Zach sits down with Jackeline Stewart, Edelman’s Head of Multicultural Communications, to talk about PR, DEI, and what organizations should be doing in this ongoing season of racial reckoning. Check the links in the show notes to learn more about Jackeline, Edelman, and our LinkedIn Learning courses!
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Read her HR Dive piece titled “The return to the office can’t include a return to exclusionary practices.”
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Zach (00:59): What’s up, y’all, it’s Zach with Living Corporate. And we are here. I have to say, I continue to be thankful for Living Corporate as a platform. A lot of stuff is dropping this week. New, new, new, new, new shows coming out. You know, The Break Room started as a live show, we’re actually transitioning. We’re gonna be making the Break Room its own podcast. You probably have heard a couple of reruns on the weekends, if you listen. Cuz we’re dropping new content every day for your head top. We’re gonna actually take the Break Room, it’s gonna be its own, standalone podcast. We’re also working to make the Access Point its own standalone podcast. We have some content coming out y’all. Shout out to Neil Edwards and Brittany Janay Harris.
(01:43): Shout out to LinkedIn Learning and the partnership there. Our content continues to grow. Thankful for all of our contributors and the content that we’re able to, our library that we’re able to pull from, to then create e-learning. Make sure you check out the link in the show notes. Shout out to David Dawkins, who’s helped create our merch. You know what I’m saying. I’m just really excited about where we are as a platform. There’s more stuff coming that I can’t talk about yet, but trust, it’s coming.
(02:11): Shout out to LiveRamp. LiveRamp. LiveRamp is a tech company that we’re working with, and we’re gonna be doing a similar brand campaign that we did with Pfizer. We’re gonna be really highlighting Live Ramp’s leadership, talk, talking about their DEI journey, talking about just why they continue to be a premier place to work for black and brown folks. And just, strategically, how it’s all coming together. It’s been incredible working with them. Shout out to Cam Ward over there. Shout out to Tab. Just shout out to the whole team.
(02:41): Look, if you can’t hear it in my voice, this is a season of growth. This is a season of change, you know. It’s not just because it’s fall. It’s really because we’re always growing. If you’re not growing, then you’re not really alive. All right, you hear me. If you’re not growing, you’re not really alive. This doesn’t mean that every day you go through some radical change, but you should be changing in some degree, way, or form, every single day. And so I’m gonna challenge you, if you don’t feel like you’re changing even a little bit, at least a little bit. I need you to ask yourself what you’re doing. All right. Now look, this conversation we have today. And I say this all the time, but y’all, you gotta understand. Like we created Living Corporate years ago, just with the simple goal of having one podcast.
(03:31): We didn’t think it was gonna be this whole thing. Oh, shout to Madison Butler also, shout out to Vonda Page’s new group chat. And the blocking series that she’s gonna be releasing here, pretty soon. Keep your eyes peeled for that. My goodness. Anyway, it just still blows my mind, the guests that we’re able to have on Living Corporate. And it was interesting, because, this particular person I got an email, and I’m gonna tell y’all, a lot of people send me pitches. Like I get tons of pitches. Shout out to Tristan, shout out to Neil, shout out to Amy C. Waninger. We all get a lot of pitches to come on Living Corporate, and come on our respective shows. Shout out to the whole team over at the Break Room, they get tons of pitches. Every now and then people email me, and I’m like, is this a real person? Like is this a real thing?
(04:19): And Edelman hit us up. Edelman hit us up, and asked if we would like to have Jackeline Stewart, who’s the executive vice president, head of all multi communication at Edelman. If we want to have Jackeline? If we were interested in having Jackeline Stewart on Living Corporate? Now my country self, you know, I was like, yes, of course. And so, I’m really excited about this conversation you’re gonna hear. It’s interesting because we haven’t actually had a PR firm on Living Corporate yet. Especially when you think about the context that we’re in, the murder of George Floyd, this supposed reckoning that organization are dealing with. And this this call to consciousness that apparently half of America has gone through. And just the implications for a PR firm. Like what does that really look like? I really appreciated my conversation with Jackeline.
