DEI isn’t just about covering your ass

DEI isn’t just about covering your ass
Edward Estipona

It turns out April is Celebrate Diversity Month. Typically, I’m not a big fan of these ‘celebration’ months which seem like Hallmark holidays for business, but it offers me an opportunity to talk about something important to me and to my company — DEI, and specifically the role of DEI in marketing. 

What is DEI marketing?

To understand why DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is important to consider in your advertising, it helps if we’re all on the same page about what that actually means. DEI is a way of ensuring that communications are inclusive and respectful of all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or other personal characteristics. It’s not about quotas or affirmative action. DEI is about ensuring fair and equal access to information. 

It may be useful to think about DEI in marketing in this way: 

  1. Diversity — who feels represented by your communications? 
  2. Equity — who has access to your message?
  3. Inclusion — who are you eliminating as a potential customer?

Each of these points offers a valid reason to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive communications and together they have informed Estipona Group’s decision to make DEI in marketing an area of focus. 

1. Diversity — customized messaging works better

DEI-informed messaging simply works better. As communicators, we show up for work daily, hobbled by unintentional bias. We create the messaging that resonates with us. It’s natural, it’s intuitive, but it’s a one-size fits all approach that doesn’t always fit all. When you consider the cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historic perspectives of those you’re trying to communicate with, you start to create more meaningful dialogue. 

We became acutely aware of the importance of DEI-informed communication when we were tasked with Nevada’s COVID-19 vaccine communications during the pandemic. When your challenge is to engage every Nevadan with essential health information, getting it right can be a matter of life and death. We talked to and partnered with diverse groups to determine the most effective way to communicate.

2. Equity — ensuring equal access to information

There are certain sectors where DEI in marketing is expected or required, among them, DEI in education, DEI in public health and DEI in government. Consider a federal home loan assistance program or a childhood vaccine program — shouldn’t all people have an equal opportunity to understand and access those services? 

In recent years, more of our clients in these sectors have received grants designed for historically underserved groups or to address a specific disparity in our community. Like a campaign we recently did for the Nevada Cancer Coalition to address health disparities in colon cancer treatment and survivability among Hispanic Nevadans. As our clients' need to communicate with these groups has grown, so has our ability to successfully connect. Ensuring access to information is not affirmative action. If someone becomes better informed, it doesn’t mean someone else becomes uninformed. DEI works to ensure fair and equal access for all groups. 

3. Inclusion — open yourself to opportunities

DEI-informed marketing makes good economic sense. It opens you up to more markets. By my calculations (OK, more of a gut feeling), you exclude 35% of the population when you take a generic marketing approach. When you customize communications using a DEI lens for various groups, you’re able to generate an emotional response in the viewer, and you’re more likely to make the sale (however your organization defines “sale”).

By incorporating DEI into your marketing strategy, you build more meaningful connections with customers and foster a more positive brand reputation. You also contribute to a more equitable society, all while cashing in on an expanded customer base.

DEI is not a box to check

DEI marketing doesn’t just happen because you have intent. It is not just finding more diverse  stock imagery to put on your website or placing an ad in the Spanish-language paper. DEI marketing requires effort and an informed perspective. If you want to develop marketing that represents and resonates with diverse communities, you need the input and perspective of diverse people. If you can, hire diverse people. DEI hiring will make your team stronger and more effective. If you can’t hire full-time employees, consult with members of the communities you want to engage with and compensate those consultants for their expertise and insight. 

As a minority business owner for 30 years, I have had many opportunities to discuss issues of race and inclusion. This is not a topic I want to discuss, but it is one I, and we as a society, need to discuss. We need to talk about the uncomfortable stuff so we can get better — better at communication, better at running our businesses, and better at being compassionate humans.  

So, happy Celebrate Diversity Month! And in all seriousness, if you want to talk about DEI in your marketing or how to promote diversity equity and inclusion in your workplace, I’m just a call or click away.

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