Courageous conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion with Tru Pettigrew | On Top of PR podcastBy On Top of PR
June 15, 2021
Learn the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion and how you can prioritize them in your workplace with our guest, Tru Pettigrew
Our episode guest is Tru Pettigrew, he connects brands with consumers and builds bridges across generations. Tru has also established a strong reputation for helping organizations build bridges across racial, cultural, social, and relational lines.
Five things you’ll learn from this episode:
- The difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion
- The difference between equity and equality
- How to set up your team for success by figuring out what they need to be successful
- The three different types of diversity
- How to have courageous conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion
Also available on
- “A lot of agencies are responsible for helping their clients craft appropriate and relevant communications for a lot of the challenges and issues that are going on, but they’re also being challenged on how they are stepping up and reflecting the diversity within the agency world.” -@truaccess
- “Diversity is a state of being, it’s static. Equity and inclusion require us to take action and leverage the richness of diversity that is available to us.” -@truaccess
- “Equity is giving people what they need to succeed. Oftentimes it’s confused or transposed with equality. Equality is treating everyone exactly the same. But the reality is we don’t all need the exact same thing because we’re at different places on our journey.” -@truaccess
- “Courageous conversations give us the opportunity to talk about the things we typically and historically have avoided because they make us uncomfortable.” -@truaccess
If you enjoyed this episode, would you please share it with others and leave us a review?
About Tru Pettigrew:
Tru is a celebrated author, an engaging speaker, a committed community leader, and an award-winning marketing executive with close to 20 years of experience at the nation’s top advertising & marketing agencies.
Tru founded Tru Access to serve as an inspiration and empowerment consultancy to help individuals and organizations bridge gaps across areas that cause division, dysfunction and separation.
Considered one of the country’s top Millennial Empowerment experts and cross-generational thought leaders. His first book, “Millennials Revealed” serves as a guide for countless individuals and organizations across the country to help them build meaningful connections across diverse generations.
Tru has shared his marketing talents and expertise to help contribute to the success of brands such as Nike, State Farm, Heineken, Hennessy, Unilever and Ford just to name a few.
In addition to connecting brands with consumers and building bridges across generations, Tru has also established a strong reputation for helping organizations build bridges across racial, cultural, social, and relational lines.
Guest’s contact info and resources:
- George Floyd business mentorship program
- The three forms of diversity: identity, experiential, neurodiversity
- On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
- On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
- Burrelles has a special offer for On Top of PR fans. Check it out at burrelles.com/ontopofpr.
About your host Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021.
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- Hi, it's Jason Mudd and you're tuning in to On Top of PR where I'm talking to Tru Pettigrew. Tru is gonna talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I sense that this episode just gets better the longer you tune in. And I think you're gonna really like what he has to say since he has come up with a marketing background and working in research and marketing agencies. He's gonna share some interesting insights about DEI and why, and how to have courageous conversations. I'm glad you're here, you'll be glad you're here too. And here we go with the show.
- [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mud, presented by ReviewMaxer.
- Hello, and welcome to On Top of PR. Today I'm joined by Tru. Tru is a award winning marketing executive, inspirational speaker, life and career coach, and successful entrepreneur. His background and experience also includes co-founding qualitative research agency and two millennial and multicultural businesses. He's been featured prominently in publications such as the New York Times, USA Today, and more. Tru, welcome to the show. We're glad you're here.
- Thank you Jason. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
- Yes, it's a pleasure to have you, we're glad you're here. And today we wanna talk about courageous conversations as well as DEI and why. So I just give the the audience a little history. You and I met I believe in May of 2019 in St. Pete, where you came in as a speaker through my friend Chuck Norman, our friend, Chuck Norman. And came to a group of public relations firm owners, and we're speaking to them about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I loved your energy and enthusiasm as a speaker, as an individual. and certainly for the topic. Your passion came through strongly. And I knew that you were somebody I wanted to ask to be on the show to share that energy and enthusiasm with our audience. And as we talked about just a few minutes ago, typical audience for On Top of PR is gonna be a marketing or public relations leader that works on the brand side and often has a pretty large enterprise or medium sized company that they're managing and overseeing marketing and corporate communication. So with that Tru, let's share a little bit about your thoughts and expertise with our audience today.