(05:14): I’m not gonna really spill too much of the Earl Grey on that. Shout out to Drake, that was a dope line. I’m gonna be saying Earl Grey, moving forward, I said it to you. Anyway, I’m not gonna spill too much of it, because I want y’all to really hear the conversation. But I wanna shout out Jackeline. I wanna shout out Edelman. We had a really great conversation, excited about the discussion that we had. And just how frank, and transparent, and just a wonderful communicator. Which I guess shouldn’t be shocking, she’s the head of multicultural communication, but I’m just saying, you know, everyone ain’t really cool to this talking thing. Even people who should supposedly be cool to this talking thing. She is really cold at this talking thing. And you hear me, I pause, and I kind of gush in the middle of our interview to talk about it. Anyway, check it out. Before we pivot to Jackeline Stewart, EBP, head of multicultural communication at Edelman, we’re gonna tap in with Tristan all right. I’ll see you in a second.
Zach (09:27): Jackeline, how you doing?
Jackeline Stewart (09:29): Hi. I’m doing well. How are you?
Zach (09:32): I’m doing well. Welcome to the show.
Jackeline (09:34): Thank you very much. I’m very excited to be here.
Zach (09:37): I’m excited and honored for you to be here. You know, we talked a little bit really quickly off mike, about Edelman as a brand. And let me just give you some Earl Grey, that’s tea, for those who aren’t catching up on the Drake CLB album. It’s a pretty good album. Let me give you some Earl Grey. And I’m a say that, despite the fact that Living Corporate has all these brands, that we’ve worked with, or executives that we interviewed, it still is so humbling when people hit us up. And so, when I saw the email come through, I took a couple cycles. I’m like, what? Let me see. And I was really surprised when it was like, no, this is real. Let’s go. What’s up Edelman? So, let’s start with there. Let’s start with just your career. I know I’m talking to Jackeline, executive vice president at the Edelman, but before we get there, can we rewind and talk about your journey and what led you in this role today?
Jackeline (10:45): Yeah. Happy to do so. And I’m gonna give you the short version because I don’t wanna bore any of your amazing listeners. Let me start off by telling you a little bit of what I wanted to do when I was in college, in grad school. I was desperate to be a journalist. Why? Because Oprah Winfrey was my everything. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to, be a conduit for that type of conversations. But upon graduation, I may be ageing myself, the conversation that was dominating discourse at the time, was the fight for immigration rights. And I felt the need to tell those stories. So I started off my career actually doing advocacy communications at the National Council of La Raza, which is now known as [inaudible 00:11:30] UNIDOS US. I’ve done a couple of stints at different nonprofits and foundations since then. With a little bit of a break to work at the Obama Administration in the middle. And then, landed at Edelman because I realized that business really was the place that could drive change. You know, government, you know with elections, and depending on who’s the leader, things change often and it’s volatile. But when we’re talking about business, we’re talking about dollars and cents. And people move things with dollars and cents. And so, that’s where I want it to be. So, hence my transition to Edelman.
Zach (12:07): Your career on LinkedIn looks so, it’s like one big flex. I was like, yo, she did this, she developed this, she was able to. Now, let me ask you a question. Did you meet Barack in person?
Jackeline (12:25): I have. I have shook his hand, but you know, he does not know me. He does not know me, but I have had the pleasure. I have taken my parent’s to the White House. [over talk 00:12:36].
Zach (12:32): Here is the thing. Does he knows that you exist though?
Jackeline (12:36): Yes.
Zach (12:38): That’s so cool.
Jackeline (12:40): I have met Bow and Sunny.
Zach (12:44): All right. So let me ask a question. What does Barack Obama smell like?
Jackeline (12:49): I will tell you that shaking his hand felt like touching the finest of Italian silk. I think that’s what I wrote on Instagram.
Zach (12:56): No I’m serious. No, I’m so curious about like, so, talking to somebody and first of all, my friends who have like these incredible encounters, will be like, yo, I was in the elevator with Rihanna. I didn’t say anything. Of course I was shooken to my core, but she smelled incredible. I was like, wow. And then, I’ve met a couple of people, I don’t want to name, but like sometimes, you know, or if you brush against someone, say what are you wearing? So that’s interesting. It feels like sometimes you meet these people and like they’re larger than life, and so that’s why I get into, like, what was that like sensory wise? What was that like? So that’s interesting you shook… So you’re saying his hand was silk, but it was it silky smooth and still firm?
