Communicating Beyond the CommitmentsSharing the Ongoing DE&I Journey with Customers and the Supply Chain
October 28, 2020
Like companies across many sectors, advanced manufacturers have been united in pledging to drive more meaningful diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) progress in their companies and communities following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others. In fact, members of the National Association of Manufacturers – including Dow (a long-standing G&S client and recognized leader in DE&I), as well as Honeywell Building Technologies, Exxon Mobil, Trane Technologies and brand owners like Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson – have together committed to a Pledge for Action, which includes taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities and creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color.
Now that these commitments have been established – and before measurable results can be achieved and reported – communicators must ensure that this DE&I focus is truly understood and embraced as a platform for action within their organizations. And while ongoing improvements must be communicated actively with employees, investors and communities, we must also consider how DE&I progress should be integrated into ongoing communications with customer and supply chain audiences. After all, a focus on advancing DE&I objectives has become a key priority for your partners, end users and brand owners. It’s not enough to simply offer the best solution at a competitive price. Customers want partners who are aligned with them in advancing meaningful progress.
Rebecca Bentley, Vice President of Public Affairs at Dow, provides important perspective. “We are deeply committed to developing a diverse and inclusive workforce,” she says. “And we know we must deliver action – through advocacy, community efforts and our own talent pipeline – and be held accountable for our results. Our team members, customers and other partners will hold us accountable for ensuring that our words match our actions and outcomes.”
As with all communications, the goal with DE&I-focused engagement is to educate, align on joint DE&I goals and ultimately continue to advance DE&I progress throughout the industry. It is absolutely not about promoting your product/brand or using this as an opportunity to drive sales.
With this in mind, we offer a few foundational ideas for communicating in a way that advances the mission of DE&I, while better connecting your organization with the complementary efforts of your customer and supply chain audiences.
Leadership Perspective. While many CEOs and Chief Diversity Officers have advocated for and communicated about DE&I at the company level, customers and supply chain audiences (and your employees) also want to hear from the business leaders they interact with more closely. Blogs, social feeds, virtual events, industry conferences and trade/business media offer forums for these leaders to share their personal commitment, ongoing perspectives (on the mission and events/issues in the news) and journey as they drive progress within their areas of responsibility. When the messages come from real people, not just a corporate social media handle, they ring true as authentic, relatable and achievable for those looking for an idea to emulate, helping to advance DE&I actions beyond just your company walls.
For Dow, empowering leaders across the organization to share their voices on issues of DE&I has invited more interaction with these important topics. “The data clearly shows that social media posts from our Chairman and CEO Jim Fitterling and other leaders garner more attention and better engagement,” says Bentley. “We also achieve a higher level of engagement when we publish viewpoints from individual leaders on our corporate blog. The personal authenticity is something that clearly resonates with our audiences.”
Front Line Training & Tools. Is your front line ready to discuss DE&I with your partners and customers? Are they comfortable communicating about difficult and sensitive topics? Do they know the company/business mission and purpose? Are they fluent in the language of DE&I? Educate them. Train them. Arm them with the communication resources they need to proactively make DE&I a core part of their customer and partner conversations. As with all communications, the messages from the business and from your front line must be in perfect alignment. DE&I is no exception.
Empowering Employees to Contribute & Communicate. Give all employees the guidance and resources they need to get involved in DE&I efforts and issues that are important to them within the company and in their communities. Encourage and train them on how to share their stories and advocate for progress via their own social platforms. Help them understand why DE&I is a critical business imperative and that updates should not only be shared with friends on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, but also on LinkedIn, where they are likely connected with much of your customer and supply chain audience.
This is something that Bentley says is key to Dow’s efforts as well. “We want our employees not only to understand, but also to take pride in sharing our story. We know we have work to do in mobilizing all of Team Dow to share our messages on their personal social media feeds. To empower them to be proactive about it, we have to arm them with the right messaging, training and tools, providing a level of confidence with what to say and how to say it in a way that rings true not only for Dow but also for them personally. Our company includes so many diverse voices, and we want all of our colleagues to be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, while also sharing their Dow experiences with their personal social media networks.”
Ongoing Social Sharing & Engagement. DE&I should be integrated into ongoing social media strategy at the business level as well. Communicate your actions and progress. Ensure images posted on your channels align with DE&I efforts. Share news items as well as updates and insights from DE&I-focused organizations. And engage with DE&I content from customers and partners in a meaningful way that promotes dialogue and alignment.
Like overall DE&I efforts, of course, our communications must continue to progress and evolve over time as we integrate DE&I into initiatives across all traditional, digital, social and virtual channels. The list above should serve only as a guide to starting that journey.