Greater meaning: The 2019 Diversity Distinction in PR Awards

Agencies and brands are not only boosting their diversity efforts, but also broadening them to be more inclusive and innovative. The proof is in the entries to the ninth annual PRWeek/PR Council Diversity Distinction in PR Awards.

PRWeek and the PR Council collaborated on an awards program to spotlight organizations and individuals who are truly moving the needle on diversity and inclusion. This year’s entries highlight an amplified commitment to champion D&I broadly and completely — to include all ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTQ community and those with physical disabilities.

BEST PR FIRM DIVERSITY INITIATIVE

$100 million or more in annual revenue

WINNER

Porter Novelli
We Stand for Love

best firm porter novelli

On the heels of its victory in this category last year, Porter Novelli unveiled a brave two-month, multi-faceted effort last August to combat the hate-filled rhetoric associated with the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, Virginia tragedy.

At its core, the agency believes what unites everyone is the common sentiment that every person deserves respect and to feel welcome. During this initiative, the mantra was underscored with the publishing of 20 internal newsletters featuring personal stories from across the globe. In-office training and out-of-office trips to LGBTQ and Holocaust museums drove the point home.

And to ensure a modern element, the firm gamified the program using the xocial.com competitive kindness platform.

In the face of internal skepticism, the campaign persisted to prompt 40 colleagues from around the world to share their stories of overcoming hate. In turn, 20,000-plus email opens across 25 countries and six continents were facilitated.

The level of global staff engagement rivaled any campaign in the agency’s history, with many deeming it a "game changer."

And Porter Novelli was determined to ensure the spirit of this effort lasted beyond the two-month period. It did so by continuing its work on client initiatives such as a Time To Vote campaign and the launch of the Valuable 500 to urge businesses to include disability in their leadership agendas.

"This brave, beautiful effort shows a commitment to creating a culture that permeates the entire company," noted one judge.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

FleishmanHillard 
FH Perspectives

"We don’t just preach diversity. We unleash potential." This initiative proved those words meant something at Omnicom’s largest PR firm. In 2019, there was an 11% increase in diverse representation at the most senior level. In 2018, nearly 29% of senior hires were diverse, up from 14% the prior year. Diverse hires accounted for 22% of all new recruits in 2018. And in a recent employee engagement survey, there was a 31% year-on-year boost in staffers who confirmed they had an understanding of what the firm does to attract, retain and support diverse talent.

 

FINALISTS

APCO Worldwide
Diversity and Inclusion Council

BCW
BCW Belong: Moving People Toward Diversity & Inclusion

FleishmanHillard
FH Perspectives

Porter Novelli
We Stand for Love

Weber Shandwick
Diversity is Our Strength

 


BEST PR FIRM DIVERSITY INITIATIVE

less than $100 million in annual revenue

HONORABLE MENTION

M Booth
All Different Together

best firm m booth

In March 2018, M Booth embarked on a path to truly incorporate diversity and inclusion into its core business practices from hiring to company culture. A plan was put into place to not only establish protocols to recruit, retain and promote diverse talent, but also establish metrics and processes to keep the firm accountable.

Interview protocols were modified to ensure diverse candidates were identified for all open posts. Meanwhile, M Booth committed to having 35% of its summer interns be diverse — a key as many interns become full-time staffers.

In addition, the agency now holds a monthly D&I speaker series and boosts its involvement in organizations such as SAGE, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ elders.

Since the launch of All Together Different, diversity staff rates increased from 13% in 2017 to 19% and climbing. M Booth has also implemented an applicant tracking system, Greenhouse, to help take unconscious bias out of candidate evaluation.

FINALISTS

Highwire PR
Bringing D&I to the Forefront

M Booth
All Together Different

 


DIVERSITY CHAMPION – PR AGENCY

WINNER

Judith Harrison
Weber Shandwick

diversity champion harrison

Weber Shandwick has won four Diversity Distinction in PR Awards for its overall initiatives. Many deem Judith Harrison, Weber’s SVP of diversity and inclusion, the driving force behind its industry-leading efforts that earned those honors.

In 2018, 25% of EVP hires and 22% of VP/SVP hires were people of color at Weber Shandwick. Meanwhile, 40% of promotions to the EVP level were multicultural. Within her own firm, Harrison created and still leads Weber’s 350-plus-member North America DEI Council. And she has worked with leaders in offices all over the world to ensure diverse and inclusive staffing.

She is also widely recognized for producing innovative events to get talented young students of color interested in PR. In fact, bringing youth into the industry is among Harrison’s biggest strengths. For example, she introduced the United Negro College Fund to the PR Council.

To ensure all aspiring PR pros of color had mentors, she conceived and drove the execution of Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership, a book that highlights the journeys of some of the top people of color in PR. And her work with both ColorComm and the 4A’s Diversity Steering Committee has played a key role as Harrison continues to bring more diverse talent into the industry.

