Greater Public (GP), an association whose members are public media fundraisers from more than 240 stations across the U.S., plans the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) each year, hosting NPR, PBS, and community media stations. After the death of George Floyd in late spring 2020, GP embraced the goal of improving its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Nowhere were those efforts more visible and meaningful than in its virtual PMDMC, held over two weeks in July of 2021. The number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) speakers doubled, as did the amount of education geared to the topic of diversity. We recently spoke with GP’s Gayle Ewer, Engagement Manager, Member Services, and Consuela Steward, Equity and Inclusion Advisor, who led the effort.
Can you give us a snapshot of your in-person and virtual events and their audiences?
Prior to COVID-19, PMDMC, co-produced by the revenue experts at both GP and PBS Development Services, hosted approximately 900 station attendees and 200 vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors each July. When COVID-19 hit, GP made the difficult decision to move to a virtual setting and offered sessions for free to members, taking a big hit to the bottom line, but still offering an unforgettable experience and service to the industry. In 2021, GP decided to move forward with a virtual PMDMC again, but this time offering more robust events for a nominal fee.
What was the impetus behind the conference’s equity improvement focus?
GP has always strived to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion at PMDMC, but after the nation’s response to George Floyd’s murder in May of 2020, we knew we needed to do better. The first step was to hire consultant Swafia Ames, Managing Director at Brighter Strategies, who helped us assess equity internally and lead us on a path toward improvement through training, goal setting, and regular equity conversations within our organization.
Meanwhile, GP looked within our industry to help us move these conversations forward externally with our member stations. Consuela Steward, at the time an employee at a public media station, was working with GP to plan the Fundraisers of Color luncheon for PMDMC 2020 before the pandemic hit. While we had to drop the luncheon from the virtual schedule, Consuela stayed in touch with us as we grappled with the double whammy of managing teams during a pandemic and recognizing how public media had not properly served under-represented groups, even though it was part of our mission. We needed to start walking the talk, so we hired Consuela as our in-house Equity and Inclusion Advisor.
Who developed the content guidelines and what were they?
PMDMC’s DEI goals were developed by the content lead team and Consuela (and visualized above), most of which we met:
- 30% BIPOC represented in sessions/breakouts (not keynotes), with a stretch goal to double the BIPOC representation = 36% (we it 38%); and no panels with all white speakers
- At least one diversity-focused session in each discipline (e.g., inclusive design in marketing, connecting with major donors of color)
- Accessibility: closed captioning and transcriptions
- Representation of women in higher positions: Goal was to increase our representation of women in C-level (or higher) positions. In all events, 52% identified as female and C-level.
- Speakers from 15% small stations, 30% medium stations, 20% large stations, 35% mega stations
- 10% outside-the-industry speakers
How did you establish those goals? Did you have any idea of how large your BIPOC pool of speakers was?
Since 2018, PMDMC has asked speakers to identify their race/ethnicity on their speaker form so we could begin tracking this data. However, we did not require the question to be answered, and, oftentimes, the session producer (consultants we hire to produce our education) filled out the form on behalf of the speaker and did not want to presume their race/ethnicity.
After our 2020 virtual conference, we used the speaker numbers as a benchmark−18% BIPOC among keynotes and breakouts−even though not 100% accurate. From that basepoint, we decided on a goal of at least 30% BIPOC representation with the hopes of doubling 2020’s numbers, with a stretch goal of 36%. We also made the decision to require the race/ethnicity question to be answered and encouraged speakers to fill out their own forms.
We knew that only 8% of member station contacts were BIPOC, requiring us to identify more BIPOCs in order to make the goal a reality. Consuela was integral in that she created a safe haven for BIPOC within the public media industry to speak openly in the form of monthly town halls, called Our Hour, which were not open to white colleagues. She used the forums as an opportunity to encourage attendees to pitch PMDMC session ideas, to make new connections to shape session topics, and to find speakers.
How will you use what you learned and bring it to your future conferences?
For PMDMC 2022, we plan to continue our DEI progress by increasing our goal to 35% BIPOC speakers with a stretch goal of 40%. The potential difficulty for this year is that some of our BIPOC colleagues may not receive travel funds to speak at the conference, because they are often in staff and middle-management positions. We have established scholarships to address some of these cases and are hopeful that we can continue achieving our goals in BIPOC representation, both internally and externally.
Greater Public’s Gayle Ewer, lead planner for PMDMC, and Advisor Consuela Steward, are eager to share details with those seeking more advice on how to improve DEI efforts at your conferences. Please send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.