Ever wondered how an avocado is the perfect analogy for why the PR industry should embrace diversity and inclusion? No? Well, meet Jefferson Darrell. He’s the CEO and founder of Breakfast Culture — a Canadian company inspiring businesses to achieve their strategic goals through the cultivation of diverse and inclusive workplaces — and one of the speakers at the upcoming #DiversityInPR conference.
‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is Jefferson’s mantra, and his Breakfast Culture is brimming with breakfast-inspired metaphors that perfectly encapsulate what the company is trying to do. ‘Let’s break some eggs’ is one of them, urging professionals to shatter any pre-conceived ideas about diversity and inclusion as the first step in making positive change in the workplace. Underpinning all this is Jefferson’s over 15 years’ experience within public relations, his own personal stories within the DEI space, and his natural sense of empathy.
Ahead of the conference, spottydog Account Manager Zoe chatted to Jefferson all about the role that PR practitioners play in the diversity and inclusion (D&I) conversation, what to expect at the event, and more.
P.S. if you want to hear more about avocados, head to question 4!
Q: What inspired you to create Breakfast Culture? How has your previous experience — both professional and personal — led you to where are you now?
A: “My background is public relations; I’ve built a successful career in that, but I hit a glass ceiling when I realised there was no one that looked like me in the C-Suite. Not only this, but the word ‘diversity’ was never even uttered within the industry.
“It was that realisation, coupled with experiences of racism and homophobia at my last employer, that made me want to make a change within the industry so that others didn’t have to go through what I went through
“I shared my experience with Lisa Kimmel, the Canadian CEO of Edelman PR, who has always been an advocate for gender parity in the workplace. Something she’s always done in a bid to quash inequality is look for people that looked like her as mentors and sponsors and I realised I could do the exact same thing.”
Q: If you were in a lift with someone and you had 2 minutes to explain why D&I is so important within the PR industry, what would you say?
A: “PR people are well-positioned to do diversity and inclusion work because PR, at its core, is about changing people’s perceptions — getting people to think differently so they ultimately act differently.
“Typically, we use our powers to encourage people to buy a product or visit a show, but why not use them to inspire empathy in business? If we really want to understand the audiences we’re talking to, the only way to do that is to be empathetic to them through effective D&I strategies.”
Q: In your opinion, is the current conversation in the PR industry around D&I heading in the right direction?
A: “There is always room for improvement. Still to this day, people aren’t comfortable having conversations about D&I — particularly when it comes to racism — but they’re happening and they’re necessary.
“Another thing we need to assess is whether the actions that both companies and individuals are taking towards diversity are real or performative. Looking back at the Black Lives Matter movement, I can think of numerous agencies that put up their black square on Instagram to show their support, but the experiences of their non-white employees say differently — in other words, they’ve experienced racism at those very places. That’s something we still definitely need to look at.”
Q: What are your top tips for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace?
A: “It all starts with giving employees the resources — both time and money. Once you’ve done that, you can begin building a successful D&I strategy — forging it with concrete data, company policy, real accountability, and measurable KPIs.
“It’s also about connecting with colleagues at a more human level and being empathetic to experiences different to your own. This will not only make people feel more comfortable in the workplace and therefore more productive, but utilising empathy at work can feed into your marketing strategies too.
“Take an avocado — what’s the first thing that pops into your head when you see one? Some people might think guacamole; others may think avocado on toast; but others may see it as a staple in their beauty routine. The point is that using empathy to look beyond what you would expect opens you up to a whole new market of people and therefore new ways to generate new sources of revenue.”
Q: What can we expect from your session at the #DiversityInPR conference?
A: “We’ll be splitting the discussion into two parts: today and tomorrow. We’ll look at the here and now — how are key industry associations helping to move the dial within the DEI space? And then, looking forwards, what does success look like and how do we get there?”
Q: What are you looking forward to most?
A: “Learning something new, connecting with likeminded people, and keeping the conversation on D&I going.”
Taking place on Thursday 14th October, book your place at the #DiversityInPR conference here.