Four ways not to do diversity comms

At most large corporates, the idea that diversity and inclusion isn't just the right thing to do, but 'makes business sense too', has become a mantra, with 'D&I' getting dedicated channel and comms space.

Spare everyone the tick-box exercise, warns Laura Smith
Spare everyone the tick-box exercise, warns Laura Smith

All of which is progress. And yet blind spots persist, which can backfire on comms teams and cause reputational damage to organisations.

As we reach the end of Black History Month – when panic-stricken PR and marketing sessions finish throwing up the usual glut of potentially ill-conceived, box-ticking 'diversity' stories – here’s a quick guide to what not to do next time.

Don’t keep diversity for campaign days

Don’t save all your stories about black, older, female or gay colleagues (or some combination of the above) for the week when everyone else will be running them too.

Bring diverse thinking into everything you do. Surface lesser-heard views as often as you can. Do your bit to normalise what might be considered unusual.

Talk to women about rock-climbing, men about childcare, black leaders about work-life balance and white leaders about race equality.

Don’t restrict, amplify

If you want to change the perception of your industry, for example by amplifying black female voices, do that.

But don't ask them about being black women in the industry – believe me, they've been asked about that enough already. Ask them about their field of expertise.

The current spotlight on women in tech, for example, is great, but so overdone that it's moving into the territory of cliché.

Don’t just tell, show

I don't agree with the idea that 'You can't be what you can't see'. I think we have more imagination than that.

If it were true, Bernardine Evaristo would not have won the Booker Prize and Barack Obama would never have become US President (although who knows, maybe he was a big fan of 24).

But of course, seeing someone like you doing the thing you want to do helps to make it a possibility.

Here, photography and video are crucial. If every image on your corporate site is of white men in suits, you won't convince anyone of your commitment to diversity.

Don’t expect to do diversity well without a diverse team

If you're planning your diversity campaign and everyone in the room looks like you, you have a problem.

White, middle-class people, who pretty much run the show in media and marketing, have a tendency to think that diversity means anyone other than them.

Guess what? You are not the norm. Change your perspective.

Would Gucci have released a 'blackface' sweater if there were black people in the room with deciding votes? Think about who has power in your team.

Laura Smith is managing editor at Speak Media

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