WASHINGTON: In a city filled with professional organizations, trade associations, lobbying groups, and think tanks, Washington, DC, comms pro Ben Finzel noticed something was missing.
"There’s nobody that’s specifically focused on helping to bring together the LGBTQ community that does communications in Washington," he said.
So Finzel, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ issues and president of RenewPR, started DC Family Communicators, an informal organization meant to professionally connect LGBTQ comms workers in the nation’s capital.
He saw the need for the group after talking with Jim Brams, who formed Atlanta Family Communicators in 2001. Finzel modeled DC Family Communicators after the Atlanta group.
"In chatting with my friends in Atlanta and hearing about the success they’ve had with this networking group, it occured to me ‘Why don’t we have this in Washington?’" he said.
Offering networking, job connections, and mentorship services for LGBTQ people is important, Finzel said, because many don’t feel comfortable coming out in a work environment.
"According to a Human Rights Campaign report, half of all [LGBTQ] workers are not out in the workplace even with all the success we’ve had," he explained. "The more we can do to foster connections and networking among ourselves, the better it will be for our community and for the business at large."
In addition, Finzel said the group, which has more than 80 members after launching in May, is also a resource for companies and organizations trying to address diversity and inclusion challenges.
There’s no DC Family Communicators public website or social media presence. Instead, Finzel issues a email newsletter every month and posts to a private Facebook group two to three times a week with job listings, people moves, and other professional comms news. Finzel hasn’t held events yet, but plans to do so once the group has more than 100 members.
Members must be communications pros who work most or all of the time in the D.C. area and they must be LGBTQ. Finzel’s broad definition of communicators includes staff at PR and marketing firms, in-house employees at trade associations, vendors, and political staffers, among others.
Members must be nominated by an existing member or contact Finzel directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although businesses can’t join the group, Finzel said that they can contact him to have send information to its members.
"Businesses can get their job listings mentioned by contacting me to share them or by having one or more of their employees as members of the DC Family Communicators who then list them directly themselves," he said.
Even though it’s located in Washington, the group avoids politics.
"The point of this is professional networking," he said. "Well look, the personal is political and I’m sure we’ll be talking about these things when have events and folks will bring it up especially since it affects our ability to get work and keep work, but the objective is to be a professional networking group, and that’s what it will remain."
This story was updated on July 6 to correct the name of Human Rights Campaign and the launch date of DC Family Communications.