Practical Ways Marketers Can Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Every Day

March 3, 2021

A woman sitting in a chair at a desk in an office smiling directly in to the camera.

As marketers, we recognize it’s no longer an option for brands to stay silent when it comes to the lack of diversity. Customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders are demanding that brands show up and demonstrate inclusion. While meaningful diversity starts at the top and is a long-term commitment, you can impact diversity today from wherever you sit.

No one is an expert on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI); we are all learning as we go. So make it your goal to learn as much as you can each day. Speaking up on social injustice can be exhausting but it’s also rewarding – and the appetite for these conversations has never been greater. Remember: You won’t eliminate bias but you can transform and build a muscle around confronting and addressing it.

If you’re sensing the urgency to do so but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. During our recent “Evolve Your Impact: Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matter in Marketing” virtual event, leaders from Salesforce, Microsoft and Nationwide shared practical ways you can infuse DEI in your everyday work.

Listen and Learn to Set a Vision 

Customers want to do business with companies that align with their values and consumers see right through an inauthentic brand. Your culture, brand, vision and mission might evolve over time but put a stake in the ground when it comes to your brand’s values. It starts by listening and learning. 

  • Be deliberately curious. MJ DePalma, Head of Inclusive Marketing for Microsoft Advertising, encourages us all to be learn-it-alls vs. know-it-alls. Involve people unlike you as you’re creating and revisiting everything from your mission statements to the end-to-end customer experience. By listening and being the best student possible, you will uncover ideas for ways to tell fair, inclusive stories. Check out the Marketing With Purpose playbook that MJ developed for actionable tactics to create more trusted customer experiences.
  • Define your values. Authenticity is the number-one brand attribute to building trust, so start by defining your values and understanding your customers’ values. By identifying where those intersect, you can connect with authenticity.
  • Get clear on your intent. While it’s proven that diversity breeds innovation, you might need to encourage people within and beyond your organization to join you on the journey. Minea Moore, Ecosystem Diversity & Inclusion Director at Salesforce, recommends making your intent relevant to each audience that you are trying to engage. Whether that is customers, partners, or allies, get clear on your intent.
  • Find and connect with new audiences. MJ underscores the need to be data driven. Do your homework and look at the data to surface opportunities for connecting with audiences that you may be accidentally excluding. The Marketing With Purpose playbook includes an outline for developing an inclusive keyword strategy that can underpin your campaigns.
  • Take a position. Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer Ramon Jones acknowledges that it’s a delicate act to wade your way into emotional conversations about social injustice but it’s a must. Everyone from consumers to would-be employees are watching to see whether your company is showing up in the right way and authentically.

Establish a Plan

Don't underestimate your power in changing or influencing your company’s DEI initiatives. No matter what your title, your influence can come from the partners you choose to work with, the content you create, how you tell a story, and the message you put out in the world. If you need to make a case for infusing your marketing with DEI, here are practical ways to go about it.

  • Do your homework. Ramon warns not to simply send an impassioned email to your CEO or CMO. Instead, do primary and secondary market research to make a case for being deliberate about how you are actively advertising and marketing with DEI in mind.
  • Highlight the risks and opportunities. Since no company is perfect when it comes to DEI, identify inconsistencies between your brand’s aspirations and its current state. Minea advises highlighting these inconsistencies with revenue in mind. Ignore these inconsistencies and your brand risks being left out of the story and losing to the competition. Address them and your brand builds trust – which is the number-one indicator of future revenue growth.
  • Partner to make aspirations a reality. Many companies do a phenomenal job talking about the value of diversity and inclusion and the vision of equality for all. But to make this aspirational goal a reality, Minea suggests you partner with others in your organization to create stories around the actions they’re taking and your company’s DEI journey.
  • Seek diverse agencies. When soliciting bids from or renewing contracts with agencies, make DEI part of the criteria. Solicit pitches and bids from businesses owned by minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals, veterans, and persons with disabilities. Ask how the agency is driving diversity and inclusion, and hold them accountable. As Ramon says, you must be committed to making sure that the melting pot we call America is represented at the table.

Go to Market With Authenticity

One of the most basic ways to address DEI – and to connect with your market – is by ensuring your marketing represents the diversity of people in our world. But paying lip service to DEI through woke washing and tokenism is no longer tolerated. It’s meaningless – and worse, harmful – to simply slap a Black History or Pride Month banner on your website or use pictures in your marketing showing diversity without a true commitment to DEI. Here’s how to avoid that faux pas.

  • Include diverse voices at the table. To ensure your brand, content, messages, and thought leadership appeal to different elements and segments of the market, MJ suggests involving people that you're trying to serve in the development process. In what she refers to as “nothing about us without us,” seek to include different perspectives on your teams or in customer focus groups so you can strike the right tone in your message.
  • Showcase the value. Get multi-dimensional in the stories you tell by going beyond the diversity of the person you’re showcasing to tell about their talent, experience or whatever lies at the heart of the story. For instance, what is the value, impact, and purpose behind the Black person you are showing in the photo in your advertisement?
  • Drive actions with your marketing. While it’s important to say the right things in an authentic way, those words must be rooted in some type of action as far as Minea is concerned. Create content and elevate your stories to change hearts and minds, moving your audience to make decisions and supporting your brand’s reputation.
  • Stay honest and humble. Remember that you are on a mission to change hearts and minds as a marketer, so start by recognizing that nobody is perfect – including your brand. As you share stories and messages about your company’s DEI aspirations and journey, be clear on where you want to go and where you are today.

As Ramon emphasizes, a true commitment to diversity is a marathon not a sprint but every step matters and you can start today with the ideas shared here. With that in mind, remember to continue the conversation and move it forward wherever you are, both on LinkedIn and other channels. Meantime, watch the recording of “Evolve Your Impact: Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matter in Marketing” to get inspired by the full conversation with Minea, MJ and Ramon.

And please join us for our “Transform Her” event on March 19. In line with this year’s theme We Rise Together, this virtual event is dedicated to ensuring that women of color and active allies are empowered with resources and connections to thrive.

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