There couldn’t be anything more unsettling for communicators than pinning fundamental human rights down into hot-button pull-quotes, sound-bites and trending tweets. While an important international conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has emerged — with a new generation of business leaders leaning in to change the way business has always worked — the concept of DEI is not new, especially for outsiders who have been living its anthesis for entire lives, entire bloodlines.
And yet, communicators are now embarking upon the task of moving the DEI conversation from inside their organizations to outside their walls. However, we must walk a delicate line of communicating an important message while not overindulging our attention-seeking tendencies.
A wide, varying scale of enthusiasm exists when it comes to how business leaders feel about relaying their DEI efforts to the general public. Many will want to shout every last effort from the rooftops. Donate a dollar, send a press release. Others will want to stay quiet, unsure about how to discuss their efforts. This is where the humble-inclined PRSA Oregon members can shine by following these guideposts when attempting to unsilence a company’s DEI efforts.
#1: Pause and reflect when uncertain.
Those who are veering towards quiet involvement are right to listen to their instincts. If this is you, first know that you are already on the right path. Being careful and uncertain is a sign that you are honoring the sacred movement and moment happening around us. However, remember that major change has never occurred with silence.
#2: Promote the cause not the company.
If we set out to honor the movement, or a charity that affects change (such as Black Lives Matter), our headspace will be right. Then, we are in much less danger of appearing overly eager, braggadocious, or exploitative. While your organization may not be in the DEI industry, remember that all organizations and humans are innately connected with and responsible for DEI. Therefore, it is our duty to promote the cause over the company.
#3: Stop thinking and get started.
It’s okay if your organization is new to DEI. The first step is acknowledging the need to implement DEI measures while getting informed and planning future steps. Embark on some meaningful actions now so that later you will have something to say. Examples of actions include:
- Inventorying your organization’s current diversity, or lack thereof.
- Set goals and future benchmarks against your current inventory.
- Seek external help from an experienced DEI firm. This will ensure your goals are realistic and provide advice for how to get there.
- Continuously record all actions taken, such as forming committees, inventorying, hiring external firms, etc.
- Report all current and future DEI steps (actions taken, above) to internal stakeholders to provide communication and accountability.
#4: Adhere to a schedule
While this is a post about turning your DEI communications from private to public, your first, most important audience lives inside your organization. Warm up by communicating with this group about your DEI progress consistently and frequently.
Putting your internal DEI communications on a strict schedule is an ideal way to practice accountability. First decide when you will talk about DEI, from actual working meetings to holding consistent space for reporting on DEI efforts during staff meetings. Next move towards place-holding portions of your internal communications for DEI updates on a schedule, whether that be weekly, monthly or quarterly.
#5: Take some internal communications external
And finally, as you make progress internally, portions of these communications can move outside your organization, first starting with blog posts. If your company consistently has run-of-the-mill announcements — such as winning awards, landing key partnerships, or opening new offices — summarize these announcements into website posts. Consistently begin adding your company’s DEI updates to these posts. While it may sound big to post about your DEI efforts on a web page, this is a very small way to start holding your company accountable to the cause and get comfortable discussing these efforts in a public venue.
As you continue the powerful work of DEI, your innate instincts as practiced communications professionals will nudge portions of your blog posts or internal DEI announcements towards broader arenas, whether that be social media posts that are boosted through advertising or press releases that are actively pitched.
The key to it all is adhering to a strict schedule for when your company will address DEI — meaning actually work on it rather than simply talk about it — and also for when you will communicate about your efforts. Staying accountable to DEI efforts is possibly the highest way change can be affected, not only internally, but also externally as the movement itself is concerned. By viewing all DEI communications as an accountability tool, communicators will stay well-balanced by promoting the cause, not the company, consequentially making a much larger impact overall.