Jackeline (13:46): Yes, it was a firm handshake. That’s what I remember.
Zach (13:49): How intriguing. Well, I shouldn’t be shocked. I think I just find it just incredible. We live in the season where, some of the people that are alive in the season, when you look around. And I guess that’s every lifetime, but you just look around like, dang, like Serena Williams, Brock Obama. I’ll say this because you talked about the fact that you went to the White House and the [inaudible 00:14:09]. So, you know, I was in a presentation recently, and I can’t really detail where the presentation was, but Serena Williams was in that presentation.
Jackeline (14:16): Ohh, you’re gonna have to tell me after.
Zach (14:17): We’ll talk after.
Jackeline (14:20): Yes.
Zach (14:20): Let me tell you something, that I said, this moment, of me presenting this. This is like married, check. My first daughter being born, check. This is like still a top three to five moment in my life. This is, I feel I can do anything now. I present it in front of Serena Williams. Anyway, all this huge segue aside, you’re the executive vice president, head of multicultural communications at Edelman, the largest PR consulting firm in the world. Boom. In the world. So, Jackeline, what does that mean? What are you responsible for at Edelman?
Jackeline (15:04): So, I’m really responsible for galvanizing one of the best teams around. I believe that, no bias, hashtag no bias. A team of multicultural experts across all of our practices and sectors. That’s spanning from health, to tech, DEI, all of it. To be able to really provide counsel to our colleagues and clients on how to authentically engage multicultural audiences. This spans race and ethnicity, age, LGBTQIA+, all of the intersectional identities that we have, we really specialize in that. And make sure our clients know what trends are coming up, what to avoid. And how to authentically engage them both internally within their organizations, and externally in a consumer relationship.
Zach (15:53): That sounds so, that just springs so many questions for me. You’re talking about advising clients in terms of like what’s on trend, what is not, what’s worked, what’s failed. In this season where corporate statements around were committed to DEI, and we love black folks, and everyone’s human beings here. What does it look like for Edelman, and what are some of the themes that you’re capturing in these conversations in terms of the types of consulting you’re seeing that organizations are needing?
Jackeline (16:32): Yeah. I think organizations are so thirsty for information on how to exist in this moment. We’ve known, as black people and people of color that they’ve needed to do this for such a long time. But now all of a sudden, there’s this awakening. Some of us have been awake for such a long time. For forever. So when we counsel our clients, we let them know it’s not enough just to play lip service in order to satisfy or check the box for the communities to which we belong to. But it’s about action. Do not put out a statement unless you are prepared and willing to follow up with action. Because it’s very transparent when you’re just putting words down on paper, and you’re not willing to do anything or put anything on the line to actually drive change.
Zach (17:31): You know something I continue to say, and this is something that keeps me up. Is, what does it look like when you see these brands who like put out these external statements. And then, if you’re paying attention, cuz everyone doesn’t pay attention, or frankly value black and brown voices. But I would say pretty much every time there’s some company that puts out a commitment, Hey, we’re gonna do this over the next five years, Hey, we’re gonna do this. We’re gonna do that. There’s typically some historically marginalized group at that organization, that comes out and says, eh, stuff ain’t sweet over here. And so I’m curious, have you seen that in your functioning experience? And then what advice do you have when that type of fallout happens?
Jackeline (18:23): Yeah, we have seen that. And what we recommend and we counsel our clients through this part of the journey is to get their house in order first. You cannot go out with a statement externally, if you’ve not talked to your employees. Your employees are your number one ambassadors, and the folks who can come out and critique your brand, or your organization to the point where, folks will fall off and fall out of love with you. So, we really encourage to survey their employees, talk to them, have a discussion about what is it that they expect. We’ve done so many special reports on trust and the relationship between society, brands, corporations and employees. And what we found is that there remains a heightened expectations for these institutions to take action. It’s not going anywhere.
