by Suzette Cotto – Chair, PR Committee
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is an NFBPWC initiative. As a women's organization, we rally for equal rights and inclusivity. Business owners and managers have many considerations when it comes to inclusivity. As humans, we want to feel included. We want to know that our individuality is recognized. This is why our featured blog this month focuses on the business side of a DEI initiative in any organization. There are real, measurable returns for business owners.
DEI Marketing: the Big Return
DEI Marketing is shifting both consumers’ preferences and workplace dynamics. Businesses are focusing on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive (DEI) culture. Are brands just hopping on this as a trend or genuinely want to imbibe in a strong company value that resonates with them? You may be surprised to know that there is a measurable return on investment for companies embracing DEI Marketing.
Statistically, companies embracing diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business have a competitive edge and perform better than their peers. (#truth)
Cases in Point
In 2018, Google came out with an ad titled, ‘The Picture-Perfect Life’ featuring real individual photographs using their Pixel phones. Towards the end of the ad, these individuals call up the suicide prevention line, and the narrator asks the viewer to “question your lens.” It was the brand’s innovative way to spread mental health awareness and used its phone without pushing sales upfront. (Kuligowski 2020)
Another example is a 2018 Proctor and Gamble Emmy-winning ad called “The Talk.” The brutally honest commercial — which corresponded with P&G’s “Black is Beautiful” and “Proud Sponsor of Moms” initiatives — depicts a historical view of African American mothers as they have difficult conversations with their children about racism.
Our world is transforming in front of our eyes, and these narratives are a clear depiction of change. More so, trending visuals, vocabulary and technology are still evolving, and brands need to keep pace with DEI marketing. One way to stay updated is to follow the ‘real conversations’ that are shaping our future.
Today, a lot of them are happening on social media. Head to social media channels like LinkedIn, and Twitter and search the hashtags #Diversity, #Equity, and #Inclusion (#DEI), now buzzwords across every industry. Brands have created impactful posts and campaigns to talk about social issues like Women’s History Month, Nurses’ Month, Black History Month, Gender Inequality, Pride Month, Asian Pride and so much more.
DEI Importance in Marketing
Big brands, small companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs realize the power of an inclusive brand strategy. Consumer bases are no longer homogenous. When businesses actively promote these values – it reflects their commitment to both the brand and their people – shaping how people think, see themselves, and view the world. It’s the new currency of influence.
In my journey as digital marketing and communications professional, I have learned incorporating DEI in the marketing strategy of an existing business is a challenge. I don’t get buy-in from many of the people who navigate the entity. It means undoing redundant practices of the past and introducing ideas that are out of their comfort zone. Get used to being uncomfortable. I’ve had to throw down a few times, like with planned events that included only male speakers. WTH. I’m a way maker so if you work with me, you’re going to hear about it.
Call it a blessing in disguise that the uncertainties of 2020 paved the way for disruptive thinking and even creating opportunities for a fresh start. The urgency has never been more real. Take the new pandemic buzzword – “Shecession” (Forbes 2021). It’s what happened to women’s wallets and ambition when the world took a tectonic pandemic shift. The BLM movement also gave us time for serious pause. We are all tasked now with being activists for change, defenders of equity, and educators of our children.
Starting on the Right Foot
Lucky for start-up owners, they have the advantage of building a diverse and inclusive business right at the beginning of their journey. Without the right approach, you can drive away your big, diverse audience. Get it right the first time.
Let me simplify it. What do people see (or not see) when they land on your brand? Do they see themselves? Besides a strong product or service portfolio, your company’s culture, value, and mission statements to grab the audience’s attention, the call to action must be diverse. Consumers are demanding equity, and growth can only happen through inclusion.
The bigger question is, do you want to create a noticeable change in your marketing efforts? Is it aligning with the new societal shift? Your marketing efforts influence and direct people’s perspectives and reinforce stereotypes, which can be beneficial or it can be dangerous – an impact no brand should take lightly.
Align with DEI Marketing
Establishing trust with your workforce, your in-house ambassadors, is paramount. Interact with your diverse communities. Create the ability for employees to have a voice. Make them know that they matter because of their differences. Make sure your voice is authentic or your culture shift will not get traction. Internal communication aligned with DEI education will resonate by cognitive transference to your customers. Embracing the differences in culture, race, physical abilities, language, age, religion, appearance, sexuality, gender – and more – and acknowledging it, is a bottom-line game-changer. The kaleidoscope of humanity we have been gifted with creates unprecedented opportunity.
To get it really right, marketers need to collaborate with human resources for both workforce and customer outreach. DEI often starts with an HR professional or team. Our offices are no longer cubicles of indifference. Virtual technology has removed many in-office barriers. Leadership needs education and HR needs to hold the line with accountability. Individuals should feel free to speak about anything that negatively impacts their work-life. What is your company protocol for encouraging productive internal DEI communication?
First, use marketing tools and materials in different languages, graphics, and images to depict diversification and build partnerships. Then, be visible, present and approachable to address concerns from any of your employees or customers.
Second, educate yourself and others. Find a DEI Certification Course and have one or more influencers on your leadership team learn the value of corporate DEI is and how it affects your ROI. It’s not just a return on an investment, it’s a return of influence. Something we all want, but escapes many. Imagine what a powerful inclusive voice can do for your company.
Third, write it down. Impart what you learn into your employee communications and HR new hire onboarding. Let people know from the get-go that you are serious about this and why. The “why” can be so powerful. Open a dialogue and encourage employees to give a narrative on their work experiences and what they would do to create equity.
These are just the first few steps; there is so much more we can do.
Written by NFBPWC's Public Relations Chair, Suzette Cotto
This article was originally posted on the Innovate Social Media blog area in June 2021. Suzette is the President of Innovate Social Media -- which has teamed up with Diversity Crew Institute to help put fundamental knowledge and experience behind a brand’s desire to widen their inclusive reach. Brands are encouraged to work with this or other organizations that offer DEI Certification. It can elevate Corporate Leadership, CEOs, Marketing Professionals, Non-Profits, NGOs, and Global Enterprise to bring positive change with employees, stakeholders, supporters, and members. To find out more about Suzette, connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kuligowski, Kiely. “How to Implement a Diversity Marketing Strategy.” Business.com, 17 July 2020, www.business.com/articles/inclusivity-good-business/.
Bump, Pamela. “7 Brands That Got Inclusive Marketing Right.” HubSpot Blog, 16 Apr. 2021, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/inclusive-marketing-campaigns.
Warrell, Dr Margie. “Women Are Quitting: How We Can Curb The ‘She-Cession’ And Support Working Women.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 Jan. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2021/01/06/does-a-she-cession-loom-how-to-better-support-women-through-this-pandemic/?sh=1d032d953ece.