D&I: Moving Beyond Talk to Action

Torod B. Neptune, Worldwide Group Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at Lenovo Group, LTD.
“Torod Neptune has been one of the industry’s most effective change agents, from championing the business impact of communications to restructuring for the modern era of communications to calling on agencies to increase diversity in order to secure Lenovo’s business.” – The Holmes Report

By Annie Durkin

After having the opportunity to ask Torod a few questions and spend some time speaking with him, I would have to agree that his perspectives are powerful.

His depth of experience comes from spending half of his career on the agency side with notable names like Weber Shandwick and Waggener Edstrom and the other half in house having senior level corporate communications roles with big names such as Bank of America, Verizon and today –  Lenovo, the world’s largest PC, smart devices, mobile (Motorola),  and tablet manufacturer.

Torod has been championing D&I since the very beginning of his career, particularly in his role at Lenovo when he held agency partners accountable on diversity. Within the RFI, he called for gender and ethnicity staff statistics to ensure his partner was composed of a variety of voices.

Though some of his leadership roles may have been comprised of different tasks than the next, you will see yourself come across the same word over and over again when reading his experience, worldwide. While he is not only one of the industry’s most effective change agents in diversity and inclusion across the nation, he strives to bring his insights and perspectives overseas and storytelling has been at the core of it all.

He has not only counseled global brands and C-suite leaders in brand positioning, issues management, reputation and more around the world—he’s currently leading teams across Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and the Americas (Canada, Latin America, USA). Torod is a worldwide leader and he finds this to be a constant reminder that there is no one culture.

“It’s a helpful reminder that there are so many different cultures and perspectives and, even though I might have been exposed to one in particular my entire life, which was American and English, it’s only one.”

In addition of being a voice for D&I in the professional setting, he is also on the board of visitors at USC Annenberg School of Communications Center for Public Relations and serves on the board of advisers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism. “The chance to both influence and learn from academics who are equipping the next generation of practitioners was too appealing to pass up.”

Torod does not so much see the people being the problem with the state of diversity and inclusion in our industry, rather he sees the main challenge being the systems we have built.

“There are two ways to go about solving these problems: You can try and market your way out of them with talking points. Or you can do the hard work of fixing the problems that exists that has created the issues you’re trying to address.” A major component in being a leader in D&I has a lot to do with being a leader committed to dealing with the system.

“We have a system in our industry that has been created and built up over years and years and years that is quite frankly harder to substantively change than it is to talk about changing.”

So how do we move beyond talking about changing the system and begin demonstrating change to the system?

Take what you’ve learned in your academic setting to your professional setting.

“It’s generally easier when you’re in an academic setting to be amongst a much more diverse group of people, whether that’s perspective, ethnicity, gender, culture, you name it. We lose some of that as we evolve in our professional roles and in society. We surround ourselves with people and in communities that look like us, think like us, and talk and reason like us. Making a conscious decision to resist this temptation, to be intellectually curious, to be interested in different perspectives, people, and experiences, and fighting to maintain a social and intellectual community that is not monolithic are all good starting points.”

Leverage the power of diverse perspectives and cultures.

“If I have been shown the value and results that a diverse team of people in an organization can bring and those results supersede the results a non-diverse team has been able to bring to the table, I am failing as a business leader if I don’t become an advocate for increasing the size and shape of the diverse team within my organization to drive business.”

Appreciate the impact that comes from diverse perspectives.

“It all boils down to appreciation of the value of diverse perspectives. It’s not just impactful because you can have an interesting dinner conversation with a diverse group of people, but you understand the value that diverse perspectives bring to a discussion, a challenge or a creative assignment.”

Annie Durkin sits on the Financial Communications team at Edelman. In the evenings, Annie is pursuing her master’s in public relations and advertising from DePaul University after receiving her bachelor’s from Columbia College Chicago in television, production and directing.


2 thoughts on “D&I: Moving Beyond Talk to Action

  1. Hello, my name is Madison Abanathie and I’m in Dr. Gonders PR Principles course at Southeast Missouri State University. I completely agree with what is discussed in the article, but I was wondering if you had any advice on how to start this kind of conversation, for when you’re new to a field or workplace? It can be intimidating just starting out and trying to have this conversation with coworkers or superiors, so any kind of advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. In early stages of your career, you sometimes aren’t in a position to suggest engaging others in discussions or who to hire to ensure diverse thinking. If others aren’t embracing D&I, you can ask questions that help peers or supervisors realize the need to do so. That often can stem from defining the potential customers or clients and how to best reach them.

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