"The measure of a person is not what they do for themselves, but how they inspire others to be better and go farther than them," said one judge. "Judith embodies that."

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Trisch Smith
Edelman

More than 1,300 U.S. employees at Edelman have taken the diversity and inclusion training program created by Trisch Smith, global chief D&I officer. It is required. Her efforts have led to the establishment of six employee network groups to help foster cultural awareness. Smith led Edelman's Day of Understanding as part of the company's pledge to CEO Action for D&I, a coalition committed to advancing diversity and inclusion.

 

FINALISTS

Darlene Fernandez
M Booth

Angela Gillespie
W2O

Dwayna Haley
Porter Novelli

Judith Harrison
Weber Shandwick

Helen Shelton
Finn Partners

Trisch Smith
Edelman

Loreal Torres
Citizen Relations

Cyrus Veyssi
M Booth

Nicole Yost
Porter Novelli

 


DIVERSITY CHAMPION – IN-HOUSE

WINNER

Rhonda Mims diversity champion inhouse mims
WellCare Health Plans

As EVP and chief public affairs officer at WellCare Health Plans, Rhonda Mims launched the company’s dedicated diversity and inclusion strategy over the past three years. The results have won it recognition from entities including Fortune, the Human Rights Campaign and Points of Light Foundation.

As one of three women on WellCare’s 11-person executive leadership team, Mims, who initiated the company’s Diversity Council, works tirelessly to ensure women gain board seats at the highest levels of corporate America.

"Her ability to embed diversity and inclusion across the C-suite and throughout the company is incredibly impressive," said one judge.

Under her leadership, WellCare was named a 2019 Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion by the Disability Equality Index. And beyond the numerous internal groups and programs she has created, she is a driving force behind WellCare’s efforts to ensure supplier diversity and support small business opportunities for the disabled, LGBTQ community and minorities.

According to the American Hospital Association, 31% of U.S. patients are minority, compared to only 17% in hospital-management positions. WellCare, under Mims’ direction, operates a Community Connections Help Line, staffed by a diverse team of peer coaches, to help connect callers to vital services.

Mims also champions D&I through her senior-level posts at organizations such as the Thirty Percent Coalition, which strives to promote gender diversity and women of color on corporate boards.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Karen Kahn
HP

"Companies must stand for something bigger than the products they sell," says HP CCO Karen Kahn, a tireless advocate to increase gender and racial equality throughout the tech sector. Kahn was the driving force behind "Reinvent Mindsets," a short film campaign aimed at boosting diverse representation while reducing unconscious bias in hiring. (The effort won a Diversity Distinction in PR Award last year.) She is also a key player behind HP’s industry-leading push to demand its marcomms agencies have more diverse representation. Last October, a diversity scorecard showed 36% of staff employed by HP’s top five agencies are diverse — a 12-point year-on-year increase.

 

FINALISTS

Sheryl Battles
Pitney Bowes

Catherine Blades
Aflac

Candace Steele Flippin
First Horizon National Corporation

Karen Kahn
HP

Rhonda Mims
WellCare Health Plans

 


BEST IN-HOUSE DIVERSITY INITIATIVE

WINNER

Cisco
Diverse Talent Accelerators

best inhouse initiative cisco

Judges were very impressed by this global program in which Cisco put its vast tech prowess to use by building a suite of solutions specifically designed to find, attract and accelerate diverse top talent.

"This is how you use technology and science to advance recruitment in a meaningful way," offered one judge. "Very impressive effort, with long-lasting possibilities for all industries."

Each one in the suite of four solutions targets a different level of management as part of Cisco’s broader Inclusive Workforce Planning strategy. For example, the Smart Select solution simplifies the process of assembling and participating in diverse interviewer panels, with capabilities that enable managers to search for participants by gender, grade, region, role, skills and more.

Other solutions create job ads; provide data to see up-to-date numbers on organization-wide diverse staffing; and help senior leaders, VP and above, reset baselines and expectations to ensure they have a competitive share of diverse talent.

When the program was tested with Cisco’s Meraki acquisition, the results led to a 24% increase in female representation and a 30% increase in ethnic diversity among employees.

And company buy-in has been impressive. From the program’s launch last October, 100% of the executive leadership team has used the suite of solutions to build customized action plans for their groups to drive higher levels of diversity and inclusion.

Currently, Cisco’s executive leadership team is 46% female and 58% diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

HSBC
Neurodiversity, work, and me

HSBC Now is the bank’s internal comms channel on which it celebrates colleagues. To mark World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, the platform showcased movies about staffers with dyslexia, autism and ADHD — and how their "neurodiversity" strengthens the brand. Judges appreciated this initiative’s unique diversity focus. Beyond internal audiences, the films’ performance netted 206,000 views on LinkedIn, far exceeding expectations. The autism film alone netted 1.4 million reactions on LinkedIn — all part of HSBC’s goal to show its brand values to a large audience.

