Fireside / February 2017

The Truth About Diversity and Inclusion in Public Relations

On February 22, the Richmond PRSA hosted Stephen Macias for a discussion on diversity and inclusion in communications. Macias founded his own PR firm, Macias Media Group LLC (MMG), in 2012 to connect clients to LGBT consumers. Since MMG was acquired by MWWPR in 2014, he has worked as the senior vice-president of MWWPR’s multi-cultural & LGBT national practice.

Drawing on firsthand client experiences, Macias asserts that companies no longer must choose between doing what is right and doing what is profitable. Intersectionality has become inextricably linked to crafting messaging that appeal to consumers and, to prove his point, Macias drew on a few good and bad examples of companies attempting to create diverse and inclusive messaging.

Defining Intersectionality

‘Intersectionality’ is an often-misunderstood word, says Macias. He showed us a video from Teaching Tolerance, an organization founded to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable school experiences for children of the United States. The video defines intersectionality as, “the reality that we all have multiple identities that intersect to make us who we are.” Today, PR firms must be conscious of intersectionality to adequately appeal to the human-ness of consumers. “By adopting an intersectional lens,” both Macias and Teaching Tolerance assert, “we have a better opportunity to understand the institutions that help and harm us based on who we are.”


In 2015 and 2016, Macias and MWWPR worked with their client, Focus Features, to help promote the Golden Globe nominated film Loving. By being aware of intersectionality, Macias and his team were able to connect the historical lessons of Loving with relevant issues of today, including LGBT marriage equality and current racial tensions. MWWPR secured an interview between Loving’s stars, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, and Raymond Braun, noted LGBT advocate and the former lead of YouTube’s social campaigns, programs, and LGBT marketing. Loving exemplified diversity and inclusion on screen, and by connecting the historical fight of the Lovings to LGBT and racial tensions still felt today, MWWPR helped foster a national discussion on the intersection of several marginalized identities.

Hilton and Frito-Lay

Macias’ assertion that companies no longer have to choose between ‘right’ and ‘profitable’ has been shown in two MWWPR campaigns. In 2014, Macias worked directly with Hilton Hotels on an LGBT-minded campaign centered around a Hilton-sponsored wedding for Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, two of the plaintiffs in the court case that struck down Prop 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California.

In 2015, Frito-Lay partnered with the It Gets Better Project to support the fight against LGBT bullying. Along with MWWPR, Frito-Lay created rainbow-colored Doritos that could be purchased off of the It Gets Better Project website for a $10 donation. Macias said that, while Frito-Lay produced an initial supply expected to last two months, the rainbow Doritos sold out in 24 hours. Amazingly, the campaign garnered over 1.8 billion media impressions.

Macias firmly believes that, in PR, messaging must speak to the human experience and, today, the reality of human existence is one of intersectionality. Rather than hurting profits or marketability, Hilton and Frito-Lay’s experiences show that this type of communication works. It speaks not only to marginalized audiences, but to their allies as well. Embracing diversity and inclusion is profitable, and is the right thing to do.

Poor attempts at diverse messaging, such as Groupon’s offensive Super Bowl commercial that tried to capitalize on the social and economic struggles of Tibet, still occur. Professional sports, according to Macias, have been one of the last industries to champion diversity. However, for every demeaning Groupon commercial there is a positive Airbnb or Wells Fargo commercial. The NBA decided to move their 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans in response to North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill.” The move towards diverse, inclusive messaging continues to grow stronger. Clients and the audience desire it, and young talent expects it from potential employers, says Macias. Utilizing diversity and inclusion with clients and their consumer base is an absolute necessity in the modern world of public relations.