Oct 24, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Annemaria Nicholson

Contemporary culture is demanding authenticity and empathy from brands. When it comes to being socially conscious, 81 percent of Americans believe corporations should take action to address important issues facing society. Consumers are motivating brands to become purpose-driven and, ultimately, to do the right thing. Consumer purchases are driving company culture decisions, as they always have.

At the same time, the workforce is challenging diversity programming from the inside of organizations as employees strive for their company to “do the right thing” when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as build a healthy corporate culture driven by a socially-conscious purpose.

At Cision, we care deeply about what our employees and our customers value. We think often about what it means to “do the right thing.” This translates into content and educational information we share with our audiences and how we communicate our messages, internally and externally.   

The content and social media teams partnered with Valerie Lopez, Cision’s new global VP of diversity, equity and inclusion to see how we could become more inclusive in our overall communications strategy, from the words we use in our content to the images and b-roll we post to authors, contributors and speakers we engage with to reflect all voices for our global audience.

Creating a Formal DEI Framework at Cision

Cision is about honoring different styles, perspectives, values and beliefs while also viewing these as assets to the business. Cision is also committed to being transparent about our need to consistently work on our diversity programs and to continue to show our employees and customers where we are going as a brand.

We’re working to stand-up and drive the first formal DEI function at Cision and help fulfill the company's core values and business goals of supporting its inclusive and diverse community.

Cision is improving internal communication via intranet, a new DEI section called Your Voices: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the encouragement of more Employee Resource Groups and a focus on senior leadership responsibility/accountability. We also have Culture Ambassadors to help evangelize DEI and take extra steps to ensure that the atmosphere is continually one of belonging and support.

Developing Strong DEI Content Best Practices

To achieve authentic DEI “best practices” — representation matters from the inside-out of a brand. By 2055 the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority yet only half of PR companies have a diversity officer. Diversity, equality and inclusion is no longer aspirational but something we must weave into our brand identity through cultural competency. Beyond the company itself, diversity must flow forth in content and actions. This means consciously thinking about brand voice, tone, and word usage; using diverse images and videos; and asking people of different abilities or interests to contribute as thought leaders.

We want to make sure our content and social programs adequately reflect the PR and communications industry as a whole. Therefore, we’ve created some guidelines to strengthen our brand from the inside out:

General DEI Guidance

Be aware of how diverse audiences perceive messages. Creating content from a singular viewpoint and experience may unintentionally reinforce bias. When seeking sources or contributors for a story, strive for a range of diverse voices, perspectives and experiences. This ensures your content is inclusive and truly reflective of diverse audiences.

Words Have Meaning

Word choice matters. Avoid biased language and divisive words that reinforce stereotypes, demean other people and are not inclusive. Be sensitive to differences and consciously choose inclusive language such as gender-inclusive pronouns.

Try to avoid slang words/phrases and regional colloquialisms/expressions that may be misinterpreted or even considered offensive.

Avoid references and greetings specific to a religion, such as religious holidays that are celebrated by people of different cultures and backgrounds. Unless all religions are acknowledged, avoid specific greetings such Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

“Our Cision social media accounts often have a global audience,” says Bruce Kennedy, Cision’s social media manager. “Therefore, it’s vital we make sure we’re communicating a universal message that can resonate with all and not make any person or group feel excluded.”

In addition to following the inclusive content marketing guidelines mentioned above, we should intentionally strive to be inclusive on social media posts as well. When writing global content, be aware of your multinational audiences and their time zones. A simple ‘Good Morning’ is not inclusive.

Carefully Curate an Image and Video Library

People of different ages and nationalities having fun together

Intentionally being inclusive and equitable with images is just as important. Unfortunately, many stock images available also reinforce stereotypes of women in the workforce. Men in these photos are often depicted as the “leader” and women as the subordinates.

Choose photos, images and graphics that complement diverse storytelling. Strive to ensure your photo selection is inclusive such as a fair balance of people with diverse skin tones, people with disabilities and non-disabled people, equal images of men and women and gender-balanced leadership portrayal.

Lily Maley, Director, Creative and Brand says “DEI extends to my line of work as well. As head of creative. I’ve created and curated a whole image library to help support the diversity, equality and inclusion content and creative program. This library is used by all employees who create content — it provides a framework for success, so they know what our visual brand story is and have the assets to support it.”

The same goes for videos — by making sure that all are represented, our brand can best communicate its values in a subtle way that makes our entire audience feel like they matter; like they are valued.

“When I choose thought leaders to be featured in my video projects, or even b-roll footage, I’m always thinking about our content guidelines and want to make sure all people feel they are reflected in our work,” says Tony Hardman, Content Marketing Manager. “We also make sure this philosophy is communicated to the trusted partners we work with, teams like PRWeek or the CMO Council, who we know share our values.”

Are there best practices that you use in your PR and content programs that aren’t included here? I’d love to hear about them. You can reach me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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About Annemaria Nicholson

I drive go-to-market strategy for content, social media and community at Cision, an earned media software intelligence company. I engage, educate and inspire audiences with interactive and multimedia projects that serve all areas of the funnel and have experience scaling content programs globally to drive brand awareness, leads and revenue for the business. I revolutionized Cision’s outbound promotion efforts to amplify its inbound lead generation results by creating a multichannel campaign strategy that promotes discoverability, search rank, audience awareness, credibility, and ultimately more topline revenue growth. I also helped with our rebrand and watched Cision go public in 2017, and our blog program was honored in 2018 by PR Daily.