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If the events since the COVID pandemic have taught us anything, it's that businesses must stop playing lip service to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It's no longer enough to sound authentic on social media without following through.

Promises demand the muscle to change business practices.

Change won't happen by wishing. Businesses need actionable plans to make headway.

Here are some solid ideas for how we as marketers can help drive DEI-related change.

The Case for Embracing DEI

Let's be frank: One of the major obstacles to elevating DEI is the lack of will to change. At times, people not from underrepresented groups can struggle to fully internalize the urgency to change. That is why education and communication are key, and marketers can—and should—absolutely drive the conversation.

Data is invaluable when making business decisions, so use data to support the benefits of embracing DEI. There is ample evidence DEI makes for good business, so let the numbers help you tell the story:

Beyond metrics, there is a more important aspect to consider: the moral one. Being an equitable employer that treats diverse employees and customers fairly is the right thing to do.

It's also what employees want.

Mobilizing Employees

Your best allies in the cause for DEI are employees. That's because DEI is inextricably linked to company culture—which with employees.

Forming a DEI committee can be an invaluable tool for understanding DEI priorities. The voices of many communities aren't always heard, so taking cues from your people is a fantastic way to ensure your marketing messages come from an authentic foundation, helping you to prioritize goals. Empty commitments get sniffed out right away; to build a path for change, enter your DEI efforts with an open mind, a humble heart, and a collaborative spirit.

Because DEI is all about inclusiveness, you'll need allies when driving DEI practices as a marketer. Many marketing teams are inextricably linked with the "people team" (Human Resources)—and for good reason. Those who manage the people function and those who manage the communication streams are natural partners. The benefits of that close relationship far outweigh any administrative delays from getting feedback early and often.

Together, you can formulate sound plans; and, more important, you can put them into action.

Employees and corporate boards alike expect genuine results. Approach all your DEI efforts with an acknowledgment of that mindset.

Determining DEI Priorities

Because change takes time, continual education, and communication, it's essential to vet company priorities with company leadership to sustain the long haul. It's the only way to ensure executives understand employee sentiment and marketplace expectations for corporate messaging around DEI.

If your leadership team is either not diverse or not supportive of DEI measures, that vetting process can be a challenge. Arm yourself for the conversation with a robust combination of employee surveys, marketplace assessments, and DEI best-practices to show how your company compares.

Make it impossible for leadership to ignore the mountain of data pushing DEI to the forefront.

Planning for Success

True organizational change is not confined to Marketing, but marketers have a dramatic role to play in ensuring DEI programs are successful.

Here are some ways marketers can take the lead.

1. Build momentum

True change takes organic enthusiasm, not imposition from above. Marketers have the tools and communication skills to amplify messages about the importance of including and supporting underrepresented communities in and out of the workplace.

2. Humanize the effort

People relate to stories, so use your storytelling skills to highlight diverse voices from the company to both share their journeys and highlight their accomplishments.

3. Highlight good works

Too often, only participants know about news related corporate social responsibility programs. Fix that by ensuring the entire company and the larger community know about your donations, scholarships, and community volunteer efforts. Include how the work reinforces your values, so it's clear how the CSR commitment is grounded in a larger mission or strategy.

If your company has programs requesting employee nominations for donations or volunteer efforts, be sure all employees know what's going on and how they can get involved.

4. Communicate goals

Incorporating your giving programs under a larger mantle with vision and strategy makes it easier to later show how you've achieved your goals. Some programs are named and have their own visual branding, so employees and others can quickly identify messages and put them into a larger context.

5. Support your DEI leader

Partnering with your organization's DEI leader—whether a dedicated chief inclusion and diversity officer, an employee resource group, or a DEI committee—will go a long way toward ensuring company promises related to DEI are kept. Internal programs need marketing support to ensure they thrive, so be sure your resource planning reflects your commitment.

6. Measure

As marketers, we measure what we value. Producing an annual DEI report will provide accountability for the promises the company makes. It will further help quantify what you were able to achieve and highlight where you've fallen short.

Such a report would likely be created in partnership with your DEI leader and your people team. Released publicly, a report will not only put your company brand and values center stage in a positive way but also become a game changer in the war for talent. Promoting your company as committed to its values and to supporting causes and communities in need will absolutely position you as an employer of choice.

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DEI is a must-have in today's marketplace. As marketers, we have a crucial role in forming that DEI story and making sure stakeholders inside and out of the company know about it.

More Resources on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Marketing

3 Steps to Help Move Your DEI Goals Forward

Inclusion in Marketing: Boosting Your Bottom Line While Doing Good [Webinar]

The State of Gender Diversity in Marketing Roles [Infographic]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Jennifer Ortiz

Jennifer Ortiz is the executive vice-president of corporate marketing at Progress, a business app development company.

LinkedIn: Jennifer Ortiz