“With sensitive matters such as race, diversity, politics and religion – everyone is entitled to their own opinion and has the right to express that. Most feel that social media is the perfect platform to do so. “ — Joshua Keller, president of Union Square Media.
Social media has prompted inclusion and diversity in public relations efforts because it has provided, perhaps previously non-existent, outlets that allow underrepresented groups and people to have a voice that they’ve never had before.
“There are some these causes that come up that people really wouldn’t have had a way to participate in if it wasn’t for social media,” said DXAgency founding partner Ben Hordell. “I’ve seen many things catch fire and promote change.”
Given that social media is now a primary tool in PR efforts, it has never been more important to be cognizant of what holds real time importance to diverse segments of the population, and to be aware of the best ways to reach and assist those segments.
Alternatively, Facebook has allowed advertisers to target their audience niche with extreme specificity, to the extent that it has been accused of enabling them to discriminate by race. Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s privacy and public policy manager, told Pro Publica, an advertiser “might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry.”
For PR professionals, this can be seen as smart business practice – tailoring your messaging in a way that it’s more likely to be well received by different cultures. It can also be seen as exclusionary if you simply eliminate various groups from seeing your ads.
In many cases, social media can be tools of diversity and inclusion. And in many cases, they are not.
On Twitter, the use of hashtags have helped drive diversity issues into mainstream consciousness. These include (according to AdWeek): #BlackLivesMatter, #ILookLikeAndEngineer, and #IStandWithAhmed .
While social media can be of great assistance in generating consciousness, movements, or diversity of thought, the backlash can be particularly intense.
According to a recent article published by BBC, “Women and members of ethnic minority groups are disproportionately the target of Twitter abuse, including death threats and threats of sexual violence .. the constant abuse is silencing people, pushing them off online platforms and further reducing the diversity of online voices and opinion.”
Future PR professionals will want to make sure they truly represent an organization that believes in diversity and inclusion. Nothing seems more phony that someone trying to score political correctness points by pretending to be someone he or she is not.
A February 2018 article in zenefits.com recommends the utilization of social media to internally improve diversity in the workplace. It cites companies who have used social media to create diversity and inclusion programs, recruit a wider range of candidates, and then showcase genuine diversity and inclusion.