Call it Out: Taking shared responsibility for representation in the industry

Our next guest is synonymous with internal communications and if you’re a regular on Twitter, you’ll have seen his insightful tweets and community chat. Dan Holden is a CIPR Chartered PR practitioner and the founder of Horizon Comms. Having experienced in his career the challenges of looking after his own wellbeing, Dan developed Horizon Comms to be a resource that supports communicators with their continued professional development and wellbeing. An in-house internal communications practitioner, he is the 2022 Chair of the CIPR subgroup, CIPR Inside. In addition to his communications work, Dan is also a wellbeing facilitator with Fresh Air Fridays.

In this episode, Dan talks about how when it comes to conferences and events, we still have a gap in representation even though the comms community is full of diverse voices. Having posted on LinkedIn after declining an event invitation due to a lack of representation on the speaker panel, it was clear from the supporting comments there is a need for us to be challenging event organisers to change. Where does this change start and what role can we play as individuals and organisations?

Dan Holden

Key topics

Dan was recently invited to an IC event, where he quickly realised there was a lack of diversity. He says: “I looked and it really stood out that all the speakers were white male with the exception of one female and it didn’t sit right.

“This is a global event offering, a non-UK company running it so I sent them a message in case there were more speakers to be announced. I got a very short message back saying it’s really hard to get speakers from different backgrounds. I’ve been in the profession now nine years and that is definitely not the case.

“I don’t think that’s acceptable.

“I went back to try and help and shared Advita Patel’s list of underrepresented speakers saying here’s a list of 80 people that have volunteered and are offering their time to help in terms of competence. I just got very short responses back.

“They were almost going, thanks, but I haven’t got the time to look or there’s no key word for this particular subject.”

Having seen others call out such behaviour publicly, Dan decided to use his privilege as a white male to do something about it. He says: “I need to help be part of that change, rather than just supporting those that are calling it out, so I made a short post saying I received this invitation, and I declined it because of lack of representation.

“In 2022 this shouldn’t be the case and especially in our profession it definitely shouldn’t be the case anymore.”

Dan was pleased to see in the comments so many displays of allyship, but that quickly turned to dismay that this lack of representation keeps happening. Still, he thinks approaching organisers should be the first step as some protected characteristics aren’t displayed in headshots.

He suggests looking at the organiser’s past events: “I appreciate not every event you’re going to be able to cover every aspect of society.”

Doing an appeal for speakers and being open to suggestions are two of the ways organisers can ensure representation, with Asif citing a #CommsHero example where someone got in touch after noticing a gap in speakers with disabilities.

Dan acknowledges that he hasn’t always been aware of the issue in the past: “I was mortified that it took someone else to point out to me a couple of years ago; I could have helped sort that if I’d thought about that myself.

“I’m hopefully now more conscious, being part of things like CIPR Inside where we’ve got a global committee now.

“It’s great because we’ve got people that can help; no one person is going to have the solution, but we are a powerful network that you know someone will know someone. And that’s the key.

“It’s not hard. It shouldn’t be hard for someone to put a post out around whatever the subject may be saying: we are keen to get speakers that are representative of the society that we live in.”

Dan thinks it’s all about providing support to each other. He says: “If we take representation as an example of the steps that an individual can take, maybe for some people the small step of before booking that ticket, looking and making a conscious decision at that point. It doesn’t need to be a public call out, but could be the feedback that the content is really great, however unfortunately for me it doesn’t feel right for me to attend because I don’t feel your panel’s lining up as representative.

“I think that we’ll start to get organisers thinking this isn’t just one person calling it out, we’re seeing more and more people.

“I’ve had one or two people approach me to speak, and as much as I would like to, there’s other voices in our profession that aren’t heard as often, but can add equal value, or even more value in some aspects.

“A pretty simple Google search will find people, but also if you’re in the world of event planning then you have to keep abreast of who’s on the speaker circuit.

“There’s so much content available from people posting on Twitter or LinkedIn so there’s certainly the channels available to be able to give that advice or find the information about people. Refer organisations on to other speakers that may not have been first considered or aren’t there in the limelight etc.”

As a long time supporter of #CommsHero, Dan loves the sense of community. He says: “you’re not on your own no matter what.

“If I need a bit of help and guidance, #CommsHero is there and I think that’s the beauty of the network.”

The show notes are the creation of friend of #CommsHero Teela Clayton.


Advita Patel’s underrepresented speaker list

Vist Dan’s website here: Horizon Comms

Fancy getting in the hot seat and sharing your CommsHero wisdom? Contact Asif Choudry

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This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.