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3 Things to Consider When Telling Your DEI Story

Marie Matta  Follow

If there is one thing that has been on nearly every leadership team’s agenda recently, it’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Being in the communications field for nearly seven years now, I have seen firsthand just how much DEI has become a priority for companies – from the establishment of initiatives like equalized parental leave and expanded employee resource groups, to redefined recruiting efforts and listening sessions, to supporting employees that are feeling the effects of racism and the global pandemic. People want to work for companies that prioritize DEI, and companies know the impact that diverse perspectives and backgrounds can have on the bottom line.

Over the past two years, companies have taken on a greater responsibility to their stakeholders to bring DEI to the forefront. But the extent to which DEI is incorporated into company strategies varies greatly. For those who are considering DEI communications for the first time, or perhaps need a reminder on the elements that matter most, here are a few key ingredients that I’ve learned are necessary in working with companies of all sizes to tell these stories both authentically and purposefully.  

A Leadership Team that is On Board

If you’re telling your DEI story purely to say that you have one, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And it’ll be obvious. The key to communicating a DEI story effectively is authenticity, and with purpose that comes from the top of an organization. CEOs and company leaders need to be fully “bought in” to the impact of DEI across an organization. But it’s not just about making sure leaders believe in the value of DEI; it’s also ensuring that they are taking the steps needed to educate and engage their people continuously on its value and ways to build more inclusive workplaces. The messages shared by a company must align with its values and beliefs to really be authentic. 

The Proof is in the Data

It’s important that all communications efforts be backed up by intention. Current and prospective employees, customers, investors and reporters alike will be looking behind the curtain. When it comes to DEI, you don’t need to have the “best” story, but you do need to have one that is real to your firm and where it stands on its journey. Put together the data to help inform what the company does well and where there is room to improve. From there, build a DEI plan and roadmap that takes these factors into consideration. When telling your story internally and externally, think about the metrics, initiatives and programs that speak to this journey holistically that can serve as proof points.

What Sets You Apart

When it comes to DEI communications, the landscape is crowded. Reporters are taking a critical eye to companies that tout their great successes with little substance behind them, and employees, customers and investors are demanding action now more than ever before. Once your leadership team is on board and the proof points have been collected, now is the time think about the unique points of view your firm can bring to the conversation. These don’t need to be grandiose, but they do need to be authentic. What has worked especially well at your firm that you can speak to? What do your employees care about the most? How do the stories you tell map back to your overarching goals? And lastly – who should tell these stories? The best way to figure out the answers to these questions is to listen, reflect and then, proceed accordingly.

Now what?

I like to think this is only the beginning for DEI communications. We as communicators have a unique opportunity to take what is happening on a global, national and local level and distill its meaning for so many different audiences. DEI related issues will continue to be brought to the forefront as company leaders assess their roles in making real change to level the playing field for people across all genders, ethnicities, beliefs, race, orientations and abilities.

There will never be one right way to “correctly” tell a DEI story, but the risks of sitting on the sidelines far outweigh those of leaning in. We are looking to our managers, team leads, CEOs and favorite brands to relate to us and teach us at the same time. An effective DEI communications strategy will constantly be re-evaluated to ensure these tactics and messages resonate with the experiences, preferences and needs of those it is meant to reach.

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