#CommsHeroRamadan 20.4.22 – what is it and how to get involved?

With over 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, there’s a good chance that you – or a friend, a co-worker, a neighbour, or a fellow #CommsHero — will be celebrating, fasting, and doing all sorts of other activities that are unique to Ramadan.

But ever wondered what it’s like to observe Ramadan? Well, fellow Comms Heroes, now’s your chance!

On Wednesday 20 April, Asif Choudry, Nadia Khan and I are organising #CommsHeroRamadan – a day where we can all come together and experience the joys of Ramadan, understand how Muslims across the world feel and celebrate the diversity of our Comms Hero community.

How do I get involved with #CommsHeroRamadan?

Fasting from dawn to sunset on Wednesday 20 April is one way you can get involved, but fret not…it’s not the only way. Here’s ten other things you can do:

  1. Give up tea, coffee, biscuits, chocolate or crisps for the day
  2. Skip a meal and donate the money you saved
  3. Organise a cake sale, charity dinner or iftar (sunset meal to break a fast)
  4. Volunteer at a food bank or charity in your area
  5. Organise a food collection in your community or place of work
  6. Make a donation to a charity or food bank of your choice
  7. Share information about Ramadan with your colleagues and networks
  8. Start a conversation with your colleagues and fellow #CommsHero community to learn about what the month means to them
  9. Join a #CommsHeroRamadan session on the day (details will be shared soon)
  10. Show your support on social media using #CommsHeroRamadan and image below

What do I do if I want to fast on the day?

You’re welcome to fast for the full day, but do consider your personal circumstances when deciding. If you choose to fast on Wednesday 20 April, the fast begins at 3.50am and ends at 8.22pm.

If fasting for the day is too much for you, you can join in by keeping a half fast, meaning you’ll fast for the morning or afternoon only, or give up food and continue to drink water throughout the day.

Either way, the choice is yours, and the Muslim Council of Britain has some useful guidance to help you prepare. Nadia’s piece about Ramadan is also worth a read as it’s packed full of information.

Tell us how you’re getting involved…

Share pictures, videos, gifs or words using #CommsHeroRamadan to let us know how you’re getting involved on Wednesday 20 April, and how you’re doing on the day. You can also tweet us directly, our handles are:

@NafisaShafiq , @AsifChoudry and @NadiaKhan79

By Nafisa Shafiq

Higher education communication and engagement manager. Specialises in delivering targeted, accessible, multi-channel communications to engage diverse audiences.

Twitter: @NafisaShafiq

LinkedIn: Nafisa Shafiq


The Holy Month of Ramadan: Awareness, Understanding and Creating an Inclusive Workplace

The Holy Month of Ramadan: Awareness, Understanding and Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Ramadan, the Holy Month of fasting for Muslims, starts at the beginning of April this year, based on the sighting of the new moon. Muslims across the world will excitedly be starting preparations to embark on a month of spiritual renewal.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam; it is an act of worship where one refrains from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. This year the fasting day will be approximately fifteen hours. However, Ramadan is so much more than not eating; it is also a time of reflection, discipline, abstaining from bad habits, extra prayers, charity, acts of kindness and connection with family and community.

This is why Ramadan is actually a really exciting time. Research has indicated that more Muslims actively fast in Ramadan than pray or observe their religion throughout the year.

Traditionally Muslim countries announce the beginning of Ramadan in a variety of ways including canon fire in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. Indonesian Muslims welcome Ramadan with a cleansing ritual called the ‘Padusan’; they bathe in the beautiful natural springs as a symbol of renewal and purity.

In Palestine, the community prepare beautiful traditional lanterns and put them up in houses and bazaars. In Turkey, Morocco and India, there is a custom of drummers, town criers or ‘sehriwalas’ in Urdu, who announce the beginning of the dawn ‘sahoor’ meal. British Muslims also have their own unique ways of celebrating the month. There is a real vibe associated with Ramadan, and towns come alive at the time of breaking fast or ‘iftar’.

For iftar, Muslims try to follow the Prophet Muhammad’s tradition of breaking fast with dates and water. The dates provide energy and the water rehydrates. Following this, special tasty and nutritious foods are prepared this month which differ across all Muslim traditions.

