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The Pivot

Helping business and organizations navigate the new normal

The Pivot

As the owner of a boutique marketing agency, I am typically busy trying to help position my clients with media to help get their story out. During the Coronavirus global pandemic, must of my time has been spent helping companies with COVID-19 position statements, keeping track of Stay at Home orders and advising businesses on the best ways for transitioning to online marketing without losing communication with customers and stakeholders.

Once in awhile I step from behind my desk (or in the case of much of the last four months the desk in my home office) to do media interviews. I recently did an interview with a casino entertainment gaming publication about the role of diversity and inclusion in the COVID era. Prior to starting my business 10 years ago, I spent almost 10 years working in corporate communications for two casino gaming companies on the Las Vegas Strip, where much of my work has focused on D&I initiatives. More recently I have been advising one of my sports clients on strategic communications in response to the Black Lives Matter movement that sprang from the George Floyd protests.

The reporters question was straight forward: what was my take on D&I in the gaming industry and Corporate America more broadly?

My response is a little more complicated: I Don’t know, but I hope we don’t take a step backwards.

The gaming industry has made tremendous progress on inclusion in all aspects of its business since company’s like MGM Mirage, Caesar’s Entertainment, Mandalay Resort Group and others launched initiatives in the early 2000s. Efforts to attract, develop and retain a workforce comprised of women and minority employees was helping companies reach more customers. Similarly, purchasing and construction projects were having some success in casting a wide net to identify small business vendors for contracting opportunities

Despite the progress and shift to Corporate Social Responsibility led by the American Gaming Association to positively impact communities across the country where gaming had a presence, the headlines in 2020 coming from the gaming industry are daunting: companies are reporting record losses for the second quarter, as well as announcing plans to furlough employees in response to COVID-19. On the heels of recent trade show cancellations by three major gaming shows, the Computer Electronics Show (CES), which attracts guests from all over the world announced it was moving to a virtual format in January 2021.

Given the predictions that close to 50% of the jobs may not come back to the Strip companies, the new normal may not be recognizable once we have a vaccine, stay at home orders become a thing of the past and the economy fully opens back up.

Aside from COVID-19, another threat is looming: technological automation could become a real threat to what jobs will look like. So, what should gaming companies, and really the rest of Corporate America, be doing to ensure D&I initiatives don’t completely lose momentum?

Embrace the technology. Instead of focusing on trying to replace the jobs lost, many of which are in the service sectors like restaurants and retail, maybe companies can work to retrain or equip former employees with the tech skills necessary to usher in the era of automation. Someone will need to understand the artificial intelligence and coding to help develop and manage all of this new technology, so why not encourage former employees to start a business?

I don’t know if that is the answer, but it’s better to pivot to something than get caught flat footed.

Reggie Burton is founder of RB Group – Public Relations
@reggieburton on Twitter or reggie_burton on Instagram

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