Viva Las Vegas: Takeaways from the 2022 NABJ x NAHJ Convention
What happens when 5,000 journalists and communicators of color descend on Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? Magic.
From August 3 through 7, Las Vegas was home to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Convention and Career Fair. Professionals from across the nation came together for a week of learning and networking, united under the 2022 convention theme, “Changing the Game/Rompiendo Barreras.”
We were there, too. For the first time ever, FleishmanHillard sponsored the premier multiday conference for journalism and communications professionals to explore media education, career development and advancement, and networking and industry innovation.
And for this occasion, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Here were our highlights:
Discussing “How Journalists and PR Pros Can Work Together to Catalyze Equity and Change” at our panel
Francesca “Fran” Weems, senior vice president, director of diversity, equity and inclusion and global lead of the Race & Culture team (an offering of True MOSAIC, our DE&I communications practice), moderated the discussion with our esteemed panel, which included: Daniela Velázquez, vice president, Corporate Reputation and a leader on both the True MOSAIC and Race & Culture teams at FleishmanHillard; Russell Contreras, Race and Justice reporter at Axios; Erin Texeira, senior editor, Local Journalism Initiative at FRONTLINE; and Jared Council, senior editor at For(bes) The Culture.
The panel explored the role organizations play as changemakers. As we’ve seen in our True MOSAIC practice counseling clients, consumers are still frustrated with the lack of social progress and looking for company “receipts” around justice and equity. Journalists have the role of telling these stories, but as PR practitioners who center on DE&I, we know that there is an opportunity to work together to evolve the conversation, push for greater transparency and create lasting transformation.
Recruiting and Retaining the Best Diverse Talent
As FleishmanHillard continues its journey to become the most inclusive agency in the world, we know it’s important to follow the wisdom of the hip-hop artist Migos and “walk it like I talk it.” We must not just speak about the importance of DE&I but invest ourselves and our resources to integrate DE&I into the nervous system of our business and make it intrinsic to our work.
To reach our ambition, we have to recruit, grow and retain diverse talent. That’s exactly why Kelly Cheung, senior recruiting specialist, and Janel O’Brien, talent development manager, were on-site at our FleishmanHillard booth. They shared more about our commitment to DE&I, our client work on True MOSAIC, as well as our internship and Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship opportunities.
Uncovering What DE&I Reporters are Thinking
- Newsrooms are grappling with calling out companies/governments while dealing with their own DE&I issues. Reporters who cover the race/culture beats in newsrooms and who are working to hold other organizations and governments accountable also grapple with knowing their newsrooms are battling the same issues.
- Communicators have a real opportunity to make the world more equitable. For both journalists and PR professionals, there was a clear focus on catalyzing change by reaching internal and external audiences. There is a shared resentment that newsrooms and agencies have been too slow to diversify while knowing that to be able to tell impactful stories, you have to have teams that look more like the world in which we live and operate.
- You cannot hire your way out of DE&I issues. You have to create a culture of inclusion to retain and grow top talent.
- Race should be a basic competency for all journalists and communications pros. We must all understand the role of race and ethnicity in order to inform more nuanced and inclusive storytelling.
- Ensure you are making DE&I a movement vs. a marketing moment: Some reporters have found that there are more efforts tied to marketing DE&I than actually making real investments. For example, a company may give $50,000 to an HBCU, but spend $500,000 on marketing it. So, that begs the question are they there for change or credit? Reporters want to know about the issues, the roadblocks and if companies are willing to fall on swords in terms of their lack of progress given so many companies are not where they need to be. Reporters aren’t here to celebrate wins but to spotlight items that are working that may be scaled across various industries.
- Gen Z is looking for levels of authenticity never seen before. Gen Z is aware of their power and have a voice. They are calling out companies for their lack of authenticity and holding them accountable on social media as it relates to racial and social injustice. This is forcing companies to reconsider how they operate and speak out on issues (see related info in FleishmanHillard’s 2021 Authenticity Gap).
As an agency, we look forward to continuing to support organizations that advocate for diverse communicators and grow our commitment to, and investment in, diversity, equity and inclusion.