- No, absolutely. So this is very inspiring for me to be able to have this audience to share some thoughts and perspectives with because it's a world that that I come from, my background, at least professionally has been in advertising and marketing. I ran my own boutique agency for a number of years. And so I have some familiarity with a lot of the challenges and the benefits and all of the opportunities that come in this field, in this industry. And as I have segued into the space of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I still have a lot of my customers, my friends, and my clients that are still in the agency world. So this is the best of both worlds type of conversation for me Jason, so I appreciate the opportunity because that's an area that I'm, a space that I'm very familiar with. And I particularly from, well, not just PR. I was gonna say from a PR standpoint, but even from a marketing and advertising standpoint as we look at the climate that we're experiencing today with so much division across our country, and across our world, really. But there's so many racial divides, political divides, gender divides, generational divides, we're experiencing so much division. And a lot of the agencies are responsible for either helping their clients craft appropriate and relevant communication for a lot of the issues and challenges that are going on across different divisions of diversity. But also, they're being challenged for how they are stepping up and showing up and reflecting the diversity within the agency world. So I think it's a very relevant topic that you brought me on to discuss today, how does diversity, equity, and inclusion impact the the agency world whether it's advertising, marketing, or PR?
- Absolutely. When I think it's you know, the social responsible thing or corporate responsible thing for communicators and companies to not only be mindful, but be aware and establish diversity and inclusion in their efforts. So why don't we start with the very basics and why don't you define for our audience who may or may not be familiar or may or may not know the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Now, absolutely. And that's a great question because I do know in my Work that a lot of organizations don't always have a clear understanding of the distinction between the three. Now, they should always be linked, in my opinion in my experience, but they are still very distinct. So diversity by definition is the state of being different. Right? If you look it up, that's what diversity is. It's this state of being different. Whatever those differences may be. They could be generational differences. They could be experiential differences. They could be racial, or political, or cultural, or religious. It's the state of being different. And what I often remind people about when it comes to the definition of diversity is it is a state of being. It doesn't necessarily do anything on its own, it's static, it's a state of being, it exists, right? And then that's where equity and inclusion comes in. So equity is placing people in a position to be successful. Helping people to succeed based on where they are. Now, by definition it is fair and impartial treatment. But to put it in more layman's terms, it's giving people what they need to succeed and often times transposed or even confused with equality, where equality is treating everyone exactly the same. And there's a lot of value and nobility to that. But the reality is, we don't all need the exact same thing because we're at different places on our journey. And we have, even many of us have different starting points and have been afforded different opportunities. So we could have the skill sets, and the experience. But if we haven't started from the same starting point, that means we haven't been afforded the same opportunities and equity ensures that we are making sure everyone has what they need to succeed. And then inclusion is the act of making someone feel a part of. And the operative word and inclusion is the act. And also how we make people feel. So where diversity is a state of being, equity and inclusion requires us to take an action to leverage the richness of diversity that is available to us. And so that's where it's incumbent upon us to take the necessary actions to not only recruit and retain diverse talent, but also making sure that we are benefiting and leveraging the the gift of diversity that is available to us. And so those three things should always coexist. But it is important to understand the distinction between the three.
- I absolutely agree. Thank you for answering that question that I teed up for you so well because I was going to ask you the follow up question of what's the difference between equity and equality? So you do knock that second question out of the park. So thank you for doing that as well. So what let's go a little bit further because I like how when you express about equity, this idea, and I'm gonna misquote you so I hope you'll correct and say it the right way. But you were kinda describing helping somebody be set up for success, right? And figuring out what they need to be successful. And so help me understand and help our audience understand how do you assess what those needs might be? And how do you go about finding out where those either skill gaps might be, or confidence gap might be or you know, whatever the case might be. Where should someone get started if that's something they wanna focus on with their team?
