The strongest statement for diversity and inclusion: the 2018 ColorComm Conference

Proof of the power of diversity and inclusion was evident everywhere during the fifth annual event

Soledad O'Brien (l) interviews Lauren Wesley Wilson at ColorComm Conference
Soledad O'Brien (l) interviews Lauren Wesley Wilson at ColorComm Conference

PRWeek has long been a champion for diversity and inclusion in the industry. Its partnership with the PR Council on the Diversity Distinction in PR Awards, which marks its eighth year in 2018, is but one example. However, this PRWeek editor’s determination to shine the brightest spotlight on this issue is even stronger for having attended the 5th annual ColorComm Conference earlier this month.

I was asked to do a presentation on media placements and influencer relations. Not much arm twisting was needed upon learning the event was taking place in Maui. The true opportunity, though, was listening to both fellow speakers and the assembled delegation.

With each passing session and conversation, my prevailing thought was that all PR pros, particularly those in hiring positions, need to be hearing this. But since most weren’t in Hawaii, here are a few takeaways:

•During a session featuring three leaders from Lyft, the point was emphasized that if a company cannot be comfortable with the real you, it won’t be a good fit for either employee or employer. Furthermore, bad news about companies travels fast, especially pertaining to employee policies and values. Organizations that are closed minded about diversity and inclusion run a great risk of losing out on top talent broadly.

•During a chat with various delegates between sessions, it was emphasized how affinity groups are not the answer to tackle diversity and inclusion issues. Staffers of color must have the exact same opportunities as every other employee. That’s how true advancement happens.

•WE Communications CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin and Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price both credited their continued success and enthusiasm with their willingness to learn from their companies’ youngest staffers.

•2017 Diversity Champion Lisa Ross, currently MD of Edelman’s DC office, insisted that women of color in PR not wait for others to create a safe space for them. Instead, they must know their own power and value and carve out their own safe spaces.

There was nothing safe about the journey ColorComm founder Lauren Wesley Wilson embarked upon in 2014 when she started her network. Five years later, the impact this past PR Council/PRWeek Diversity Champion, 40 Under 40 honoree, and Power List occupant has had on the industry is clear.

As Wilson told renowned journalist and producer Soledad O’Brien during a first-day interview, what started as a 34-woman gathering has increased tenfold in just half a decade. Enviable numbers to be sure. But equally impressive was the quality of the approximately 300 conference attendees. These are not talented communicators of color. These are not talented female communicators of color. They are simply talented communicators – full stop. I thank them for underscoring what all of us should already know: a commitment to diversity and inclusion will exponentially strengthen the comms industry.

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