The ways that PR can be used to create positive social change are the topic of discussion for Fenton CEO Valarie De La Garza and Doug Simon on the latest “PR’s Top Pro Talk” video interview.

“When we talk about positive social change in PR,” De La Garza says, “it really depends on the type of client that you're talking about.” For Fenton’s clients, which include philanthropists and foundations, promoting social change is “in their DNA,” a central part of their identity.

Because of that, she says, clients do not come to the agency “seeking out social good.” Instead, they are looking to Fenton to help them drive their missions forward.

One Fenton client, Battle Creek Public Schools, is taking on the mission of “trying to completely change the school experience for Black, Brown and Asian students.” To do that, De La Garza tells Simon, “communications is so critical in conveying not just what the school district is doing, but also bringing the community in to be key partners in what that change looks like.”

Engagement is key in communicating that change, she says. “It's not really about talking at a community; it's engaging with the community.” Without getting the buy-in of the audience at which the communications are being directed, “it’s not going to matter.”

De La Garza also talks about what needs to happen to make the goals of DE&I programs a reality. “It really begins with thinking about staffing, retention and how you’re engaging your stakeholders.” What it’s not about is simply changing the language you use in your communications. ”It's really about understanding where a community is coming from.”

Making sure that you really understand all stakeholders is also essential. “We can't take a cookie cutter approach, we have to really think about market segments, we have to think about hiring staff that mirrors the community.”

Communications also need to realize that social good can mean different things to different people. “I think that the intention of companies, everyone has good intentions. So, what does that mean? What is your perspective?”

De La Garza says that Fenton differs from many other agencies in that the agency embraces “the mission of many of the clients that come to us. If your mission is to create better health equity in the world, that for us is very important too. We embrace that mission. Whether that's in education or that's in creating greater equity as it relates to civic engagement, for us, it all rolls up into creating greater social impact and a better world.”

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Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at dougs@dssimonmedia.com

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.