- Well, there's a formula, if you will, that I utilize that I call GPS, right? We all have our own internal GPS and I call it a GPS to purpose. And that's essentially identifying and assessing the gifts and the passions, and that ultimately will help us understand what the service, the best area of service is for those individuals on our team. So you and I on the same team it's important that whoever is in that leadership position that has been given I guess essentially stewardship over our nurturing and development and how we can best contribute to the organization. It's important that they understand what your gifts are, what my gifts are, 'cause the gifts will be different. But also what you're passionate about, what I'm passionate about, 'cause that may vary. But then it's the intersection point between the two, right? What you're good at and what you're passionate about. That is where you are best designed and equipped to serve the greater good of the organization and even the communities that we serve as an organization, and the same holds true for me. And so if that leader says "Well, I'm going to treat the two of you equally, I'm going to treat you the exact same way" Then I'm an eagle, and if you are evaluating me based on how well I can swim, that's doing a disservice to me as well the organization. And if you're a shark, and he's evaluating you on how well you can fly.
- [Jason] Right.
- Then that's doing a disservice to you in the overall organization.
- I like that. That's great illustrations. Very nice. Okay. And so if you're talking to maybe a member of our audience who is tuning in and kind of says, "When I look around at my current team, I look around at our, maybe our leadership team or whatever it might be. We all kind of look alike. We're all very similar." What would be kind of a first step that somebody could take, an action step someone could take right away if there's not an opportunity to immediately start diversifying their current talent? Maybe they don't have openings. Maybe there's a hiring freeze. Maybe they're just saying, "Look, we're not very diverse today, I'd like to get there." But at the same time, is it fair and reasonable for me to dismiss somebody from my team just because they don't have a diverse or ethnic background?
- Now, I think an important place to start is understanding the benefits of diversity for your organization. Right? And I think if you start there and understanding why diversity is important, and why diversity matters then you'll have a better understanding of how to identify the diversity that you're looking for, but more importantly why it's important and why it matters.
- [Jason] Sure.
- Because I believe when we don't have a clear understanding of why something is important, then dysfunction, division, and I guess basically the dysfunction and division will occur and will take place and do things in a way that is not the best approach for your organization. Right? So just dismissing someone simply because they do not reflect an identity diversity if everyone looks alike, I don't think that sets you up for the best innovative and creative ideas and solutions.
- [Jason] Agreed, right.
- Because it's not so much based on that person's identity diversity stand alone but understanding how the three forms of diversity lend themselves to the benefit of innovation and creativity. And so when I mean when I say that, there are three primary forms of diversity.
- [Jason] Okay.
- There is identity diversity, what you see when you look at me. What I see when you look at you. So when you look at me, Jason, you see an extremely good looking young black male, right? That's what you see when you look at me, right?
- [Jason] Yes, sir. Yes.
- That is the identity diversity, right?
- [Jason] Right.
- You see, my skin tone, you see my race, you see my perceived gender, you see a perceived age range, right? So this is the identity diversity that we see. We see a white, middle aged female. We see a younger, Asian male or female or whatever the case may be, that's how identity diversity.
- [Jason] Okay, okay.
- And then the other form of diversity is experiential diversity.
- [Jason] Right.
- We have different life experiences. May be because of where we grew up, how we grew up, parenting styles, geography, education, form of education, and so we have different life experiences. And then the other form or the final form of diversity is neuro diversity, right? The way that we think, the way that we approach problem solving, our thinking styles. Now ultimately, it's that neuro diversity or cognitive diversity that really provides a level of benefit and richness of innovative and creative thinking that the organization benefits from. But what we need to understand is, don't hire me just because I am a black male. But however, my identity diversity influences my experiential diversity simply because the world will look at me differently, have different expectations, project these expectations and stereotypes upon me that will require me to navigate the world differently than it may require you or Asian female or Middle Eastern female or male, it will require me to navigate like differently than them, hence the experiential diversity. And it's our experiential diversity that informs our cognitive or neuro diversity. So that's why we have people that can approach something with a different lens and a different purview that gives us the gift of diversity that we all benefit from. So it's not just because you're white, just because she's a female, just because they are black, that you want to bring them on to the team but because of those reasons, that is what contributes to the neuro and cognitive diversity and experiential diversity that you actually benefit from?
