Imagine a social media landscape that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. Not possible? Think again.
As people demand social change, companies and nonprofit organizations are paying attention. They’re responding with messages and campaigns that infuse diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their brands. Take Colgate’s “The Power of a Smile” campaign, for example. The ad features a sweet interaction between two children on a school bus after one boards using a white navigation cane. It highlights what DEI done right looks like for a brand.
SMBMad learned from a panel of experts in January why DEI matters, social media, and practical tips on how to integrate these principles into digital marketing. Panelists Deborah Biddle, founder of the People Company, Denise Jess, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, and DEI facilitator, speaker, author and Lakeland University instructor Lisa Koenecke, were joined by State Rep. Francesca Hong, who moderated the discussion.
Here are a few noteworthy snippets from the conversation. View the entire event on replay on the SMBMad Facebook page.
Lay the Groundwork
Deborah Biddle explained how understanding what motivates your organization to be involved in DEI work is an essential first step toward creating a message that is authentic and actionable.
“People recognize when there is not authenticity. Understanding why, talking to your employees and talking to your customer will get a sense about the importance,” she says. “Every time you say something on social media, in public or print media, it’s important for you to be true to what you say. Make that commitment and back it up by some action, some commitment. Be serious and authentic about what you’re doing on social media.”
Debbie’s Words Matter Glossary is available on this website along with several other DEI resources.
How to Begin
Lisa Koenecke suggests practicing a both-and approach. Ask: What do I bring and what biases do I have to become more inclusive and shift how an organization thinks about and practices DEI.
“Don’t check the box. Don’t just have the token gay speak for all people who are in this population. I can learn about my unconscious bias. Then it is important to think beyond just that,” Lisa says.
In practice, it’s helpful to consider social media from a generational lens. Don’t overdo it, and ask for help if, for example, you’re not a TikToker and want to hop on the platform. “Do the research first and slow down to move forward. We have so many opportunities available and I can do two very well and the rest I will dabble.”
Find out ways to show your company is inclusive and more from Lisa in her TEDx Talk: Allies Save Lives.
Making sustainable change
To build a DEI program that will stick, Denise says it’s important to prioritize this work and make it part of your organization right now. This requires embracing a process of continual learning about what it means to be inclusive in digital media.
“So often when we show that we want to be more inclusive, one of the things that often gets left by the wayside is inclusion of people with disabilities. In social media, there may be really awesome images used that are conveying powerful messages. Without having those things image-described or alt-tagged, those of us with visual impairment have no access to that information. So, the unspoken message becomes, you’re really not interested in connecting with me,” Denise explains.
There are concrete ways to deconstruct the ableism that lives in social media and digital media by learning how to use social media tools to tag images, videos and more. This guide on the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impared website shows how. Get more tips on making content accessible and inclusive by checking out this SMBMad event from June 2019.
After all, it takes a commitment from us all to build a digital landscape that includes all of us.
“I think allyship means everyone one else in the community is demanding it as well,” says Rep. Hong. “It’s about ensuring the circle is enlarged so that we can make space for everyone in their most authentic expression.”
Nonprofit Spotlight: Asher’s Gift Box
Asher’s Gift Box was created to support and empower newly diagnosed children under 3, who are hard of hearing, and their families. Each gift box contains tools such as an American Sign Language book, a book with hard of hearing characters, a t-shirt that says “I have superhero ears,” 2 pins for the parents that states, “My child has superhero ears,” a stuffed animal with a hearing device (based on what the child wears) and more.
Founder Diana Knott created this nonprofit after receiving the diagnosis of hearing loss in her son Asher. She wants families to know that they are not alone and there is hope. Learn more or connect with this organization on Facebook.