This article originally appeared in Adweek.
For a long time, messaging regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was by the calendar, rather than by the book. These organized observations are (and will remain) important, but merely drafting along behind them is no longer enough.
DEI needs to be woven into the fabric of your communications every day. The question, then, is how to make that happen?
It requires returning to the language of your core business strategy and reading again … very, very closely.
Reflecting on brand purpose statements
Start with your purpose. This may not seem like a particularly generative origin, but often there are rich implications hidden in plain sight. What does your company exist to do?
The first step is recognizing that purpose statements are almost universally welcoming, and directly imply diversity and inclusion. That’s a place to start creating more inclusive messages.
JP Morgan’s mission—“to be the best financial services company in the world”—implies providing valuable, dependable financial services to all clients, regardless of who they are. It also implies that JP Morgan will hire and continue to employ whoever is “the best” to realize delivery of that value, regardless of who they are. This is not to say that the implications of your purpose statement relieve you of any further work to realize your DEI goals—in fact, quite the opposite.
A close reading of fundamental strategy and outlining of the logical implications paves the way for more intensive communications and actions. Simply asking questions about achieving your purpose can get this ball rolling. Mining your strategy for a relevant, well-justified position on DEI is a powerful way to align business-wide intentions and actions.
We can already see companies doing fantastic work with this premise. Netflix’s purpose, “to entertain the world,” is about as inclusive as it gets from an audience perspective. But they’re going further and seeking to increase diversity amongst the people creating the entertainment. With $100M committed over the next five years, Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity will help underrepresented community members find jobs in television and film.
CVS Health also exemplifies their purpose: “bringing our heart to every moment of your health.” The health giant has discontinued tobacco sales and committed to acting as a “force for good” in the nearly 10,000 communities in which they operate. These efforts are bankrolled by a $600M racial justice fund and accompanied by internal and external efforts “to address inequality faced by Black people and other disenfranchised communities.”
There’s a theme in these examples: addressing DEI must transcend messaging. That’s why it’s so crucial to build from your foundational business strategy to make the case for an activist approach to incorporating DEI into everything, not just a few yearly themed campaigns.
Looking ahead to 2022
Here are a few steps you can take to begin revamping your DEI strategy:
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just topics among many to address, or ancillary parts of abstract strategy. They’re inseparable from what your business is all about.
As Omnicom chief equity and impact officer Emily Graham stated, “Lean in to what DEI really, fully means—it is not a threat to anyone. In fact, playing it safe has become actively dangerous. DEI isn’t a problem to solve; it’s an opportunity to realize … this is for everyone, everywhere and it’s not a side hustle or a distraction. Doing this well will not take away from the business—it is the business. It will not cost money; it will make money.”
Derrick Mead is Director, Brand Communication