- Okay, for those of our audience who's taking notes, the three forms of diversity are what again?
- Identity diversity, experiential diversity, and neuro diversity.
- Excellent, yeah. Thank you for sharing that again, I think that'll be very helpful for everyone who's taking notes. And I hope they are. And while they're taking these notes, I hope they're also thinking about who might benefit from catching this episode that they could share this with and they could also benefit from what you're sharing here, Tru. With that, we're gonna take a quick break and be right back on the other side.
- [Narrator] You are listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted adviser to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia public relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show. Hello, and welcome back to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason mud. Today, I'm joined by Tru Pettigrew. And he is someone I've gotten to know through the Public Relations Society of America. And we've been talking about DEI and why. And we're going to eventually talk a little bit about courageous conversations. So Tru, welcome back to the show. And Tru, I want to ask you-
- Thank you, Jason.
- Is there anything else that you felt was important to cover about DEI and why with our audience before we move on to courageous conversations?
- Well, the whole purpose behind DEI and why is because I've learned and we've learned that there are still a number of people as prevalent as the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation has become across the country, there are still people who don't know what the acronym stands for, which is diversity, equity, and inclusion. And there are still a number of people who don't know what each word means and the relationship that exists between each word and how they are intended to coexist and support one another. So that's the whole purpose behind is to give people a basic foundation of one, what the acronym stands for, what each word means, and how each word and the meaning behind it is intended to coexist. So from a solid business rationale behind why does DEI matter for your organization? Why is it important to provide people with a basic answer to that question? What is the DEI, right? That's one. And then the next question is, why is it important for my business?
- Absolutely. And I sense that sometimes there's a motivation to do it for appearance sakes, right? But I think it's very clear for us working in the public relations and marketing profession, that de DEI has a huge impact on how we communicate with our audience, how we go to market, how we present messaging. And when you are missing those elements and that inclusion and input from those important audiences, that's when you see companies make PR gaffes. And they make mistakes, and you know, you kind of just face-palm and think, "How did they not see that coming?" But when you're in a silo of a boardroom or a staff meeting, and there aren't a diversity of opinions, or there aren't a diversity of individuals with unique backgrounds sharing input, obviously, that's when those mistakes are gonna be made. So when you make decisions in a vacuum and you don't bring in outsiders or you don't have a diverse team, I think that's when those mistakes would happen. Is that part of the practice of your consulting that you do? Is help companies with this?
- It is. And it's probably more, it's a combination, right? With your world, and PR, and me. So I'd like to believe I'm more preventative and as well as the the PR agencies, right? But I wanna equip and educate organizations so that they do not have to minimize how often they have to utilize their PR and marketing agencies for crisis.
- [Jason] Right, right.
- Because that's a lot of what's been happening lately. And you gave some examples, right? So there are a number of organizations that you know, on the heels. We've just the, I think it was just two days ago, right? We talked about the one year mark of a murder of George Floyd. And so a year ago in Minneapolis when George Floyd lost his life, or it was it was murdered. Then there were, it sparked a movement, right? It sparked a movement across the country and so many brands, organizations, and agencies were making these commitments and pledges to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to social justice.
- [Jason] Right.
- And there were... And so now a lot of them are being held accountable for the commitments that they made and it's creating a bit of a crisis for a lot of brands and organizations. And so now, the PR, and marketing and advertising agencies are having to come in and help them craft some communications to help to I guess, defend their position or help to figure out how to address some of the backlash that they made receiving because what they said and what they actually did, did not show, did not match up.
