Soon Mee Kim gamifies kindness for 'We Stand for Love' campaign
For our AAPI Heritage Month Creative Excellence Series, Omnicom PR group's global DEI officer recalls powerful Porter Novelli initiative created in the wake of violence in Charlottesville
Soon Mee Kim
May 13, 2021
For today's installment in our Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Creative Excellence series, we have Soon Mee Kim, Omnicom Public Relations Group EVP and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Also a member of the Omnicom Group and the Omnicom People Engagement Network (OPEN) leadership team, Kim is charged with driving greater DEI across 17 agency brands with more than 6,000 staffers around the world.
Along with her day-to-day duties, Kim champions diversity while serving on various boards, including that of ColorComm and The Lagrant Foundation. In her hometown of Atlanta, she is also a board member of Atlanta Magazine, the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network and the Girl Scouts. She also volunteers with the city’s leadership development organization Leadership Atlanta.
Guest editor Susie Nam, global COO of Droga5, describes Kim as a “tireless DEI leader who embraces the complexity and deep context for each community of color. Most importantly, she shows up for all with perspective and action on behalf of others.”
Kim was shaken by the violence that descended on Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, during the "Unite the Right" rally led by white supremacists. The events of the summer led her to create an important initiative at her agency at the time, Porter Novelli, where she led the company's diversity program.
Once in a while you get a feeling that a project you’re working on might become one of the most important of your career. I remember that feeling quite vividly while creating a campaign called "We Stand for Love" while I was at Porter Novelli, heading up diversity and inclusion.
For anyone who remembers the horror of the Charlottesville white supremacist march and violence in 2017, it was a sad and sobering time to witness hate expressed so overtly and undenounced. Then, one year later, there began to be murmurings that this infamous event would be commemorated with a white supremacist march on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Knowing that messages of hate would bombard us even further, we created "We Stand for Love" as an antidote to hate. Inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” love had to be the answer. To express love, I asked Porter Novelli colleagues to trust me to share their vulnerable stories of overcoming hate with love—and that they did so is one of the greatest honors of my life.
On the 2018 Charlottesville anniversary date, we were ready. The campaign produced e-newsletters throughout August and September featuring the intimately painful, joyful and beautiful stories of more than 40 colleagues. It included a component of competitive kindness, a gamified platform of challenges: learn how to be a better listener; have coffee with someone who is of a different race/ethnicity than you and discuss your similarities and differences; visit your local LGBTQ+ museum and more. Top participants earned a day off to do good or win donations to their favorite nonprofit organizations.
The campaign earned Porter Novelli the best diversity initiative of the year for 2018 and 2019 by PRWEEK and PR Council, and I was recognized as agency diversity professional of the year. However, the true reward was the honoring of shared stories, the cultural transformation of the agency and the empathy developed along the way. Numerous people shared how they were changed, that they were better people as a result. I still remember each precious story. They’ve changed me for the better, too.