 

FINALISTS

Aflac
Aflac Uses #MeToo Learnings to Promote Comprehensive Sexual Harassment Actions

Cisco
Diverse Talent Accelerators

HSBC
Neurodiversity, work, and me

PVH
Examining the Roles of Inclusion and Diversity in the Fashion Industry

 


BEST CAMPAIGN BY A DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE TEAM

WINNER

Havas Chicago
#BLACKATWORK

best diverse team havas chicago

Amid the national conversation around diversity, Havas Chicago embarked upon an ambitious campaign to create a deeper understanding of the barriers facing people of color.

#BLACKATWORK is an immersive campaign aimed at driving equity in the workplace and getting everyone to own their roles in pursuing equality for all.

The 2018 activation, The Pursuit, was devised to expose issues raised by government data about diversity that highlighted unequal pay and advancement opportunities, particularly for women of color.

A key part of the campaign was a 1970s-inspired game show that gave participants the opportunity to navigate the climb to corporate leadership through the unique perspective of a candidate at the intersection of race and gender. The game was designed to immerse players in the micro-aggressions faced by black women at work. A partnership with The 3% Conference enabled this innovative activation to be done at an even larger scale.

In 2017, #BLACKATWORK received Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas award. In addition, the effort has gained the attention of applicants and new hires and has impacted the agency’s staffing. "A great, innovative campaign," opined one judge, capturing the overall sentiment.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

H&M
Stay True, Stay You

While numerous brands have campaigns during Pride Month, H&M felt many didn’t connect with the LGBTQIA+ community. Stay True, Stay You, a 2019 campaign built around a clothing line, featured members of that community not only as models, but also as co-creators. The NYC launch event was sanctioned as an official World Pride | Stonewall 50 event. Compared to four other competing campaigns, this one occupied 80.32% of the share of voice within the media landscape during Pride Month.

 

FINALISTS

Accenture
The Disability Inclusion Advantage

Atlanta Hawks
True Comes In All Colors: Impacting 50,000 Lives in Our 50th Year

Dove Men+Care
The Pledge for Paternity Leave

Egami Group
Redefine Black: Call for Change

Flowers Communications Group and Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
Be Bold & Inspire

H&M
Stay True, Stay You

Havas Chicago
#BLACKATWORK

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Creation of Diversity & Inclusion Committee & Campus Efforts

Microsoft
Celebrating Latinos Every Day

SKDKnickerbocker
Black Economic Alliance — Presidential Candidates Forum

 


OUTSTANDING YOUNG PROFESSIONAL

WINNER

Aaron Komo
Carmichael Lynch Relate

OutstandingYoungStudentKomo

"A social engagement specialist at the Minneapolis-based agency, Aaron Komo has quickly earned a reputation for creating and executing effective, cutting-edge campaigns on any budget. His social media prowess is such that, in addition to his regular client duties, he is often brought in to assist on new business pitches. And his bottom-line impact is well regarded.

He is widely lauded as an integral part of the growth of Marvin, the windows and doors company, as both a major agency client and a billion-dollar business. Komo’s efforts increased the agency’s scope of work on the account by 10% in just two years.

And his broad network of contacts has helped connect numerous prospective clients to the firm.

Where Komo really stands out for judges, though, are his contributions to the agency’s and broader industry’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. He is co-chair of CLOUT, the firm’s internal LGBTQIA+ group. He is an active member of Carmichael Lynch parent company IPG’s Merge Initiative.

He is also a trained facilitator for The BrandLab, the national organization that helps connect underprivileged high school and college students with mentors in the comms industry.

In addition, he has led the development of the organization’s Fearless Workshops, training sessions to help workplaces achieve their diversity and inclusion goals.

"Young leaders such as Aaron make me hopeful for the future," said one judge. "He impacts business and culture. He really is outstanding."

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Rita Fanego
Edelman

Roche, Bayer, Janssen and Medtronic are among the numerous major healthcare brands with which Edelman Miami SAE Rita Fanego has worked closely. In particular, her work on Roche Latin America is cited as a reason that account continues to expand its scope of work with the agency. She is also responsible for driving Roche’s employee engagement efforts, including developing Roche’s narrative on healthcare access. Cuban-born Fanego also plays a role in the execution of Edelman’s award-winning initiative, Empowering Health Journalists in Latin America.

 

FINALISTS

Fontaine Bland
Ogilvy

Rita Fanego
Edelman

Aaron Komo
Carmichael Lynch Relate

Mario Mejia
Hotwire

Max Strauss
Atlanta Hawks

 


THE JUDGES

Maria Amor

VP, Havas Formulatin

Matt Harrington

Global president, Edelman

Rahsaan Harris

President and CEO, Emma Bowen Foundation

Michele Moore

CCO, ACLU

Kass Sells

Global COO, president of interntional, WE

Jessica Shih

Director of strategic comms, Blue Shield of California

Charlene Wheeless

Principal VP, global corporate affairs, Bechtel

KeJuan Wilkins

VP, North America comms, Nike

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