Author Archive

Hager Sharp’s Commitment to Racial Equity

At Hager Sharp, we are devastated and outraged over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Kathryn Johnston, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tony McDade, Stephon Clark, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and countless others. These murders highlight the systemic racism that exists in our country—racism that has been allowed to permeate and take root for centuries. It is way past time for it to end.

Our agency is dedicated to providing marketing and communications support to organizations committed to making meaningful change in the world. Central to the fulfillment of this mission, we are committed to ensuring inclusion, diversity, equity and access within our agency and to supporting these ideals within our clients’ organizations and within our industry and community. We expect the same from organizations with whom we partner.

Our commitment is baked into our vision and values. We embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe our work is better when we include and reflect multiple voices and perspectives. We seek to recruit and retain a team that represents and reflects the many dimensions of diversity: gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability, medical condition, culture, relationship status, interests, heritage, work background, educational background, religion, and more.

In 2018 we determined we could do even better. We took it upon ourselves to look inwardly and improve how we live our core values. After an internal survey and small group discussions, we realized that we needed to do more, in particular, in support of our Black colleagues. Thus began the development of a formal Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Strategic Plan wherein we established specific objectives, strategies, activities, and metrics to hold ourselves accountable to maintaining and enhancing our diverse and inclusive company culture.

With guidance and support from an outside consultant, regular internal conversations specifically around the topics of equity, access and inclusion, formal professional training for managers, and workshops for all staff occurred over the following months. While we are proud of the progress we have made through this program, we know there is more to do.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working together to identify the specific action steps we can take as a company to be even more deliberate in our stand against racism and for inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. As part of that process, we have taken time as a team to reflect, to listen, to understand, to talk, to cry, and, most importantly, to determine how we can do better.

Today we pledge our commitment to driving meaningful change. We know words are shallow if not backed by substance. The concrete actions we will take include:

  • Forming a taskforce that will meet weekly to discuss and implement ongoing plans
  • Granting all Hager Sharpers a day off in June to support their mental and emotional well-being and provide time for education, volunteering, or taking anti-racism action
  • Creating a space for open forums on racism, including holding monthly town hall discussions with all staff to continue to share experiences and ideas, increase our awareness and understanding, and foster open communication
  • Steadily increasing the percentage of our staff who are people of color, especially those who are Black and Hispanic/Latino
  • Investing additional funds for recruiting to ensure a diverse pool of candidates for every position for which we are hiring
  • Creating a formal mentoring program led by Hager Sharp leaders (VP and above, cross practice) to ensure that all Hager Sharpers of color benefit from professional development and career coaching, have equal advancement opportunities, and stay and grow at Hager Sharp
  • Reviewing our promotion criteria and establishing clearer career paths for all employees
  • Continuing our IDEA training initiative, led and facilitated by our external consultant, with trainings on inclusive behaviors for leaders and cultural competency workshops to motivate the use of inclusive language and help staff recognize identify and mitigate unconscious bias
  • Conducting an audit of our spending with vendors and establishing a specific goal to increase the percentage of our vendor dollars spent with Black- and Hispanic/Latino-owned companies
  • Developing a resource list/library of books, podcasts, videos, etc. that shine a light on racism, and regularly choosing such books for Hager Sharp’s book club
  • Expanding our Education, Labor, and Economy practice to include work dedicated to racial justice and other forms of social justice
  • Expanding the work in our Health practice to tackle healthcare equity, access, and discrimination faced by people of color
  • Identifying and exploring opportunities to focus our existing Hager Hours program (company-paid volunteer hours for each employee, provided annually) on initiatives that directly impact local communities of color through service

Some of these actions are already completed or underway; others will begin immediately, with specific action plans developed for each. As we accomplish these actions we will expand our efforts into new areas that have an outward impact beyond our company. We are actively developing a detailed strategic plan to tackle this issue, approaching it with the same diligence and rigor with which we approach our clients’ challenges. As a company that rejects racism and stands in support of our Black employees, Black clients, and the entire Black community, we are committed to implementing these action steps so we can achieve greater diversity and true equality throughout our agency, our industry, our communities, and our country.

I am profoundly grateful for our task force and the commitment of our entire staff to this effort. We know this is a journey. As long as I am leading Hager Sharp, ensuring that we make forward progress on this journey – to achieve true inclusion, diversity, equity, and access – will be a top priority of mine. This I promise.

Jennifer Wayman, MHS
President & CEO

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Combating the Perpetuation of Vaccine Misinformation: Health Communicators Have a Role and a Responsibility

“Health communication is the science and art of using communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations.” (Society for Health Communication)

The World Health Organization (WHO) named vaccine hesitancy, the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite available vaccines, one of the top 10 global health threats for 2019. The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate can be complex, but as we have heard reported for several months around the current outbreak of measles, which had been declared eliminated from the US in 2000, the perpetuation of vaccine misinformation has reached a tipping point.

A recent call to action on the issue from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “Though robust scientific research demonstrates that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving, inaccurate and misleading content about vaccines proliferates online. As parents increasingly turn to social media to gather information and form opinions about their children’s health, the consequences of inaccurate information play out offline.”

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4 Ways Good Food Can Change the World

Can you imagine if there was one invention that could help people live healthier lives, reduce healthcare costs, boost the economy, increase education outcomes, and improve the environment? Now, imagine that it’s not an invention at all, but something that has been around for, well, ever, and something you not only encounter every day but also need to live. That’s right, I’m talking about food.

Humans—and Americans in particular—have a complicated relationship with food, as exemplified by fad diets, ever-changing (and often conflicting) dietary recommendations, the widespread presence of food deserts, and of course the obesity epidemic. But if approached and consumed in thoughtful, healthy, and sustainable ways, food can be a catalyst for positive social change. Here’s how.

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3 Lessons in PR and Education Equity from “America to Me”

Last year, just before school began, Starz premiered its critically-acclaimed documentary series, America to Me. The 10-episode series profiled students, teachers, parents, and school administrators at Oak Park River Forest (OPRF) High School in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

I recently finished watching the mini-series as a way to broaden my own understanding of racial equity in education. That’s because OPRF, with one of the most diverse student bodies in Metro Chicago, also suffers from a widening achievement gap between its White and Black students.

It’s only natural that I viewed the series through the lens of a PR professional, and I couldn’t help but notice the tie-ins to the skills needed by communicators. These skills are best exemplified by OPRF’s teachers, a handful of whom do their part to narrow the achievement gap. In the process, they serve as a master-class on how to build mutually beneficial relationships that allow them to serve their students’ needs—the same way communicators should conduct themselves to provide quality client service.

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Family History Is Black History: Elevating the Importance of Health in the Black Community

Black History Month is a time for us to remember, share, and celebrate the achievements and contributions of notable Black figures. It’s also a great time for us as a Black community to remember and learn more about our own history and families to better understand ourselves and where we come from. Our bloodline and DNA don’t just tell the story of who we are, but they also provide us with information about our health. That’s why developing a family health history, a record of health information about a person and three generations of his or her relatives, is important. Not enough of us know our unique health histories and hereditary risk factors. Black History Month is the perfect time to talk about and create a family health history.

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