Jackeline (19:12): I remember one of my first conversations with someone, in the wake of the resurgence of the movement for black lives. Someone said, well, we’ll do all this, but what happens when the conversation cools down? Well, the conversation’s not gonna cool down. We see that, whenever, and we’ve seen this in our trust study as well. Whenever has been another incident that impacts black communities, or other communities of color, that this expectation continues to increase. So, there is no cooling off point. It’s not gonna end, they’re responsible for doing something.
Zach (19:47): It’s so curious, like, to your last point, what happens when these conversations, when this moment is over there? There does seem to be like this very quiet, but like present standoff between the actions, and language, and energy from last summer, to whatever this is now. And even in the DEI landscape there’s commentary like, oh, people are trying to get back to quote unquote, normal, in the midst of a pandemic. And I’m curious, what do you think Jackeline it is going to take, like companies need to see, for them to really make dynamic and honest change as it pertains to really speaking to and empathizing with their black and brown employees, market sector? What is it right? What do you feel like is the motivation? You said dollars earlier, but there’s been tons of studies about all these untapped dollars? What do you see as, what’s really gonna be like the tipping point for these organizations that are still struggling, even now, in 2021?
Jackeline (21:09): I think it’s what we’re seeing right now. Even with our latest study about employees within these companies really demanding the change. Consumers can do it externally. But then, what we’re seeing is that within organization employees are really holding their employers to a higher standard. So the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been before. For leaders of these companies to answer to the demands and expectations of employees, who are also consumers, who are also folks who use social media, and either advocate for, or advocate against a brand or corporation. So I really think it’s gonna come from within and without, and that’s what’s going to drive change among these institutions.
Zach (21:53): Well, recently you wrote a piece for HR Dive and you said, “People of color have not had equitable access to senior leadership, even while in the office and worked in office settings that prevented them from showing up as their authentic selves. Especially in workplaces where they’re the only employee of their background, or one of very few. This may be why 97% of black knowledge workers, loosely defined as workers who generate value through their knowledge, want the future of work to be remote or hybrid.” One, we’re gonna hyperlink the article in the show notes. So make sure y’all check it out. Two, Jackeline, what do you think the future is for black and brown folks in this standoff between these employees, and employers who frankly just want folks to come back to the office?
Jackeline (22:48): Right. I think it’s important to note that, the future of work, it’s not a standoff. This is an evolution. We’ve already been having these conversations pre-pandemic about what work is going to look like in the future. Our current situation right now, it’s really a forcing mechanism for companies to assess where they are and where they wanna be. So it behooves these companies to view this time, as an opportunity to evolve their workplaces, to really fit the expectations of the current worker. We’ve been talking about the future worker for so long. The future worker is now the current worker.
Zach (23:27): I love that, the future workers. And so, I don’t know what the motivation is. Maybe it’s just like this capitalistic need to produce and produce and produce. But we often do talk about the future of work or the future employee, but like that future person and that future environment is right here. We’re actually trying to solve for present problems, which maybe that’s why we always talk about in the future, because it’s less scary. Cuz like, oh we’re okay. No, let’s just think about, later. I’m curious, what do you see and what would you advise like let’s say a Fortune 100 company looking for consulting in this matter, to keep in mind around messaging return to office, particularly for black and brown employees?
Jackeline (24:15): Right. And this is all about building trust among your employees. And what do you have to do, you have to listen to them. So one, I would suggest that these companies reassess their diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices in this new environment. Not what it was two years ago. We are now in a new space. What do your policies and procedures look like for today and the days ahead? Two, conduct a survey to get some of that quantitative analysis, some of those numbers behind what do people actually expect from companies? And then follow that up with some qualitative analysis by talking to employees. One easy way to do this or a quick way to start these conversations is by engaging ERGs to really co-create the path forward, for what it looks like for folks to return to the office.
