“We’ll Do Better”... But How?

Kalyca Lynn Becktel

June 8, 2020

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. It was murder, and prosecutors agree having charged all four.

Floyd’s death triggered outrage in communities of all colors, with citizens calling for action to end police brutality. Many of these protests against police brutality were met with more acts of police brutality.

For some outside of Black community, this was the first time they saw the shameful racial intolerance and division experienced by Black Americans. And for some it has become too much and they are standing aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In traditional fashion, PR practitioners flocked to social media to post carefully-crafted messages on behalf of their organization promoting promises to “do better” to help end systemic racism.

You might call them manifestos, as they overall:

  • Insinuate organizational transparency by calling attention to its own surface-level responsibility in deepening the racial divide
  • Promised to stand with and support Black businesses, clients, employees, patients and students
  • Donated to organizations supporting Black communities and social justice
  • Shared resources like books, hashtags and ways to learn more

What was missing in these manifestos?

  • Didn’t offer specific insight into the organization’s racial misconduct
  • Failed to identify specific actions to address ending systemic racism

Without detail and swift action, these organizations are tourists in the #BLM movement.

How can organizations do better?

Charles Chamberlayne called out organizations on their manifestos in saying the first step to address the BLM movement is hire people of color for the executive teams, including PR.

Let’s encourage our American businesses to reflect society, not through Twitter and Instagram posts, but by shattering the glass ceiling and giving black Americans a seat at the table.”

Next, be vulnerable.

Since the early 90’s, coincidentally around the time that police brutally sparked outrage and riots in Los Angeles, our center namesake Dr. Glen Broom and his longtime friend Dr. David Dozier have preached the importance of research and evaluation in public relations. Neither of these can be done without asking questions.

  1. “How are we doing?”
  2. “What can we do?”
  3. “How did we do?”

The problem is that these important questions are not asked enough in public relations. When they are asked, they do not always translate into purposeful changes.

Practitioners often let research and evaluation fall to the wayside and when evaluations are done, they often center around internal benchmarks and rarely take open-ended answers from the publics they serve.

  • An organizational promise to act as a force aiding to end racial injustice cannot be fulfilled without asking these questions of the Black public
  • An organization cannot repair its problems of racial inequality if it doesn’t identify and address where they are manifested and from the perspective of Black people who are suffering as a result
  • Worse, an organization that fails to deliver on its promise of this magnitude and importance is responsible for disgracefully perpetuating racism

An organization’s integrity is more important than its social media identity.

In his foundational textbook on public relations, Dr. Broom wrote that practitioners exert subtle yet powerful influence over the culture of an organization. This implies that practitioners should not only write about change, they should be the change. This represents two-way communication and is an open system.

Now is the time for organizations to take a moment of silence.

How PR can communicate through BLM

  • Listen and let the anguish of the Black community sink in
  • Take inventory and counsel your organization to openly take accountability for its racial misbehavior
  • Use your organization’s platform to elevate Black voices by asking the uncomfortable questions
  • Be relentless in ensuring your organization follows through with actions and not just words
  • Change internal policies that perpetuate systemic racism
  • Hold employees accountable
  • Reevaluate hiring practices and recruitment practices
  • Create internships for students at HBCUs
  • Use corporate social responsibility programs to lift up communities of color

This is systemic racism. Reevaluate the entire system of your organization with fresh eyes from the bottom up.

Kalyca Lynn Becktel is a public relations scholar and third-year doctoral student at the University of Florida. Her undergraduate and master’s degrees were earned at San Diego State University during Dr. Broom’s tenure as a professor emeritus. In 2015 she received the Glen Broom Scholarship from the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

“We’ll Do Better”... But How?
“We’ll Do Better”... But How?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. It was murder, and prosecutors agree having charged all four.

Floyd’s death triggered outrage in communities of all colors, with citizens calling for action to end police brutality. Many of these protests against police brutality were met with more acts of police brutality.

For some outside of Black community, this was the first time they saw the shameful racial intolerance and division experienced by Black Americans. And for some it has become too much and they are standing aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In traditional fashion, PR practitioners flocked to social media to post carefully-crafted messages on behalf of their organization promoting promises to “do better” to help end systemic racism.

You might call them manifestos, as they overall:

  • Insinuate organizational transparency by calling attention to its own surface-level responsibility in deepening the racial divide
  • Promised to stand with and support Black businesses, clients, employees, patients and students
  • Donated to organizations supporting Black communities and social justice
  • Shared resources like books, hashtags and ways to learn more

What was missing in these manifestos?

  • Didn’t offer specific insight into the organization’s racial misconduct
  • Failed to identify specific actions to address ending systemic racism

Without detail and swift action, these organizations are tourists in the #BLM movement.

How can organizations do better?

Charles Chamberlayne called out organizations on their manifestos in saying the first step to address the BLM movement is hire people of color for the executive teams, including PR.

Let’s encourage our American businesses to reflect society, not through Twitter and Instagram posts, but by shattering the glass ceiling and giving black Americans a seat at the table.”

Next, be vulnerable.

Since the early 90’s, coincidentally around the time that police brutally sparked outrage and riots in Los Angeles, our center namesake Dr. Glen Broom and his longtime friend Dr. David Dozier have preached the importance of research and evaluation in public relations. Neither of these can be done without asking questions.

  1. “How are we doing?”
  2. “What can we do?”
  3. “How did we do?”

The problem is that these important questions are not asked enough in public relations. When they are asked, they do not always translate into purposeful changes.

Practitioners often let research and evaluation fall to the wayside and when evaluations are done, they often center around internal benchmarks and rarely take open-ended answers from the publics they serve.

  • An organizational promise to act as a force aiding to end racial injustice cannot be fulfilled without asking these questions of the Black public
  • An organization cannot repair its problems of racial inequality if it doesn’t identify and address where they are manifested and from the perspective of Black people who are suffering as a result
  • Worse, an organization that fails to deliver on its promise of this magnitude and importance is responsible for disgracefully perpetuating racism

An organization’s integrity is more important than its social media identity.

In his foundational textbook on public relations, Dr. Broom wrote that practitioners exert subtle yet powerful influence over the culture of an organization. This implies that practitioners should not only write about change, they should be the change. This represents two-way communication and is an open system.

Now is the time for organizations to take a moment of silence.

How PR can communicate through BLM

  • Listen and let the anguish of the Black community sink in
  • Take inventory and counsel your organization to openly take accountability for its racial misbehavior
  • Use your organization’s platform to elevate Black voices by asking the uncomfortable questions
  • Be relentless in ensuring your organization follows through with actions and not just words
  • Change internal policies that perpetuate systemic racism
  • Hold employees accountable
  • Reevaluate hiring practices and recruitment practices
  • Create internships for students at HBCUs
  • Use corporate social responsibility programs to lift up communities of color

This is systemic racism. Reevaluate the entire system of your organization with fresh eyes from the bottom up.

Kalyca Lynn Becktel is a public relations scholar and third-year doctoral student at the University of Florida. Her undergraduate and master’s degrees were earned at San Diego State University during Dr. Broom’s tenure as a professor emeritus. In 2015 she received the Glen Broom Scholarship from the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.