|Philip A. Nardone
Across the United States this month, we’ve gathered to uplift and engage in meaningful discussion about the LGBTQ+ community. Like so many proud members of this community, I look forward to June when we intentionally create space to amplify the stories and experiences of the diverse people that make up this community.
However, as I have watched the news in recent weeks and supported Pride-related events, I have been reminded that there is still much more work to be done to ensure that our community is treated fairly and equitably.
So, how can we as PR practitioners create greater connection with the LGBTQ+ community? We must all build cultures within our agencies that create equity-minded teams and bring that mindset to the work we deliver for clients. Both of these goals start with acceptance, understanding and respect.
I remember that when I came out as a gay man more than twenty years ago, I not only was worried about my family’s reaction, I was also concerned with how it might be perceived professionally. We as an industry have come a long way since that time and while culturally the celebration of Pride has been happening for many years, the recent emphasis on the importance of DEI has elevated and expanded efforts around how to best support the queer community.
Creating spaces that allow for authenticity is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. We should look for ways to lead conversations that affect not only ourselves but also the employees that we support. I’ve always tried to lead with empathy and compassion and thinking about the value that this concept brings to members who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Building an agency that educates and empowers all employees is foundational to be able to create a culture of fairness internally that inspires change.
From our own internal DEI efforts at PAN and conversations that I have had with other CEOs, it’s clear that there’s a longing for a better understanding of what the LGBTQ+ experience looks like. Meaningful connection takes time and it requires having a collaborative mindset.
Think beyond yourself and understand when and where it is appropriate to leverage colleagues, experts, or other partners who are deeply connected to the subject matter of LGBTQ+ to help inform those not as closely connected to the topic. We meet this need by creating space for people who are non-members of the LGBTQ+ community to bring them into the conversation, to offer opportunities to understand, and create teams—consisting of the community and allies alike—that are affecting change both inside the agency and for our clients.
This year, we have seen an uptick in the number of clients seeking guidance around the best ways to approach Pride month. Again, leaning into the notion that companies must be held accountable for doing more than sharing the pride flag during the month of June. As a partner to our clients, our goal is to either be the resource that they need or point them to the right services that can help increase change and impact. As communications professionals, we are well positioned to be the driving force behind equity advancement. Creating conversations and counseling clients is a critical aspect of our profession. To apply that skillset to create and foster equality is a not only an opportunity—it’s a calling.
But this is no easy task. It takes time, patience, and dedication. How do we tackle issues that impact the country, if not the world, when the majority of the hours are spent at our day job? Unfortunately, the answer is you—alone—probably can’t.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. The fusing of our work lives and our personal lives may remain complicated but offers a new benefit: Bringing together personal and professional efforts to build understanding and equality results in communicators who are more deeply connected to and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.
In conversations with my Head of DEI, I’m reminded that progress in how we support different communities within DEI is a continuous journey. For the LGBTQ+ community, it doesn’t start in June—or stop once the month is over.
Pride Month serves as an opportunity to intentionally create space for amplifying the stories and experiences of the diverse people that make up the community. Personally, I am thankful for the opportunity I get to advocate for the topics and issues that matter most to me. As time goes on, I am learning more each day about ways in which I can lend my support and use my voice to add to conversations that not only impact me but also our community. I try to embrace this and live this calling each and every day.
Philip A. Nardone is president and CEO of PAN Communicaitons.