Dereca Blackmon, Associate Dean and Director of the Diversity and First Generation Office at Stanford University. These words, often lumped together, mean nothing without an accompanying strategy. So it’s important to ask ourselves: What does it mean to truly stand for diversity, equity and inclusion?
Let’s be clear; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not a trend. A trend implies an eventual fade-out as the public loses interest, and DEI is not going anywhere. Inclusivity is more important than ever among today’s consumers, and embracing this movement authentically can garner a great deal of positive earned media and brand loyalty.
When designing for a particular community or audience, it is essential to have team members who can offer first-person experience to the process. Hiring a diverse team that can bring multiple viewpoints means looking beyond race & gender.
Focusing on these elements of diversity alone overlooks the other layers that inform a person’s life experiences, and thus a large pool of diverse applicants. Other aspects of identity, including age, geography, sexuality, socio-economic status, disabilities, religion, marital status, and parenting status, to name a few, all play an important role in our efforts to become a diverse workforce. It is important to consider the ways in which these identities intersect to create and support a truly diverse team.
Many organizations and marketing agencies create profiles (customer avatars) for their target audience in order to tailor their strategy. These profiles often include or visually represent demographics such as race, age, and gender. While it can be tempting to represent the current landscape of your average consumer, this practice can over generalize and neglect the aspiration toward inclusivity. For instance, if ideally, your product, service, or recruiting strategy should appeal to all regardless of race, then your target personas should represent diverse racial backgrounds, even if at the moment, your engaged audience is predominantly white.
A diverse workforce is not enough. You cannot cultivate an inclusive culture unless voices feel heard. Ask your team to suggest structural and procedural changes that will turn inclusivity into an active practice. Inclusion is about creating an environment that supports diverse teams and makes everyone feel included. Listening to employee input can offer valuable insight into the changes that need to be made in order to open up your space and brand mission to be more inclusive.
With diversity & inclusion goals at the forefront of your brand strategy, it is essential to incorporate inclusive brand messaging across all platforms. Promote storytelling that features more well-rounded characters and tells nuanced stories about under-represented people. This starts with the topics you select to write or post about. Modern consumers expect brands to weigh in on social issues. Brands who take a stand on social and political issues will stand out for enacting positive change.
In order to create truly inclusive content, you must incorporate inclusive design practices. Ask yourself: “Who are we not reaching or serving today?” And then create content that actively appeals to those groups.
This means utilizing:
A color palette that is accessible to a color blind audience
Stock images that reflect racial diversity and differently-abled people
Wording that captures a diversity of gender expression
Open captioning on video content
Alt-text descriptions for all image-centered social posts
Partner with brands and influencers who share your values.
In addition to telling more diverse stories, consider who your brand collaborates with, and whether they share your values. Corporate social responsibility extends beyond your own organization. This applies to influencers, too. Be sure to do your due diligence and research every brand representative you have and what they stand for.
Make your space & events physically accessible.
If people can’t get in the room to experience your brand at a conference, or participate fully once in the room, then your brand isn’t inclusive. This goes for your office space, as well. Ask your team what accommodations they’d like to see around. You might be surprised by the barriers many individuals face to working comfortably and efficiently.
Equity is a Goal
Implement targets and analytics.
If you feel you have made strides towards diversity and inclusion, pull the data to prove it. Without data to prove that an organization or brand is truly diverse and inclusive, diversity initiatives can create a “fairness illusion,” where the negative accounts of marginalized groups will be disregarded even more often. Research at the University of Washington found that participants believed companies who had diversity statements to treat women and minorities fairly, even when contradicting evidence about the actual treatment of these groups was presented. This means that simply implementing diversity programs is not enough. Companies must also examine the outcome of these programs in order to recognize which approaches are successful.
Meet with your team to discuss brand accessibility. Ask the hard questions, like: Who we are not reaching and serving? Schedule at least one hour within the next month to craft an action plan with clear next steps needed toward implementing inclusive branding.
As we all know, goals require hard work. Hopefully some of the strategies above can help us all reach equity even the slightest bit sooner. If this feels like something you need to work on, but you don’t know where to begin, or if you simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on this project, contact us here at Main & Rose. We would be thrilled to help you craft a plan that will transform your organization for the better.