Elevate diverse PR talent without tokenizing

When PR leaders are really honest, they admit to struggling in their sincere efforts to increase diversity among their teams.

Our last Inner Circle guest expert hit this challenge head-on. She’s Brandy Stone, a senior VP who leads a consumer team at Havas Formula’s LA office. She’s great at sharing her sometimes difficult experiences as a Black woman in the workplace as well as constructive tips and examples that drive improvement.

Brandy is vigilant about the need to elevate diverse talent without tokenizing.

“Tokenizing happens when you do something good for a BIPOC person and then want to show it off,” she explains. “Employers need to focus on doing the right thing and not get noticed for it. That’s okay – it’s called integrity.”

She shared the example of an up-and-coming PR leader getting a great promotion, and then finding themself being used as a reference point to reinforce a company’s commitment to diversifying the workplace. The employee had been told the promotion came because of their track record and skills, not their race. Being tokenized stings.

Some of the tips Brandy shared:

  • RECRUIT better by allowing remote work and thus expanding your geographic hiring pool. Consider removing older (and perhaps arbitrary) requirements related to education and specific prior experience.
  • HIRE better by waiting to check LinkedIn and do video chats until after a phone interview. Brandy likes to review her candidates first without knowing what they look like to avoid any unconscious assumptions.
  • DEVELOP better by intentional 1:1 mentoring focused on your team member’s personal aspirations. Push to give them greater opportunities that match their goals, and promise to be available for coaching as they push out of their comfort zones.

We also discussed some of the microaggressions Brandy and others have experienced at the hands of well-meaning but naïve individuals, and how we can all be more sensitive and less victim to stereotyping others.

I was so inspired by Brandy’s motivation to personally defy stereotypes and promote diversity and inclusion in everything she does.

“When people see me, I want them to have a positively unexpected experience. I want to captivate the room with my excellence. I want them to be asking themselves, ‘Is she really an SVP? How is she so confident? So smart? So lovable?’ Wherever I go, I want to leave a mark. A mark of Black excellence.”

P.S. Inner Circle members have access to the full training in their Vault. If you’d like to learn from Brandy and the other experts I bring in to teach about all important PR subjects, register for our Wait List to be notified when we open for enrollment.

This article was originally published on August 31, 2022

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