Recently, a wave of allegations surrounding abuse targeted towards women has hit the gaming industry, affecting everyone from Twitch streamers to YouTube stars and top executives at some of the world’s most highly-acclaimed publishers.
For an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated, this is a huge wake-up call that some may consider long overdue.
As Megan Farokhmanesh of The Verge puts it, “accountability must be a commitment from the community, but especially men who want to claim allyship.” She states that for companies in gaming to root out abuse towards women, every person and department must actively fight against the problem.
So, what should public relations professionals do?
Firstly, work with your c-suite team to develop a plan of action. As the liaison between your company and its various publics (including but not limited to, employees, customers, games media, and external agencies), you must ensure that you bring the concerns of all invested publics to the table when developing said plan of action.
For this problem, you have to ensure that any course of action is shared with employees first, specifically women in the company, and then tweaked based on their feedback.
After you develop a plan of action with specific desired outcomes and measurable objectives, communicate this plan with your employees. It is crucial at this step to communicate with empathy, transparency, and understanding in mind. You need to get every employee to buy-in, or it simply won’t work. Perhaps develop a written agreement, work with your human resources department to develop an updated code of conduct, or even develop communication channels for affected employees to submit anonymous tips straight to company leadership.
Once all employees are on the same page, then it is time to communicate with external audiences. It is crucial here that your message is authentic and impactful, as lackluster blanket statements will reflect an indifference to the issue. Detail specific steps and include measurable benchmarks. Create an engaging piece of content, such as a video address from the CEO, so that external audiences can see personal commitment from a top executive. While a press release can work as an additional supporting piece, too many times companies have released a quick statement that leads to inaction and loss of credibility with external publics.
After informing employees, developing a plan of action, and communicating to external publics, public relations professionals need to see the plan of action through (along with the rest of the company). From a communications standpoint, this means creating regular check-ins to measure the progress of goals and even pulling some co-workers aside to have candid conversations about progress. Share these insights with your leadership team, and if not enough progress is being made, speak up and push for change.
The most important aspect to consider is authenticity. As a public relations professional working in games (or any other industry), communicate with care because you care. Audiences, especially Gen Z audiences, will see straight through a company that lacks authenticity. Every member of the workplace must act to reverse a cycle of abuse, but public relations professionals can play a key role in facilitating the process.
Zach Ferenchak, 2020–2021 vice president of brand engagement, is a senior at Capital University, a private university in Columbus, Ohio. He is majoring in emerging media with an emphasis in public relations and minors in journalism and marketing. In his free time, Ferenchak can be found obsessing over the latest gadget or video game, exploring a coffee shop with friends, or going on a trail run. He hopes to elevate the voices of all PRSSA members through the organization’s various brand platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.