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COMBATING MISINFORMATION, EMBRACING D&I: ‘ELEPHANT’ SIZE CHALLENGES VOICES4EVERYONE TAKES ‘ONE BITE AT A TIME’

On the Feb. 24 ECD board call, Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA, introduced the “PRSA Voices4Everyone” initiative as a synchronized strategic program based on the principles of effective and inclusive communication.

“We’re creating an atmosphere where democracy and informed decision-making can thrive,” said Michael, co-chair of the Voice4Everyone Task Force. “We want to activate a national conversation and create social change in some of the most pressing issues of our day. It’s a giant elephant and we’re going to take one bite at a time.”

“We’ve got to get PR people involved in community, with more community service,” he said. “The goal is to start with web platform with four pillars, each with actionable tools.”

Michael defined and commented on the four pillars:

  • Combating misinformation (He compared getting started on this task as “looking both ways before crossing the information superhighway.”)
  • Embracing D&I (He underscored this as “one of most important missions of our day, to bring the nation together.”)
  • Driving Civic Engagement
  • Modeling effective Discourse

PRSA National Chair T. Garland Stansell, APR, unveiled advocacy initiative Voices4Everyone at the 2020 Leadership Assembly. He said the goal would be to use the power of public relations to shift the conversation and increase civic engagement through better, more inclusive civil discourse.

Public relations practitioners would be positioned as thought leaders in combatting misinformation and promoting diversity and inclusion, among other elements of the Voices4Everyone campaign.  

A dedicated website will hold materials to enhance the capabilities of PRSA members. PRSA plans to elicit the input and help of members to build out materials and messaging for the Voices4Everyone initiative. A formal rollout with chapter activation will come in the new year.

According to Michael, that rollout is about to begin.  

“While being developed by national, it is a local program,” he said. “The goal is to get all members to activate on a local level.  The goal is for content to be developed by chapters.”

He uses as examples a civility program by the Minneapolis PRSA chapter doing a civility program and a professional development session on misinformation by the San Diego PRSA chapter.  “As much as it’s being populated by the committee, will use crowd sourcing as well,” he said.

“We’re honoring our obligation to serve the public interest,” Michael concluded. “We couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing it.  I want to give birth to it but want all of you to own it.”

ECD Chair opened the Q&A session.  “Our chapters are tackling a lot of these topics,” said John.  “In regard to timeline and website, when will that roll out?

“Within a week or two,” said Michael. “We’re very close. It’s an evergreen program – we will be adding content.  It’s a platform – a meeting place of ideas to add more tools to the conversation. Misinformation and D&I will be the most populated, but the others will take off.  Each week will look much different.”

Chris Lynch from Cleveland PRSA chapter asked, “What is national doing to get this message to cut through the clutter?”

“We can add comments,” said Michael. “It will be, ‘Here’s what we’re doing about it.’  A lot of things we’re going to be doing – attitude inoculation for example – members will ask, ‘What is that?’  It is a data driven approach. I’ve been in touch with academic leaders, getting research. It’s not what you say, it’s what we do.  We are going to clean up the information environment, welcome ideas, encourage involvement in the community and invite discourse with each other.”

Michael offered examples of local community outreach that would serve the goals of Voices4Everyone and might raise awareness of PRSA.

“Go to libraries, schools, law enforcement – that will bring in membership,” he said.  “It’s an opportunity to reach out to different people. Why not reach out to Ohio libraries to use games in classroom? What an opportunity. It’s not a primary goal but could be an outcome.”

He also offered a challenge to ECD. “it’s a perfect opportunity for the district to take a lead on this.”

Michael emailed his contact information and wrote, “Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Looking forward to working with everyone.”

Michael Cherenson, APR, fellow PRSA

Executive Vice President, Public Relations

SCG Advertising + Public Relations

Parsippany, NJ 07054

973.597.5104 (dd) – 973.919.6228 (c)

mcherenson@successcomgroup.com

Michael G. Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA

Co-Chair, PRSAVoices4Everyone Task Force

National Professional Adviser, PRSSA

Executive Vice President, Success Communications Group Lincoln Park, NJ

More about Michael Cherenson:

In 2009, Cherenson served as Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. Prior to that, he served as the society’s Secretary, on its national board of directors, as chair of its Advocacy Advisory Board, and liaison to its Board of Professional Ethics and Standards. During his tenure on the Board of Directors, Cherenson co-authored a PRSA study on MBA Programs, with emphasis on communication curricula. In 2005, he represented PRSA on Capitol Hill to address bills aimed at regulating video news releases. That same year, he represented the U.S. State Department and its Bureau of International Information Programs on a mission to Croatia, where he served as a keynote speaker at the 6th Annual Croatian Public Relations Association Conference.

In January 2020, Cherenson was elected to serve a two-year (2020-2022) term as the National Professional Adviser to the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). The foremost organization for students interested in public relations, PRSSA has nearly 10,000 members on some 375 college and university campuses around the world. Currently, Cherenson is a member of the PRSA’s Educational Affairs Committee and serves as a site team member for the Group’s CEPR Certification program.

From PRSA Fellow Scott Hanson Jan. 7, 2021 blog post after attending the Voices4Everyone webinar:

Mike Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA, and executive vice president of SCG Advertising and Public Relations, says we need to “pre-bunk“rather than “de-bunk.”  Debunking is a tall order due to the speed of the information highway and the fact that, according to MIT, it takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number.  And false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be re-tweeted than true stories.

He says to pre-bunk we should take these steps:

  1. Fact check and verify the information.  Essentially, look both ways before crossing the information superhighway.
  2. Understand that the top sources of spreading disinformation are Facebook and politicians.  Know that information overload can create “censorship by noise.”
  3. Media Literacy. Learn how to sort online fact from fiction:  check out MediaWise and FirstDraft.

Cherenson went on to say that most people want to make good decisions.  They don’t want to be fooled or deceived, regardless of their politics or beliefs.

He said the truth needs an advocate.  It’s up to us to help facilitate that and keep the clutter of disinformation off the information highway.

PRSA DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION STATEMENT

In lieu of a definition of diversity and inclusion, the D&I Committee is focused on providing a contextual overview of these areas. Further, the D&I Committee believes that diversity in the context of PRSA may serve to “exclude” areas, communities, interests, etc.

Recognizing that members and Chapter D&I liaisons will require information to frame efforts, the diversity and inclusion statement below was developed and approved for use: Diversity and inclusion are integral to the evolution and growth of PRSA and the public relations industry.

The most obvious contexts of diversity include race, ethnicity, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, country of origin, culture and diversity of thought.

However, in a rapidly changing society, diversity continues to evolve and can include class, socioeconomic status, life experiences, learning and working styles, personality types and intellectual traditions and perspectives, in addition to cultural, political, religious and other beliefs.

These defining attributes impact how we approach our work, connect with others and move through the world. Inclusion, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), is defined as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.”

Inclusion is not just about having that “seat at the table” but is about ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and fully considered. Diversity and inclusion are proactive behaviors. Respecting, embracing, celebrating and validating those behaviors are integral to PRSA’s DNA.

Diversity and inclusion are vital to the success of our profession, our members and the communities in which we live and work. It is essential and is our responsibility as members of the Society to carry this forward.

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