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Externally communicating DEI Efforts

A strategic communications plan can act as a catalyst for advancing DEI strategy and actions.

Are you ready to start your external DEI communications strategy? In this article I have partnered with DEI expert Olla Jongerius to discuss the options, potential implications, positive effects and pitfalls of your DEI external communications strategy.

Let’s start off with an important note: The most effective DEI communications strategy is based on the work done in the organization that leads to tangible outcomes that can be shared with the outside world.
A compelling DEI strategy is not effective unless there has been/is intentional action taken by the organization.

Make DEI genuine

Genuine DEI efforts means taking an internal and external stand on issues. You need to be transparent about your data, take the necessary steps to avoid bias, create safe spaces for employees and take visible steps to diversify your workforce.

In this article we focus on 5 broad questions: How, What & Where, When and Who

How? How should you say it?

We’re not going to tell you what you should say, but we can tell you what to take into consideration when drafting a message.

When communicating DEI efforts, your communications should stay consistent to build brand recognition. Include recurring elements like logos, banners, phrases and commitments to help reinforce its strategic purpose. Make sure to include appropriate imagery that reflects the diverse audience that your brand interacts with

When actually saying something, make sure it is intentional. Intend to be transparent about your efforts and plan your messages and actions. This can prevent your organization from being seen as too slow or cautious. DEI messages must clearly reflect the organization’s stance and should be holistically tied to the organizational values.

Catalyst recently found that across 14 countries, 3/4 of employees feel their organizations racial equity policies are performative, not genuine.

What & Where? What should you say and where should you say it?

Statements can be appropriate when you need to communicate your organization’s broad commitment to DEI work or in response to an event. When making a statement on a DEI topic, make sure to check that your message is framed correctly, is tied to a specific DEI action and make sure the message itself is written in inclusive language.

It is however important to be aware of the implications of the channel and message. When communicating from the organization's owned outlet, you are implying the entire organization has made a strategic stance on a DEI issue. If this is not the case then your communications will be perceived as performative. To better understand what performative allyship is, you can look at this allyship iceberg. Yes, and this does include rainbow logos that start on the 1st of June and magically disappear on the 1st of July. Remember, diversity is not Christmas, it does not have seasons.

If you allow senior leadership to speak on behalf of the organization via the website, a press release or their personal channels, be aware of their position in the organization. Are they the right person to speak about this issue? Have they been involved in the process from the beginning or are they taking an active stance? The strongest question to ask at any moment is: Is this genuine? If the answer is no, then it’s better to not allow them to speak on behalf of the organization.

The paradox of saying nothing

If you as an organization or senior executives decide not to comment on an issue, this can also be seen as a response. No comment is often perceived as indifference. Make sure to evaluate whether your response is required and if so, how genuine this response is.
DEI communications reflect your DEI internal actions taken. If you can’t say anything about a topic because you haven’t reflected on it internally but your stakeholders require answers; then it is probably time to re-evaluate your strategy.

Example: There have been many organizations that have made statements surrounding BLM and made a supportive statement via social media or in the press. They were then very much criticized publicly by their own employees who pointed out that the organization has 0 Black employees/ has very biased recruitment processes.

When? When should you say something?

Stakeholders will sometimes request or demand action from you/your organization. When receiving these it is always best to first stop and think, even though you may feel pressure to respond immediately, there is always a best course of action.

Some points to take into account:

  • Should we make a statement? Why or why not? (Remember that no response can also be viewed as a response.) Will we continue to make statements for similar situations in the future? Have we made statements in the past? What did they say?

  • Who is impacted by the issue? Have they been consulted? How do they feel about the potential of you making a statement?

  • Who are the audiences?

  • What will you commit to doing when making a statement?

  • What is already occurring locally or across the institution that addresses stakeholder concerns? How can sharing/reiterating information about those efforts be helpful to your response?

  • Consult with those who will be involved

  • Provide support for those who will be involved

We recommend following the framework:

  1. Consideration
    -Consider what you think and pay attention to your actions. Are you becoming/feeling defensive because someone is criticizing you? Are the demands reasonable?

  2. Clarity
    Has this been the first request? Who can be helpful to reach out to to help you with this question and the appropriate response.?
    What would success look like when responding?

  3. Decide
    Decide on how to respond. What do you want to say and why? Where will you say it? What are the boundaries of your message?

  4. Evaluate
    Evaluate the response to the message. Relay it back to your DEI strategy and actions taken. Do you need more capacity-building in the organization?

Who? Who should say it?

Creating an internal culture of inclusion requires leadership commitment and awareness of bias. Leadership empathy is a key factor in whether DEI communications are perceived genuinely.

Leadership can share diversity priorities and tie this value to the overall organization and the values of the business to the outside world. Don’t only emphasize the business case as why you value diversity as this signals performative action.

Leaders that intrinsically “get it” are the starting point of effective DEI communications and progress toward DEI goals.

While it is critical that leadership’s voice is prominent, it is no dialogue without the presence of diverse voices. Spotlight individuals who demonstrate and can encourage greater allyship. Actively seek out, listen to and share a range of voices across the organization.


Diversity is not a means to an end but a vital factor of sustainable business success. A strategic communications plan can act as a catalyst for advancing DEI strategy and actions. Leaders owe it to both their organizations and individuals to communicate the importance of DEI early and often. Effective DEI strategic communications help individuals embrace new beliefs and behaviors ultimately supporting a shift in organizational culture that fosters equity and belonging.

Place the needs of the group you are building your DEI strategy around at the center of your messaging. A compelling DEI communications strategy will not be effective unless your organization gets behind it with real intentional action.

Profile Olla Jongerius

Olla Jongerius is a Russian-born, New Zealand-raised, Spain and Germany-educated DEI professional with high energy, creative and positive mindset and working experience from South Korea, Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Russia and New Zealand. Currently based between Berlin, Lisbon and Cape Town.

Founder and manager of the Diversity & Inclusion Consultancy BeamReach Inclusion. Working with clients like Amazon, LinkedIn, SHARE NOW, trivago, Signavio, Ramboll, HelloFresh, GetYourGuide, LucaNet, SumUp, ResearchGate and many others.


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