The community aspect, especially the iftar meal and night prayers are a very important part of this special month. It really is a whole community endeavour from young children who choose to fast, through to all ages, obviously depending on health and energy levels.

Not all Muslim choose to fast, or cannot fast for a variety of reasons including health, pregnancy and old age, however they can still get involved in the charity, spiritual and community aspect of the month. No one is excluded, and it’s a very inclusive experience.

The last ten days of Ramadan are especially significant, as there is a special night within this time period when the Qur’an (Muslim Holy book) was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, Muslims will perform extra prayers during these ten days, and sometimes they even choose to enter a period of spiritual seclusion.

Ramadan is about resetting the normal rhythm and slowing things down, so there is time to focus on the spiritual core. Muslims will try and adapt to the pace; making time for extra prayers and many try to read the whole Qur’an over Ramadan. When the month is over, there is sense of sadness because of all the benefits and blessing that Ramadan brings. The end of the fasting period is marked by a massive community festival known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days and in Muslim countries these days are a public holiday.

In order to create an inclusive workplace that caters for everyone, an understanding of Ramadan is key to supporting your work mates through the fasting period. On top of that, there are some simple ideas below that can help employers foster a greater atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.

Top tips for supporting Muslim colleagues in Ramadan:

  • Arrange a talk or webinar about Ramadan through your Muslim forums or Diversity Networks, and invite guest speakers or Muslim colleagues to talk about their Ramadan experiences
  • Why not organise a team iftar event to breakfast together, and partake in the spirit of Ramadan with your colleagues?
  • During this month, allow colleagues the option to work from home and flexibility with work hours; this enables them to observe their prayers and take quick breaks to reenergise
  • Try not to arrange back-to-back meetings as this can be exhausting anyway, but even more for a fasting person
  • Provide a private prayer space and somewhere staff can break their fast
  • When working with Muslim stakeholders or communities, please be mindful of arranging community or work events during iftar time or the last ten days of Ramadan
  • Allow staff time off for Eid; they deserve a good celebration after a month of fasting

By Nadia Khan

Historian, writer and communications professional. Working in local government. Founder of Golden Threads: A project exploring shared history, culture and art across the Islamic world and beyond.

www.goldenthreads.uk
Linkedin: Nadia Khan MA, Dip CIPR 

Instagram: @nadia.khan30 

Twitter: @nadiakhan79


CIPR X CommsHero: Who Runs the World?

We Are Resource and CIPR’s live event ‘Who Runs the World’ gathered together five of the most respected names in the communications industry – former CIPR presidents Sarah Waddington CBE, Emma Leech, Jenni Field and Mandy Pearse and current President Rachel Roberts for a discussion about their experiences and advice to fellow communications professionals.

With collective experience in both agency and in-house and across the private, public and charity sectors we chatted about everything from what they were most proud of, to what they would do differently if they had their time again! Our panel answered questions relating to the important matters for our industry such as being truly inclusive and diverse and representing our stakeholders.

If you missed it is a much watch, the hour flew by!

Words by Naomi Jones, Communications and Marketing Director for SUEZ and Who Run’s the World panel host.

For the best experience, watch the panel on We Are Resource’s virtual event platform HERE.

If you would prefer to just listen, use the podcast link here:


Dear #CommsHero, you're a human being, not a human doing.

The following blog was written by #CommsHero Jules Loveland. Jules is a Comms professional who devotes her work to improving the mental health of others. Grab a cuppa (Yorkshire Tea of course!) and take 5 minutes out of your day to read this blog reminding us that if you’re struggling, there are good reasons for that and a reminder to always reach out for help.

 

The last 2 years have left all of us in some kind of traumatised state, one way or another. Whether the pandemic exacerbated what was already there, or brought it on, there are very few of us left unscathed by what we’ve all lived through. For some of us, we’ve experienced terrible loss, for others, we’ve been in fear for our lives. And others, the extra responsibilities we’ve had to carry have just broken us. At home, at work, it’s been an assault on our minds and our bodies.

