Public Relations Tactics

A Diverse and Inclusive Profession: Q-and-A With Hezekiah Herrera, APR

January 4, 2016

Hezekiah Herrera, APR
Hezekiah Herrera, APR

Hezekiah Herrera, APR, is the chief communications officer for fintech company Quote 2 Fund. He serves on the Board of Directors of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of PRSA and heads the group’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Here, he talks about diversity best practices, fostering an inclusive corporate culture and advancing the profession, and PRSA San Diego and Imperial Counties’ winning proposal for this year’s Chapter Diversity Award.
 
What does winning the Chapter Diversity Award mean to you?

Successful diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives and programs, like all movements, begin with just a few passionate people. In this case, last year’s board of directors demonstrated their commitment to empowering the Diversity Chair role by making it a part of the board. Along with the feedback we receive from our current and past efforts, it’s a mile marker that affirms that we are on the right course.
 
Talk about your award-winning proposal.

We began by defining diversity. Then we developed a comprehensive survey that incorporated past PRSA National member survey questions and expanded on that foundation, delving deeper into attitudes and perceptions of diversity within the Chapter and the profession as a whole.

Informed by the results of the study, we developed a two-year strategic plan for D&I to guide our initiatives with three goals in mind: raising awareness of diversity as a smart business strategy, stimulating Chapter participation and increasing outreach by and to diverse PR practitioners, prospective members and students.

Since then, we have executed several strategies and tactics, which have included a signature annual diversity event, diversity-focused communications, and an early outreach pilot program to encourage [PR pros] to educate high-school students about the PR profession and the career opportunities available for those interested in public relations.
 
What trends do you see on the horizon for diversity as it relates to communications, and what are you excited about looking ahead?

I am optimistic about the future. We’ve seen diversity evolve from an affirmative action model that was ideologically remedial-based toward a more integrated model that genuinely desires to be inclusive. Laws used to drive diversity. Now, changing demographics and globalization do. Communications professionals and their organizations will need to develop messages in ways that are inclusive of all stakeholders.

Americans of Hispanic, Asian and African backgrounds make up about 33.3 percent of the population. Failing to tailor our messages and ignoring the buying power of these groups will result in alienation and defection. As more organizations become aware of this, the more in-demand multi-communications-competent professionals will be.

What is the best way to foster an open and accommodating corporate culture, and advance inclusion in the profession?

Education — many organizations highlight the benefits without discussing the consequences of failing to be more open and inclusive. It behooves the PR practitioner to become competent in this area to stay relevant and valuable.

As a profession that has made great strides in establishing itself as credible and recognized, public relations needs to be inclusive to continue this path. Public relations — not HR — needs to take the lead in promoting D&I as a smart business practice.
 
What can others do to embody and demonstrate key values in diversity daily?

Actively listen to people. Repeat, paraphrase and reflect. You will not believe how much more cooperation there can be. More often than not, the people we clash with desire the same outcome. The many dimensions of diversity that we should value reflect attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors. They are formed by a multitude of internal and external factors that we need to be cognizant of and sensitive toward. Start with your immediate circle of influence. 

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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