Zach (25:05): It’s interesting because in your piece, you talk about the fact that black and brown employees, or that specifically black knowledge workers, 97% of them really want the future work to be remote or hybrid. There’s also like this narrative around the fact that, and you’ve alluded to a it. But there’s other peeps on HBR that talk about the fact that the lack of in-person touch can be career limiting for black and brown people. And I’m curious, I don’t think that those narratives really compete against one another. Jackeline, to me they seem to just be reflective of just like the dichotomy of being one of the onlys in a space. It’s like, man, you’re kind of damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Like, yeah, I probably should be, it would be helpful for people to see me, experience me perhaps, that’ll help me in my promotion case, help me build relationships, help me build trust. But at the same time I feel just much better. Like I can breathe easier when I know that I’m able to just be at home. I’m curious, do you see that same tension and reality of our experience? And if you do, I’m curious just to get what are your thoughts on that, in terms of just like the future of work?
Jackeline (26:26): Yeah. I think it’s, like you said, it’s two sides of the same inequitable coin. So, in one case, the barrier is the computer screen. Where folks tend to not be able to have those interpersonal communication and conversations that really lead to people getting to know you, people getting to know your work. Then on the other hand, the computer has democratized communication and work relationships for folks. We’re all now on the same platform. There’s no head of the table. You don’t have to sit in a special place. You don’t have to watch where you put this, watch where you put that for now, on the same flat platform as everyone else, regardless of level. And you have the opportunity to unmute your mike and be heard just like everyone else. So it really is a democratizing platform. So I think what it looks like is really comes down to, again, the policies and procedures. Because no matter where you are, whether you’re at your home office or whether you’re in the quote unquote ‹the office’. Your workplace should be a place where you can be your authentic self, and still be able to thrive because you are included. And your contributions are not just considered they are actually made at the decision-making table.
Zach (27:45): Sound man, put a record scratch right here. There’s a jush, jush, jush. See, not everybody, I’m gonna pause this interview in real time. You hear what I did? I asked Jackeline the question about individual experience. And what Jacquelyn did in real time, when she actually talked about policies and she talked about structures and systems. That’s important as we think about the future of work, and as talk about black and brown experience or experience of marginalized people. (Resume play now.) But Jackeline, I just appreciate that answer because you’re right. So often in this work or anytime, whether you want to categorize it as DEI, so much, so often the labor comes back to the most marginalized person. Well, they should just show up like this or they should do this and say well, no. Cuz I agree with you, this new environment should flatten access and participation.
(28:39): And so then, therefore, drive equity, or at least equitable opportunity. But that only happens when you have the right structure and accountability measures, reinforcement rewards measures to bring that culture to life. So, I love that. You know it’s interesting Jackeline, I want to make the observation, I didn’t really know how you were gonna show up in this interview. You and I don’t know each other, we just met today. I’m gonna say, you are the coldest communicator. In terms of, you haven’t said ahhm, you haven’t paused. And y’all, we’re on camera, Jackeline hasn’t looked up to access her creative side. She hasn’t done it. She’s just going. It’s just beautiful. It’s incredible to watch and it’s inspiring. So, I share that, not just to gas you up, but I’m curious like from a principal perspective, are there any principles that you apply in your role as the head of multicultural communications? And as a communications, just subject matter expert, that you believe are applicable in anyone’s career, but particularly black and brown folks careers?
(29:49): Well, first let me say, I think the reason that I haven’t paused or had to access any creative thought or think about anything is because you’ve create a comfortable environment to have a conversation. So this feels like I’m just talking to someone on the phone. So that’s great. The principles that I really rely on are marrying lived experience with data. You know I’ve brought up our trust studies before, many times in this conversation because I think it’s important to be able to back up our lived experience with that data. The sort of the art and science of things, having those both sides, being able to enter your, your information whenever you’re at the table. Second, being mindful of not mistaking representation for true inclusion. Just because you’re at the table does not mean you are being heard.
