness, justice and unbiased treatment in all procedures and policies within an organization. This definition and the specific means of achieving equity may vary by industry, however. In healthcare, for instance, achieving equity means first understanding the challenges different communities face when trying to access care, then working to correct them. Each industry and company must follow its unique path to equity.
Despite all these nuances from business to business and sector to sector, one thing remains the same: you must be authentic and empathetic in your approach. If you aren’t yet working on an equity initiative, don’t rush the process and make mistakes. And don’t make promises you can’t keep. Stakeholders don’t necessarily need to see that you’re ahead of all your competitors now, but they do want to know that you have a plan and you’re working toward it.
If you would like to strategically and appropriately participate in ongoing conversations around equity, first answer the following 10 questions, which will help provide you with a roadmap for engaging.
- Where does your company stand on equity in your industry?
- What does it mean to your company to achieve equity?
- What is your company’s role in society related to equity?
- What steps have you taken to-date toward this goal?
- In an ideal world, what steps or initiatives could your company be taking or pursuing to achieve equity?
- Which of those make the most sense to prioritize?
- What actionable steps can you take to pursue those steps/initiatives?
- Are there measures of success you could point to as evidence of these efforts and their progress?
- How vocal does your organization want to be about these topics?
- What will your target audiences think of this work?
Achieving equity isn’t something that can be done overnight, but if you would like to participate in the conversation, the right messaging is necessary to get the job done. The first steps to any messaging exercise are gathering all the information, identifying tone and pinpointing what you want those messages to convey. Empowered by the answers to the above, you should be able to develop effective messages and communications content about equity that establishes your company’s role, offers perspective on the topic, speaks to what can be done or is being done to address it, and potentially gives your audiences a way to participate.
As we continue to fight COVID-19 and rebuild our economy as a society, we can only expect equity and the social justice movement to remain a top focus for media and those working to address these issues. We hope that this set of questions will serve as a valuable guide for how and when to approach questions of equity in your organization.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.