Special contribution to Newsworthy, a publication of the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
Learning From Tragedy: The Importance of Finding Equity In Our Communications
A message from Winifred “Wini” King, 2022 GFW PRSA Diversity Chair
Tears come far too often these days. Most recently, there have been two devastating car wrecks in West Texas and Oklahoma where several of our young people perished, and we continue to watch the tragedy in Ukraine play out in front of our very eyes. But at the same time, you’ve probably been inspired by the Ukrainian people’s bravery, passion and compassion for one another.
I’ve found that out of tragedy, we often times find positive change that can truly make a difference. After all, that’s our job isn’t it? Not only in our professional lives, but in our personal ones too.
I think back to May 25, 2020, as the tears rolled down my face on that day. Like so many others, I watched in horror the footage of a police officer taking the life of George Floyd. I thought of my son, a young, proud Black man.
I asked myself, “Would any good ever come from this?”
Then something happened that changed the course of my life and made a huge impact on my health care system.
Rick Merrill, our president and CEO, invited our employees to meet him in the atrium of Cook Children’s. We would gather and observe 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silence, which marked how long a police officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck.
I took a knee and said a prayer that day, trying to find some comfort in this senseless tragedy. Little did I know that some answers to my prayers were on the way. I looked over and kneeling only a few feet away were Mr. Merrill and Keith Holtz, our Chief Administrative Officer. They were in their own thoughts for nearly 10 minutes.
Later that year, Mr. Merrill made a decision that would have a profound impact on my life and our entire organization.
He decided it was time to bring a new position to our organization, and he wanted to hire our first chief inclusion, diversity and equity officer.
After a search, I was told a hiring decision had been made. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I was told that the choice for this new job was me.
I wondered if I heard correctly. After all, I spent my entire career in communications and public relations. What on earth could prepare me for this job?
Well, for one thing I’ve lived my more than 60 years on this earth as a strong Black woman. Make no mistake, my life experiences growing up in Oklahoma prepared me for a lot that came my way. With my own son, I prayed for him to come home safely every time he left my house. Even today, as a grown man, his safety is at the top of my prayers.
Along with my own life experiences, a career in communications taught me to listen to others. I sought out stories. I searched for the truth. Sometimes, the truth was a lot more than I bargained for, but I wanted to hear it and I wanted to face it head on.
My role as a communicator and my life experiences led me to this moment.
The sense of inclusion and belonging means so much to all of us, doesn’t it? That’s why I’m so glad to be a member of the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of PRSA and to serve as its Diversity Committee Chair. I’m proud to be a member of a group that encourages diversity, while never being afraid to say we can always do better.
For more than a decade, PRSA’s leaders have worked to bring attention to the diversity in the public relations profession. Part of our mission is “to make PRSA more inclusive and welcoming by reaching out to industry professionals of diverse racial backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations.” Even back in 2008, the chapter received a diversity award from the national organization of PRSA for our programming efforts around inclusion. Hats off to Glenda Thompson, our diversity chair at the time.
PRSA’s national’s mission statement goes on to talk about PRSA’s goal to “develop industry knowledge, relevant skills and a network of professional contacts: and bring multicultural understanding and expertise to public relations professionals in order to address the diverse audiences in the nation.”
That’s a beautiful thing. If you haven’t visited our Greater Fort Worth’s Chapter web page on diversity, I highly encourage you to click here and take some time to read all the resources available to you.
I also want to invite you to consider joining me on our diversity journey. Where would you like to see our chapter focus our inclusion, diversity and equity efforts? I would love to start a conversation with you. Please email me at email@example.com.
The only way to make progress is for ALL of us to work together.
As Black History Month just ended and Women’s History Month wraps up, I think about how I’ve spent my life fighting to show that I belong at the table. Now I’m sitting at the head of the table, and I’m inviting everyone to pull up a chair alongside me.
But don’t think that you are just going to ease back and enjoy the meal. I challenge all of our members to use their role as communicators to help create a voice for the voiceless in their organizations.
I pray now during these trying and unsettling times that we will someday find our way to a more peaceful and inclusive place for all.