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Shared Progress: Prioritizing DE&I in a Pandemic

6 MINUTE READ | September 17, 2021

Shared Progress: Prioritizing DE&I in a Pandemic

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Devon Eubanks

Devon Eubanks has written this article. More details coming soon.

Our ‘Shared Progress’ series covers what we’ve learned since launching our ‘Commitment to Change’ in July 2020 as we seek to help meaningfully advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in our industry and beyond. Our second post explores how we prioritized DE&I amidst the whirlwind of events that characterized 2020. Catch up on setting up DE&I for success here.

Launching our Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) leadership team and focus during a pandemic quickly taught us the importance of prioritizing DE&I despite the many distractions that can hold an organization back from achieving success. It taught us it’s important to be intentional and measure progress against clear, actionable goals. At the outset, we created an aggressive and comprehensive action plan that tackled seemingly every single issue, policy, and process — all at once. We soon learned that facilitating lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. 

Advancing DE&I takes hard work, patience, and perseverance. Striking a balance between speed and quality ensures that initiatives are implemented and built for the long haul. Anyone can take a red pen to an old policy, or stand up and announce a new process, but it’s much harder to make changes that will stand the test of time or remain malleable enough to evolve with the company in the years to come. Prioritization allows us to spend more time for scenario-planning, anticipating challenges, and setting up any initiative — big or small — for the highest rate of success. 

Transparency improves accountability and garners greater buy-in from across the organization. To help foster greater collaboration and transparency, we took the following steps: 

  • Survey and solicit feedback from all employees.

  • Build commitments based on the feedback and share feedback trends, along with our workforce data and progress quarterly during company all-hands. 

  • Externalize our commitments with our pledge to 600&Rising and publishing and revisiting our commitments and diversity data on an annual basis (See our 2021 data).

  • Leverage independent third-party resources to ensure we’re appropriately and equitably recognizing and rewarding our employees. 

  • Provide regular updates with the company on our progress, quarterly priorities, and more. 

In just a year, these efforts have helped us attract new talent and new business. In many cases, new employees reported that they saw our commitments and data on our website during the application process, and it led them to favor PMG over another opportunity. 

We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far. We hope that by continuing to transparently and publicly share our commitments, data, and learnings, we can boost accountability and promote change, both at PMG and across the advertising and tech industries in the months and years to come. 

Championing inclusivity should be a year-round, always-on effort. While it’s important to acknowledge, commemorate and speak about issues that align with moments in real-time, such as supporting the Black community during Black History Month or the LGBTQIA+ community in June during Pride Month, allies need to show up 365 days a year for their support to be felt by the community.

We realized early on that enabling always-on support for our customers, team members and ERGs was important, especially during the pandemic — one of the most vulnerable and collectively traumatic global experiences of the twenty-first century. In practice, this meant ensuring that our ERGs have the access, strategic support, and resources needed to be successful. Achieving real change is a never-ending journey that constantly shifts as a business grows and society evolves. By maintaining an ongoing commitment, growth and change are sure to happen. 

For many, conversations concerning DE&I can be uncomfortable, but not unapproachable. These are serious topics, and no two people are the same in terms of their identities, backgrounds, viewpoints, and life experiences. Everyone has a different perspective on these topics and how to best consider them. A growth mindset and psychological safety (meaning, a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking) are imperative to increasing DE&I within any organization. 

Having a growth mindset is even more important for company and DE&I leaders, as these individuals must set a positive example for how to approach these conversations. One key message to continuously reinforce is: DE&I is an always-on learning process — No one will ever have all the answers and the work will never truly be complete. 

We learned the importance of vocabulary early on. Many people are nervous to begin a conversation on DE&I because they’re not equipped or confident that they are using the right terminology and remain fearful of saying the wrong thing. Building learning opportunities into any DE&I commitment invites everyone to the conversation — whether they are a long-time ally, or just starting their journey to advancing DE&I in their personal and professional lives. To date, we’ve implemented this approach in a number of ways, including: 

  • Members of our ERGs are encouraged to create and share presentations on inclusive vocabulary.

  • ERG members present at our monthly all-company DIG meetings, sharing their personal stories, experiences, and learnings in an open, safe space that allows our teams to learn from each other and garner a greater understanding of the unique challenges and perspectives of their fellow employees.

  • More recently, our DIG In speaker series hosted activist and podcaster Jesal Parikh to help us dive deeper into the importance of vocabulary and having meaningful conversations about race. Inviting in external speakers has allowed us to engage in different conversations and to bring in fresh vantage points that our employees may not otherwise have access to.

While many of these opportunities are voluntary for PMG employees, participation and enthusiasm remain high, supplementing mandatory annual DE&I training to help provide a true baseline of knowledge and understanding across the organization. 

Listen more. To improve our allyship, we need to listen more, ask questions, and work to build our self-awareness to help ensure we’re approaching conversations and learning opportunities with empathy and open minds.

Understand that everyone will make mistakes. No one is perfect, and everyone is at a different stage in their journey to becoming a better ally and person. Even those equipped with a solid understanding of DE&I vocabulary get things wrong. The more we remain open to having conversations, and most importantly, listening and receiving feedback, the faster we can grow and support each other. 

Sharing is caring. We gained some of our most successful approaches and tactics to DE&I from cross-collaboration sessions and sharing resources with our vendors and partners, and we’re eager to keep these conversations going with other digital companies and organizations in our local communities. 

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Advancing DE&I isn’t easy, and it truly takes a village of passionate individuals working together to spark real, meaningful change. By partnering with leaders across the organization, boosting transparency, and maintaining a growth mindset, we’ve found that prioritizing DE&I — even in the midst of a global pandemic — is not only possible but more important than we could have ever imagined.

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