Guidance for communicators to craft authentic, meaningful D&I initiatives

Start by establishing the ‘why?’ of your project. Then, work to get execs on board, and consistently prove the substantive business value of inclusive messaging. 

How to craft genuine diversity programs

Does your company take diversity and inclusion seriously?

If not, it could be in serious jeopardy.

Drawing on lessons shared by Janet M. Stovall at Ragan’s 2019 conference held at Microsoft, let’s review how communicators can create authentic, lasting and substantive diversity and inclusion campaigns.

Diversity in communications: Where do we start?

Stovall recommended a TED Talk by Simon Sinek: “How great leaders inspire action.” The video pushes communicators to consider the importance of asking “why?” before embarking on an initiative.

Why should your company pursue diversity and inclusion? Why would such a program help the business? Why is this worth funding and prioritization?

Sinek explains that most company leaders know “how” to do something—and “what” they do—but very few can articulate the “why.” What’s our higher purpose that underpins everything we do? Why do we exist?

This is crucial to reckon with before launching a D&I initiative.

Presenting the value of diversity to reluctant leadership

Stovall explained that for D&I programs to succeed, executives must be fully invested, educated and on board. That means leaders should be willing to complete D&I training, too.

To convince skeptical execs that diversity and inclusion are well worth the effort—and expense—communicators must demonstrate the impact such an endeavor can have on your employees and your business. You should be prepared to prove the pitfalls of lacking diversity, too, including the ever-present possibility of tone-deaf marketing blunders and hampered productivity. You might also point out that diverse companies produce about 20% more revenue.

Frame D&I as an opportunity for business growth, Stovall recommends, not as a punishment for misdeeds.

Diversity and inclusion are not interchangeable

Stovall advised that “diversity is not inclusion.” Diversity, she said, is numbers. It’s fact-driven, and it’s something you naturally have, which means it takes intention to stop being diverse. Diversity is more innate and aspirational.

Inclusion is choice-based. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you have. Inclusion takes intention to start, and it’s an actionable objective, rather than something innate.

Both, she clarified, are equally important, though it’s important to make that distinction before launching or strategizing your campaign.

Authenticity and diversity: Building successful campaigns

She explained that you can’t force diversity. It’ll always be jarringly apparent when you use a “tick all the ethnicity boxes” approach to marketing. Audiences can sniff out inauthentic messaging a mile away.

It takes time and thoughtful consideration to land the message of diversity in a natural, authentic manner. Stovall noted that at UPS, she strives to include people of color and all gender or sexual identities throughout the creative process to ensure messaging is respectful and inclusive. If the result is anything less than genuine, authentic and inclusive, they go back to the drawing board.

Bonus tip: Always provide a seat at the table

Look around your boardroom or leadership roster. Do all your decision-makers look about the same? How about your strategists, managers and corporate communicators?

Use your power to provide a seat at the table for someone who doesn’t look, sound or think like you.

Ask for feedback, suggestions and opinions from those who represent different cultures, and be willing to listen to new ideas.

Asking for advice or input is not embarrassing. Rather, showing that you value guidance demonstrates strength and confidence—and it shows a commitment to promoting diverse ideas and inclusive messaging.

Victoria Solis is an executive communications strategist with Delightful Communications. A version of this post first ran on the Delightful Communications blog.

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