The Importance of DEI in Your Marketing and Communications Strategy
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are becoming increasingly important to donors and should be at the forefront of nonprofits’ marketing efforts. DEI used to just refer to internal communications, but has since evolved into external communications due to the renewed focus on social injustice over the past two years.
Seventy percent of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a position on political and social issues, but some brands may be hesitant and unsure how to approach certain circumstances. Having DEI incorporated into your marketing strategy can help alleviate that uncertainty and make you feel confident in what you are putting out in your marketing efforts.
Strategy Starts With Your Target Audience and Messaging
This first step in creating an effective marketing strategy is to understand your target audience. Where do the audience members get their news and information? What social media platform are they most active on? What issues do they care about? Once you have an understanding of who they are and where they live online you can create messaging tailored to what your target audience wants to know. When writing your messaging, focus on your who/what, your why/how, and three to five top key messages. If you need inspiration, a great place to start is with your mission statement and core values.
After you have a clearly defined target audience, and you know what you wish to communicate to them, take another look at your materials and identify areas where you could be more inclusive.
As a nonprofit, your messaging is essentially already written with your missions and core values defined. Eighty-three percent of millennials want the organizations they support to align with their beliefs and values (pdf). The key is to figure out how to best communicate those messages in an inclusive manner.
Diversify Your Content
When it comes to communicating your messages, a diverse content strategy is key. There are several ways to bring your message to life through different types of content.
Written content is a great way to incorporate diverse voices in your marketing materials without too much of a lift. Whether it’s through blog posts, employee spotlights or an interview series with individuals your nonprofit supports, you can amplify the voices of different people from every background.
Visual content can be used to highlight DEI initiatives in a new and interesting way. Organizations used to give little to no thought to what type of people they would feature in their graphics, and more often than not there would be a serious lack of diversity. Today, people want to see a mix of race, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. in a brand’s imagery so that it’s a true reflection of the community your nonprofit serves.
Interactive content is another great way to generate diverse content. Although in-person events were halted throughout the pandemic, they are slowly coming back and are a great opportunity to engage with your target audiences and community. Events can also feed the production of other types of content such as a post-event blog write-up, a “thanks for joining us” social post or a follow-up marketing email to attendees.
Recognize Your Blind Spots
Before executing your marketing strategy or launching your campaign it’s important to get a diverse group of people to review your plan. I have seen one too many brand campaign launches that have instantly backfired. Who can forget the Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner? We must recognize that we all have our blind spots. Nobody is perfect, but having a collective team that can bring different perspectives to the table allows you to catch what another person might miss.
If the makeup of your internal team lacks diversity, that might warrant a larger conversation. Whether it’s hiring new team members or a consulting firm, it's best to have a strong foundation built within so you can confidently push your marketing efforts knowing they’re inclusive and can positively resonate with your target audience.
Authenticity Is Key
DEI initiatives start internally and are then communicated externally. Stay true to your nonprofit’s core values and do not feel the need to comment or post on all current events. In the summer of 2020 during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, many companies issued statements in response to the movement. However, 41% of marketing leaders say their organization took no action. Having a lack of communications and follow-up actions comes off disingenuous both to your team members and your audience, which can negatively impact your overall reputation. To avoid any potential backlash, be sure to internally coordinate on what you should and should not comment on. If there’s an issue that’s directly impacting the community you serve, then, yes, you should not only make a statement, but also put an action plan in place to show your commitment to the issue.
Implementing DEI into your marketing isn’t a one-and-done event. It all starts from within your nonprofit organization to make sure you have a diverse group of people reviewing your marketing strategy to ensure it’s as inclusive as possible. Having different perspectives means nonprofit leaders must be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Your marketing strategy is not a static document and should change in tandem with changes in your target audience, and your community’s needs and interests.
Kija Chronister is the agency marketing manager at Slice Communications. In her role, Kija is responsible for strategizing and executing all agency marketing efforts, developing and implementing its employer brand, and fostering relationships with partners, sponsors and community relations.
Outside of Slice Communications, Kija is heavily involved with the independent nonprofit, Social Media Day PHL. She served as an integral piece in strategically repositioning the nonprofit beyond its annual conference to be a community for social media and communications professionals at all levels.