 

Anxiety, stress, depression – these are all normal responses to having experienced or witnessed something difficult and painful. There’s no shame in admitting our mental health isn’t where it could be.

 

Mine definitely isn’t! I’ve always been known as a ‘high capacity’ person – even though I live with so little energy due to my ME/CFS. But when I started to feel overwhelmed at the thought of even having to carry out basic self care (like showering), I knew something was really wrong. After a series of traumatic circumstances, the pandemic just tipped me over the edge. Burn out had hit hard.

 

Knowing I wasn’t coping brought a lot of shame and guilt, especially when I considered the impact on my kids – who I was supposedly homeschooling. The first thing I did was find a therapist. I know enough about me to know I needed proper help. When I felt like I was failing, one of the first things my therapist said to me was “the numbers of calls for help are overwhelming. You are not alone. No one is coping. No-one is built to cope with this.”

 

And then there was work…

The communications ride and slide

As Communications Manager for a charity who works with very vulnerable people, when the pandemic hit we had to act fast. All our usual support services had to be re-configured. There was no way we were withdrawing from our beneficiaries at the time they needed us the most. We expanded and developed and changed – a lot – in a very short space of time. Suddenly ‘comms’ was thrust into overdrive, having always been somewhere in the background. Now more than ever we wanted to reach and engage and connect in ways we’d never done before.

Initially it was a buzz, long hours and flippin’ hard work but we’re all in it together, all working for the common good. The whole industry was changing the game. But over time, I got tired, we all got tired. The industry got tired. More than tired.

There have been several surveys done by the PRCA and CIPR on mental health in Comms/PR. At the time of writing, the PRCA and CIPR have just released some frankly alarming stats around the state of our mental health in the industry. I wasn’t surprised to discover I was one of the 90% of Communications professionals struggling with poor mental health. Nor was I shocked to read that PR professionals are 25% more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to other UK workers.

Why? Because aside from the workload, communicators are carrying something the world so desperately needs, and we’ve been giving it out, over and over without recognising the personal cost. I’m talking about connection.

Saving the world one connection at a time

Connection heals trauma. A world that is traumatised is looking for healing, subconsciously it’s seeking the connection it needs to heal. Public relations has connection at its heart. As communicators, we are facilitators of connection. We’re building bridges for people to find their way back to themselves and others. Using our skill and expertise, we’re teaching society the skills it needs to be whole:

● Empathy

● Emotional intelligence

● Conflict resolution

● Clarity

● Authenticity

● Courage

We’re doing this all the time. “Just another campaign” is never just another campaign when you’re a communicator – it’s levels upon levels of emotional and mental processing and analysing and ‘giving away’. You’re not ‘just doing your job’, you’re equipping, educating, inspiring and facilitating belonging. You’re leading with the skills the world is looking for. That’s a big deal. Go you!! There’s a reason you’re called a CommsHero*!

Human Beings not human doings

But you know, even heroes need time to regroup and heal themselves. We’re not bottomless wells of resources for others. For some of us right now, all we have is burn out, exhaustion, anxiety and stress. It’s time to sit up and take note of where we’re at. Horrific industry stats have people behind them. That 90%, that’s you and me, and our colleagues. Now we know the state of the industry, we can’t ignore it. This isn’t sustainable and for the sake of you, and future generations coming into the industry, we have to act.

We’ve got to stop the busy, challenge the 24/7 always available culture, address workloads, workplace difficulties, crap leadership, reduced teams and whatever else. We’ve got to put humanity back into the industry. Collectively, it’s time to heal. We’re so much more productive and effective when our work comes from wholeness and is not driven by brokenness. It’s time to learn that sometimes we need to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.

 

Of course, ‘being’ means slowing down, re-examining, and doing things differently. That can feel like a threat to our workplace but also ourselves. Sometimes the distraction of ‘keeping going’ helps us to avoid the reality of what’s really going on. It takes vulnerable courage to ‘be’. But let’s try. Because in the being, there isn’t just healing, but there is also innovation, creativity and joy – 3 things our industry needs in abundance!

