Over the past year, there have been many conversations centered on change through diversity, equity, and inclusion, and social justice. This increased focus has given forward-thinking businesses the mandate to develop a brand strategy that addresses the diverse and evolving customer needs and expectations.
Why Now? COVID-19 and George Floyd
The global pandemic and social unrest have fundamentally shifted how business is done. Almost overnight small business owners and entrepreneurs must rethink how they show up online and what causes they support. This includes not only the imagery used but also the messaging sent out through various channels. Every business is different, but diversity, equity, and inclusion are common threads, and it’s vital to figure out how you’re going to express your values to your audience.
One important starting point is drafting a diversity and inclusion statement for your website. Like a mission and vision statement, in this message, you can encapsulate what you stand for and your goals for your business going forward. You’ll use the principles outlined in the statement to help you make decisions big and small, and you’ll also be able to refer back to this statement when diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues come up in the future. Crafting a DE&I strategy and statement may seem intimidating, but there are a few fundamentals that can help guide your work.
Determine What Your Business Stands For
Every business has a set of values that govern and reinforce its commitment to its customers and employees. Some business values include integrity, trust, quality, or community responsibility. Take some time to solidify your business values to set the roadmap for how you want to communicate your business’ position and commitment to DEI. Consider asking yourself the questions:
- What’s most important to me as a business owner?
- What’s most important to my customers?
- Are my products and services meeting diverse needs?
- What are my customers saying?
Learn and Practice the DE&I Language
Language informs perception so having a basic understanding of how diversity, equity, and inclusion is defined is fundamental to developing your messaging.
Create a headline for your statement. The headline is a short introduction to what you’re working to convey. Some ideas are: “You Are Welcome Here” or “Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Think broadly about how diversity, equity, and inclusion apply to your business. It should go beyond race to include LGBTQ+ as well disability, size, and income levels.
Tell Your Story
Sound business practices include understanding who your customer audience is and what matters to them. By taking some time to define and understand your customer audience, you’ll be able to pull in relevant messaging and incorporate a DEI lens through storytelling. When identifying your audience, use customer data you already have.
With this information in mind, draft the body of your statement. Include your goals and specific steps you’re taking to achieve them, and show that you’re seeking opportunities for continued growth. To reinforce the personal connection to your customers, write your statement in the first person. This statement will serve as the foundation for any additional DEI messaging you send out.
Cite specific data and actions you’re currently taking. Here are five examples of DE&I statements from craft businesses of various sizes:
Incorporate DE&I into Your Business Strategy
After thinking about how you want your business to show up, set some SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time – Based) and incorporate DEI into your business planning and messaging plan. Start by gathering some metrics about how you’re doing right now to determine where you need to improve. Train your employees to act on your values in their day-to-day work. Remember that this statement is just a starting point.
This work is not only about talking the talk but walking the walk. Once you’ve drafted your statement, post it in an easy-to-find area on your website such as the About page or on its own page. Use your statement in your actions going forward. For example, when you post a job posting, include the statement at the end of the post. Consider a link to it in your email signature. If you have a physical space, such as a store or workshop, post your statement to remind customers and employees of your values.
Sample goals could include:
- Post (x) amount of messaging related to DE&I each month (Women’s History Month, Asian American Pacific Islander Month, Pride Month).
- Partner with a community organization and share the partnership through email and social campaigns.
- Diversify your workforce by actively posting job opportunities in places where you’re more likely to recruit diverse candidates and by behavior-based interviewing.
- When world events unfold that impact the lives of your customers, make proactive statements to your community about where you stand and take action to help. Your DE&I statement can serve as the foundation of the messages you send out.
DE&I is a Journey. Be Kind to Yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to craft a DE&I statement. Keep in mind that DE&I work is fluid and evolving. The first step along the journey is simply to put pen to paper and incorporate it into your business strategy and communications plan.
Ashleigh Brookshaw, M.A,.is our Community Engagement Manager.
Ashleigh is a detail-oriented communication and change strategist with over 10 years working in strategic stakeholder engagement in both non-profit and corporate settings to achieve organizational objectives. Ashleigh holds a B.A. in Advertising/Public Relations with minors in Spanish and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago and an M.A. in Multicultural/Organizational Communication with a concentration in Training and Development from DePaul University. Ashleigh also holds project management and change management certifications.