My name is Sandra Boone (she/her), and I am based in Minneapolis, MN.
I’m starting this blog so I can share my journey as a white communications professional considering questions of equity, bias, power, and privilege while also wrestling with questions of how my thinking and work is shaped by living in a culture of white supremacy. I also plan to discuss changes that need to happen within academic scholarship and the broader field to 1) encourage other communicators to dig deeper when thinking about their responsibilities, and 2) challenge our industry to change and become a more welcoming option for BIPOC professionals and other individuals from traditionally marginalized populations. I am starting this blog both to share my thoughts and to be honest about my own development.
Who am I?
I am a communications professional with approximately 15 years of experience working in higher education, nonprofits, and political settings. I am a white, college-educated professional who has lived in Minnesota for almost my entire life, and, throughout my career, I questioned whether I was doing my communications work in ways that were fair, equitable, and true.
I strongly believe all communicators must consider the immense power and responsibility that comes with our roles as storytellers and gatekeepers of information. While it is easy (particularly for young professionals and those who haven’t risen to a level where they speak with management) to believe we don’t have power in our organizations, we must always remember that we are the ones selecting what words, stories, and pictures are being put out into the world about our work.
My passion to explore equity concerns for communicators comes from times where I recognized I was assuming I could do whatever I wanted with my organization’s stories and pictures — an idea that turns the people in them to little more than props, characters, or tools.
Due to a wish look more formally at equity concerns for communicators (and especially these concerns for white communications professionals), I added the interdisciplinary minor to my Strategic Communication MA at the University of Minnesota in Literacy and Rhetorical Studies — an opportunity for which I am both proud and immensely grateful. As part of my LRS curriculum, I was fortunate to take courses alongside teachers and social workers, and they shared with me the deep discomfort and dislike they feel when communicators ask them to suggest clients with “interesting stories to share”. All too often, they said, they have seen these communicators do interviews asking people highly personal and invasive questions about their life experiences. Then, without considering the needs or wants of the individual, the communicator would turn around and change the story or cherry-pick the individual’s words to make them fit a pre-planned narrative of the organization’s success.
These conversations resulted in a profound shift in how I think of my work as a communicator. I was certain I never wanted my work to undermine the important work being done with the people my organizations exist to serve. As I attempted to adjust, however, I found myself overcompensating and forgetting my responsibility to my organization as my stories became longer and lost focus. I now seek and talk to other communicators about the need to find a balance where we do communications in ways that respect and consider the best interests of the individuals involved while also creating narratives that fulfill organizational objectives.
I do all of this while grappling with questions of what stories I can or should not try to tell as a white, cisgender female from a comfortably middle-class background. I am also seeking to understand how to recognize and respect these limits while not simply ignoring the story of every person who does not look like or have the same experiences as me.
This is a continual process, and it is one that every communicator must take for themselves. I hope you will join me.
Writing to get you started
To help people who are here for the first time, here are some things that I think would be a good place to start:
- A huge spreadsheet of resources on equity and communications
- It’s not just about having the “right” words and pictures (a blog about the journey communicators follow when beginning to consider equity concerns)
- “While most are well intentioned, few are intentional” An examination of anti-trafficking communications and the need for ethical/equitable storytelling practices for strategic communication and public relations professionals (my Strategic Communication MA Capstone)
- Ethical and equitable storytelling for University Relations at the University of Minnesota
- My journey to examine the need for ethical storytelling practices for YNPN-TC