 

So let’s take a pause. If ‘being’ is hard for you, because there’s too much ‘doing’ or because just ‘being’ has become scary, I want to let you know it’s OK. There’s help, support and a way through.

 

Step back. Take a breath. Tell someone. And learn to love yourself, because, hero, you just walked through a war and you won.

Support:

Get help. Don’t wait until the thought of cleaning your teeth gives you a panic attack.

British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. CIPR/PRCA resources for support.

*#commshero is a movement celebrating the everyday brilliance of people like you working in comms.

Jules Loveland (MCIPR)

Communications Manager at Dementia Adventure, certified #CommsHero


A lack of diversity in the PR industry

This week’s guest blog feature is by Ilyana Rajwani, a Public Relations and Communications Management Graduate from Solent University. Ilyana’s blog is such an important read and I hope you find it useful. We still have a long ay to go before there is fair representation in the PR industry but I know with high flying graduates like Ilyana, things are about to change.

However, this topic is not written, discussed or highlighted enough in the communications industry and, as a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) PR professional, I feel responsible to start the conversation on this ongoing issue and want to use this blog to express my passion for this subject.

First of all, here are some statistics to break down this complex issue. According to the CIPR in 2020, 92% of PR professionals in the UK described themselves as White. Similarly, Chitkara states that the ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 87.9% White.

The question on most people’s minds is why is this happening? Although there are endless reasons, to keep it short and sweet I have chosen two dominant reasons from what I have researched.

Racism and racial stereotyping in the workplace

Although this may sound obvious, this reason is paramount and greatly affects BAME PR practitioners in their daily working lives. Racism in the workplace can be formal, informal and subtle. It can be expressed via microaggressions, racial biases, stereotyping and more. For example, a study conducted by the University of Oxford in 2019 revealed that ethnic minority groups must send 60% more applications to receive as many callbacks as the majority group. This could be seen as an example of CV name discrimination and thus racial bias being practised.

Regarding the UK PR industry, a CIPR report published in 2020, highlights that BAME practitioners feel they must work harder than everyone else and that they are left out of certain tasks and prevented from working on prestigious accounts. Also, it is claimed that BAME employees are appointed racialized positions and are only hired for managing diversity within an organisation or for PR roles where communication is needed with minority consumers. Due to this, BAME PR practitioners feel as if they are the “token” ethnic minority professional who is forced to represent an entire racial or ethnic group.

To conclude, these factors may force PR practitioners to quit their jobs or prevent them from applying for a role in communications causing a lack of racial diversity.

Unaware of the benefits of a racially inclusive PR team

Multiple studies have shown that diversity leads to more creative teams and increases a company’s bottom line, with inclusive teams making better business decisions 87% of the time. So why are racially inclusive teams not being utilised in the PR industry?

Research by Ramaswani 2018 states that minority candidates see the world differently and thus can use their diverse backgrounds and experiences to provide unique insights into what drives customer behaviour, purchasing decisions, and brand loyalty among key audiences. This is also known as cognitive diversity which has been recognised as a major benefit for any business. In my opinion, BAME audiences can only be communicated effectively if strategies are used that make sense to them. In other words, strategies proposed by BAME PR practitioners due to the similar experiences they share. Do you agree with my thoughts?

What can you do to promote racial inclusion in your workplace?

If you work in communications and have noticed a lack of racial diversity at your place of work, perhaps suggest The Blueprint initiative to your organisation. This initiative promotes BAME diversity in PR and comms through online content, mentoring schemes and events. Lastly, simply having diversity and inclusion talks and workshops could help drive a conversation and promote action.

I hope you learned something new from reading this blog and please comment down below your thoughts on this matter and ways your organisation promotes racial diversity!

For more information on the lack of racial diversity in PR check out this link:https://newsroom.cipr.co.uk/unequal-opportunities-non-inclusive-cultures-and-racist-experiences-cipr-publishes-new-report-into-lived-experiences-of-bame-practitioners-in-pr/

Feel free to contact me on twitter @ilyanarajwaniPR or drop me a message on LinkedIn if you want to know more about racial diversity in PR and to get this conversation going!

Ilyana Rajwani

Public Relations and Communications Graduate