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  • Dr. Juhanna Rogers, PH.D

INCLUSIVE COMMUNICATIONS: REPRESENTATION MATTERS

Featured in CEO Essentials, April 2021, CenterState CEO monthly newsletter


In your organization’s ongoing efforts to become more inclusive, stop and consider: What does your company’s marketing say about its inclusion priorities? Does content on your website speak to your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) values? Who is shown in the imagery on your site or other marketing collateral, and what does it say about your brand? Are the people diverse?


Diversity matters in your communications. Why?


More than ever, diversity and inclusion matter in communications. Websites, social media, advertising and other collateral, are an immediate reflection of a business and its values; especially when looking to foster an environment of inclusion.


Diverse and inclusive marketing ensures that your business, and its products and services, reflects the full breadth of your potential audience. It lets consumers know they are valued by your business. It is critical for promoting your business, your product, and your people, as authentically inclusive.


Representation and inclusive marketing are also an important business decision, playing a role in attracting and retaining customers and driving revenue. And customers state it is a priority.


Research reveals that 62% of consumers feel like a brand’s diversity (or lack thereof) has a direct impact on how they perceive its products and services. In addition, close to four in 10 consumers are more likely to trust brands with diverse advertising, and 34% will stop using a brand because its advertising did not reflect their identity. These numbers were highest for African Americans, where 53% reported taking this action.1


In a Facebook study, 71% of respondents expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising and 59% said they “prefer to buy” from brands that “stand for diversity and inclusion” in their ads.2


Racially and culturally diverse external communications are also critically important for cultivating your business’ own internal culture and sense of belonging; for staff to feel seen and welcome, and for staff to see its employer’s DEI values reflected in its outbound marketing. It can increase your attractiveness as an employer to jobseekers and potential recruits.


Underrepresentation persists.


Even where there is agreement on the value of equal representation in marketing, underrepresentation and misrepresentation persists. Next time you see a commercial or are on a corporate website, pay attention to the voices, perspectives and backgrounds represented. What does their messaging and imagery look like? Consider the following:

  • The majority (54%) of consumers surveyed said they do not feel fully culturally represented in online advertising.3

  • People with disabilities were severely underrepresented in online ads (present in only 1.1% of the ads examined) as were members of the LGBTQ+ community (0.3%).4

  • Women are 14.1 times more likely than men to be shown in revealing clothing and 6.9 times more likely to be visually or verbally objectified.5

  • Men are 2.4 times more likely than women to be presented as angry and 1.4 times less likely to be shown as happy.6

So where can you start?


Think intentionally about how you can represent your company differently.





Allow staff to share their stories and differences comfortably within the workplace. It’s important to provide space for staff to show up with their whole self, to say – I am a son, a father, gay, and how that impacts one’s work. Or I am Asian, a woman, adopted and work as the sole female executive in a company of mostly men.


Consider sharing the diversity of your team and all they bring to your organization as part of the company’s forward-facing communications.


Start fostering a brand message and image that is more reflective of the broader community by considering these simple starter steps:

  • Audit your materials to determine who is in front of and behind “the camera” in your campaigns. Diversity on your team and at the creative table will push the creation of more diverse content. Diverse content and diverse external representation will appeal to more customers, jobseekers and community stakeholders that share your DEI values.

  • Involve diverse representation on marketing decisions to ensure inclusive ideas, broader audience reach and to check biases and stereotypes throughout the creative process.

  • Hire an MWBE photographer or marketing team to create images, social media campaigns and marketing materials that reflect a more diverse and representative demographic.

  • Highlight the experiences of diverse staff, customers and clients.

Representation in marketing directly reflects the story a company is telling about its work or products, the makeup of its workforce, and its values when it comes to social issues affecting the local community. By ensuring your marketing reflects the diversity of a firm and its values on equity and inclusivity, you can begin to push boundaries and address the invisibility within organizations in a real way.


-Dr. J.


Dr. Juhanna Rogers is vice president of Racial Equity and Social Impact at CenterState CEO. Contact Dr. Rogers at jrogers@centerstateceo.com to learn more about racial equity and social impact initiatives, DEI training courses and consultation services available through CenterState CEO.