- Yeah, okay. Yeah, I can see where that can be a crisis in the making or very important that they respond to that and do the right thing. So I think it's worth mentioning to you and maybe those that are listening that we created in response to George Floyd, instead of doing a blackout on social media for a day or something like that where we didn't post anything, and we changed our profile image to a black background, we asked ourselves "What can we do that would be more meaningful than just showing?" So instead of talking the talk, what can we do to truly give back. And so we created what we call the George Floyd Business Mentoring Program. And so every two weeks we have an open mentoring program, we do a Zoom meeting every two weeks with black men who are in America. And we just talk business. And I'm facilitate that conversation, I give some business advice. Not because I think I know everything, but just it felt like something that could be a way that I could give back having been an entrepreneur for 20 years and help those who are either interested in entrepreneurship or just wanting to succeed in business wherever they are. And so we've got a group of men that come together every two weeks, we do a zoom call and it's really, we ask each other, "How are you? How's your family? And how's your career?" Right? And then where they have needs or questions or concerns, we together as a group talk about those things. And it's like anything else, I think I get more out of it than the people participating do. But it's just a way that Axia felt like we could give back. And so we'd love to collaborate with you on that. And maybe have you on some time to talk to some of these men that are part of this mentor program. And I think your energy enthusiasm and your knowledge would be very valuable to that conversation.
- No, thank you for that invitation. And I welcome to take you up on that. And I commend you all for the work that you're doing, because that's one of the areas where our communities are holding the organizations that they support, that they patronize, and even where they work, are looking to hold people accountable. And particularly when we look at it from a generational standpoint, and when I say that I'm not just talking about from a racial makeup. I mean, there's just across the board, society across the board particularly our younger generation are holding these organizations accountable for "Okay, it's great that you're going to make a statement. But now how are you following that up with action? What are you doing to be equitable?" So even if we look at the advertising, marketing, and PR industry, and if we look at the racial makeup, right? Of the industry, that there are inequities in the industry?
- [Jason] Right, absolutely.
- And so are there people that look like the diverse communities that you're marketing to, and advertising to that are reflective and representative in those agencies even as you are doing the work that you're doing I'm sure you realize that. And I appreciate the invitation for me to come on board because I feel like I could support you in my knowledge that you recognize that seeing people that look like you helps to encourage and inspire and allow people to feel empowered that, "Okay, this is a space I could operate it. This is a place where I belong." And that helps contribute to the feelings of EPI, in an agency and in an industry.
- Yeah. I mean, I'm really pleased that we did it. Like I said, I get more out of it than probably the attendees do. And it was just a way we felt like we could go beyond making a statement and actually do something. So if anyone on our audience is interested in learning more about the program you can go to axiapr.com/george-floyd and the program will load there and you just fill out a form and you'll automatically be in. So we welcome and are certainly eager to have more people participate in it for sure. So we're quickly running out of time Tru. So let's talk about courageous conversations. And could you kind of explain what that means and kind of your platform for courageous conversations.
- No, absolutely. Courageous conversations gives us an opportunity to talk about the things that we typically and historically have avoided, because they make us uncomfortable.
- I would suggest that one of the reasons that we are experiencing the level of division that we're experiencing in our nation today is because we don't talk about a lot of these issues, simply because they make us uncomfortable or that we view them as taboo. What was the kind of saying back in the day that things that you never talk about were race, religion, and politics? Right?
- And those are probably the areas where we are most divided as a nation.
- And I would suggest it's because we never talk about those things.
- Oh, yeah, sure. Of course.
- How can I help to equip you to be a better ally, and support it. And help you to develop an exercise levels of empathy if you aren't aware of what my real attitudes, concerns, challenges, and feelings are on a topic? And how can I be the best supporter, ally, and colleague for you if I don't know how you feel but more importantly, why you feel the way that you feel about something?