Jackeline (30:34): And as the principal of this group, one of my foremost goals is making sure that the folks who are on my team and other folks who represent diverse perspectives are heard, and that their perspectives are brought to the decision-making table. And then, also, unburden yourself with the pressure of thinking that you can undo centuries of broken systems. We’re not gonna get anywhere if we, each of us feels like we are responsible for undoing these systems, and the harms that they’ve done to each of us. That’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is do the best that we can to really fulfill our personal and professional missions, and help and bring others to the table when we can. But we cannot burden ourselves with that responsibility. That is unproductive and it harms us mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Zach (31:34): My, woo, come on now. I’m gonna say something, you said something at top, representation.A lot of us conflate representation with liberation. They’re not the same. You can ask some people, if they are some figureheads, I don’t mean anything. I don’t care about you. So I love that. Everything you said, goodness gracious. My gosh, Jackeline, this has been so fun, and such a bomb to my day. So thank you for that. Before I let you go, one, I wanna say, can certainly consider you a friend of the show. I would love for us to figure out how we can keep lines of communication open. I love what Edelman is doing. I told you before, my wife, she gushes, she loves Edelman as a brand. So I’ve always, before I even got into like corporate America and I was like, you know, I would just live in a UH. Jackeline, I didn’t know what was going on. I knew I was like, okay, well there’s Apple and Coca-Cola and Edelman, it was really like presented that way. It had a very strong reaching at the University of Houston. Everybody knows about Edelman at UH. So anyway, before we let you go, partying words or shoutouts.
Jackeline (32:54): Yeah. I wanna shout out my multi-cultural team. Every single one who’s working every single day to make sure that our clients have what they need to really, really engage and prioritize the communities to which we belong. Each of the members of this team is personally, not just professionally, but personally committed to this work. And it shows through with every single thing that they do. So I just wanna take a moment to shout them out because I believe they’re the best around.
Zach (33:30): You know, it’s not only a classy move Jackeline, but a smart one. I love that. You shouted out your people. That’s important. Somebody came on, and I appreciate it, but it made me like, they were like, I’m gonna shout myself out. Shout out to me. I’m cold. I was like, shout out to you. You’re already here.
Jackeline (33:48): Didn’t Snoop do that?
Zach (33:49): But yeah. Yeah. I was like, okay. And he was like, shout out to… shout out to, yeah, I was like, okay. Yeah, sure. Jackeline, it’s been a pleasure. We will talk to you soon. And yo, if y’all wanna learn more about Edelman, check out the links in the show notes. You wanna learn more about Jackeline, again, links in the show notes. And I hope that y’all are hearing this, that, it’s about impact over time, and not just making a splash. Jackeline will talk to you soon.
Jackeline (34:23): Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Zach (34:33): And we’re back. Hey again, Jackeline Stewart, thank you so much for being a guest on Living Corporate. Shout out to Edelman. It’s interesting, my wife, you know, one of her dream jobs was Edelman. And, it was a brand that I knew of like early in my career at college. Just early, just as a very young, young adult. And what I appreciated about our conversation was that Jackeline did not put on a lot of heirs. Hopefully you were able to feel what I felt, which was authenticity, intention. And just a frankness that frankly, like a lot of executives do not hold. And I really am excited about what Edelman is doing. I’m excited about the advice and the consulting that they’re providing to organizations about really stepping in this work, and not trying to check the box. And I really look forward to having Jackeline back, and having any member of Edelman back. Shout out to you all.
(35:33): I’ll just say it again, you know, we continue to grow and change. Living Corporate as a platform continues to do really dope things. Hopefully y’all see, I don’t have my face all over Living Corporate, cuz Living Corporate is not the Zach show. Living Corporate is its own organization. I happen to be the founder, to be one of the co-founders, and to be the CEO of Living Corporate, but this organization and lives on well beyond me. Shout out to Justin Blight at the Access Point. Access Point is coming really, really soon, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for that too. Shout out to your leadership over there, sir. And, I’m just thankful. Continue to rock with us. If you haven’t already, give us five stars on Apple podcast. Tell a friend about us, tell a coworker by us, tell a neighbour about us. Tell a racist family member about us. Tell an activist family member about us. Tell folks about us. You giving us five stars, you passing the word on, you sharing us on LinkedIn, you sharing us on social media, Twitter, Instagram, it blesses us. That’s an easy way that you can support us. And then, again, if you know folks who are looking in the learn, to trying to pick up stuff, forward the LinkedIn Learning link, all right. We got it. We got y’all. Seven courses are up right now, working on some more, but trust me, the courses that are on there right now. Heat rock. All right. Until next time y’all, this has been Zach. Peace.