Mediaplanet spoke with Ben Borne, the first Indigenous certified Communication Management Professional and co-founder of SymmetryPR, about the power of representation and storytelling.
As the co-founder of a communications consultancy, what would you say is the importance of storytelling?
Storytelling has the power to create more inclusive, generous, and responsible communities. Well-crafted, authentic stories can be transformative — they create new understandings, compel people to change behaviours, and drive cultural movements. Look at the powerful stories of residential school survivors — these personal stories have influenced and changed how many people begin to learn the truth of systemic racism in Canada.
I think often, if unintentionally, stories told about Indigenous peoples in the media can tend to take on one individual’s perspective as representative of very diverse Nations, which can pose a barrier to authentic Indigenous representation.
Where do you think the gaps are in the representation of Indigenous peoples and their stories in media, and how can communications professionals and media companies begin to close this gap?
I think often, if unintentionally, stories told about Indigenous peoples in the media can tend to take on one individual’s perspective as representative of very diverse Nations, which can pose a barrier to authentic Indigenous representation. To start closing this gap, we need to think about who is telling these stories, and start promoting Indigenous storytellers so they can author the stories that have the power to shape and influence our culture. I would also challenge non-Indigenous journalists and communicators to continue to do the work to become more aware of the lens through which they write these stories, and to broaden their perspective.
What’s something that the audience should consider when learning about Indigenous history and culture that is often overlooked?
Learning about Indigenous history and culture is the first step, and recognizing that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples have very different experiences and worldviews. However, it’s important to remember that reconciliation is a lifelong and very personal journey that is paired with reconcili-action. That action is up to you but should be a direct reflection of your personal response to what you know and feel about the truth of Indigenous history in Canada.
Do you have any advice to inspire and encourage future Indigenous communicators?
If you’re interested in the communications profession, connect with other communicators. Find a professional association. Find other Indigenous communicators. But most importantly, learn your story and get ready to tell it. You have a lot to offer, and many organizations across Canada are ready to embrace your voice.