- We don't talk about race because we're uncomfortable talking about it. We don't talk about sexual orientation, because we're uncomfortable talking about it. And the the only way to really resolve and build those bridges of connectivity and understanding is if we at least start with a conversation, and we call them courageous conversations because we realize it does require a level of courage to engage in those conversations.
- Sure. Yeah, that's good. Yeah, it's like being in a relationship and you never talk about anything meaningful with the person, you're in a relationship with. That relationships not gonna last very long, right? It's going to be very superficial. And if you're in a marriage and you never talk about your struggles, or maybe what the other person does that really ticks you off, and then one day you're surprised when they hurt your feelings, or they leave you, right?
- Right, right.
- So yeah, I'm with you. And I'm a big believer in having meaningful conversations and candor, and not being afraid to ask what others might consider to be dumb questions, right? And I think it's really important that when, especially when you're talking about, as you said race, religion, politics, that someone not ridicule you for asking a question that might seem to be either ignorant or insensitive, or whatever the case might be. So I think that's really important. And the example that comes to mind for that is a lot of Caucasians did not understand what Black Lives Matter means, right? In other words they would be quick to say, "Well, all lives matter." And I think some people got really upset when that was a reaction. But I think genuinely there were some people who genuinely meant, "No, I really mean that all lives matter." And they didn't quite view it under the lens that it was being expressed. And as that became more known and understood, there was a lot more understanding. So like anything else, you educate and inform and engage people not by attacking them, right? But by lowering your guard a little bit and welcoming them into a conversation. And I know that that's how we can learn. The best way to understand someone who is different from you in my experience, is to engage in a conversation with them.
- 100%. And courageous conversations is really built on the premise of what we call the heart, the head, and the hands. So it's facilitated dialogue that phase one is we encourage people to share their hearts. It starts with the heart. It starts about how you feel, and why you feel about a certain topic. So if we're talking about race relations and you know, Black Lives Matters is a topic that comes up, it's important that all stakeholders involved in the conversation understand how someone that is black, how they feel about that statement, and why it's so important to them, but why they feel that way. And then understanding your white counterparts and colleagues feelings around that, how and why they it evokes the feelings that it evokes from now. Now we're developing some levels of empathy and understanding.
- [Jason] Yes.
- "Oh, okay, I never saw it that way before. I never understood it that way before."
- [Jason] That's right.
- So now we are, you know, after sharing our hearts and we segue to the head, now we are in a better position to collaborate and co create on thoughts, ideas, and solutions that allow us to figure out the best way to move forward together and coexist together and to eliminate and eradicate any form of feelings of marginalization or oppression in any way. And then we segue from the head down to the hands where we put our hands to the plow. And now take some actions, right? As we just talked about before, these are the action steps. But smart action step: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound, that we will come together to hold each other accountable for that. These are now the action steps that will take to eliminate any sense of racial animus, racial discrimination, or racial oppression that may be felt by any stakeholder or member whatsoever. And so but it starts with a willingness to share our hearts with one another.
- Yeah, absolutely. Man, that's powerful. Tru, thank you for being on the show today. If people wanna get a hold of you, if they want to continue having this conversation with you or follow you on social and I think you have an email address or email list as well. How do they get connected?
- They can email me at truaccess1, the number one, @gmail.com. And true access is T-R-U-A-C-C-E-S-S. And then the number one, @gmail.com. They can follow me on social media for both Twitter and Instagram is @truaccess. Again, T-R-U-A-C-C-E-S-S. And then Facebook and LinkedIn is simply trupettigrew.
- Wonderful, excellent. Well, we'll be sure to include that in the show notes as well as listing out the three forms of diversity, heart, head, and hands. I think those are all excellent examples and illustrations. Thank you again for being on the show. We really enjoyed having you. And I think this is a great episode, and I hope the audience feels the same way. If you enjoyed this episode and the comments that Tru shared, please be sure to share this episode with a colleague or friend who would benefit from listening. And with that, this is another episode of On Top of PR. I'm your host Jason mud. Thank you for tuning in. Be well.
- [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And check out past shows @ontopofpr.com.