Employer Brand & EVP

Anti-racism and authenticity in employer branding campaigns

Roger Cayless
30 April, 2024

You don’t have to follow the media closely to know that revelations of racism in corporate life are stubborn and unwelcome staples of the news cycle. The fact that only the most egregious examples make headlines underlines the point that structural racism seeps through our working culture, too often going unnoticed by those unaffected directly.

Anti-racist employer brand marketing has a vital role to play in creating truly inclusive workplaces, where diversity and equality are not the subjects of lip-service statements and campaigns, but embedded within company culture, informing every operational decision.

If this sounds an ambitious, or even utopian goal, it only goes to show how much work needs to be done. But it’s a goal that should be of concern to everyone in your business. Speaking on the LEAP Listens podcast, Lydia Puricelli, founder of Conscious Culture Coach says:

 

“It’s really important for people to challenge their own biases, their own perceptions, and, yeah, decolonise their own mindset… Everyone’s on a personal and professional journey as well as in a group and a system. So I always advise everyone, do your own work. Then you can affect more change within the organisation.”

 

With over 20 years in creative agencies and marketing departments, before setting up her business to educate and empower employees on diversity, Lydia’s got lived experience of the challenge. And wherever your company is on tackling racism, taking personal anti-racism responsibility is a key step in culture change.

As Lydia says, for industries like ours, which have centered whiteness as the unchallenged norm since their inception, racism can be uncomfortable, scary and complex.

So from an Employer Brand perspective, where do we start?

1. Authenticity

The beginning and end of every conversation on diversity and inclusion comes down to authenticity. Do your brand marketing and your company actions match up? If not, what are you doing about it? If systemic inequalities prevent people from feeling valued in your business and there is no commitment or appetite to change, why would talent you recruit from minority groups stay with you?

 

2. Representation

Lydia notes how even now, when marketing teams are keenly aware of the need to be representative, centering people of colour in ads is a rarity, with a white partner more common than not. When Sainsbury’s featured a black family in a Christmas advert in 2020 (yes, 2020) social media bubbled up with racist vitriol. That Sainsbury’s rivals teamed up for a primetime show of anti-racist solidarity shows they understood where the future lies. But more diversity, accessibility and inclusive language across marketing materials and careers sites is needed. As Lydia points out, digital media makes multiple campaign executions much more feasible.

 

3. Honesty

Trust only comes with transparency. Companies should be transparent about their diversity and inclusion initiatives, including sharing data on workforce demographics, ethnicity pay gaps, and progress towards their diversity goals. A great deal of uncertainty and resistance towards discussing race and diversity lies in the fear of saying the wrong thing, or being shown up. Being open and honest about where you are and where you’d like to get to is more likely to result in people wanting to contribute to your journey.

 

4. Training

Everyone needs help to develop. Diversity is about embracing other perspectives, and identifying unconscious bias, building cultural competency, and inclusive leadership, are skills that can be trained. Developing the knowledge and tools you need to recognise and combat racism, not only helps build a more inclusive workplace culture, it empowers you to speak up against discriminatory material, thinking and behaviours.

 

5. Accountability

Taking responsibility for meaningful progress is especially important for EB marketers. While companies can set overall corporate targets and metrics for progress, evaluating the effectiveness of marketing campaigns means collecting feedback directly from all engaged stakeholders, from HR teams to candidates, and making honest debriefs within the team. The stats we routinely collect will never tell the whole story when it comes to diversity, so digging a little deeper should become routine practice.

In conclusion

If you’ve read the other newsletter blog, you’ll know all about Generation Z’s values-led perspective. Perhaps it’s not surprising that anti-racism and ethnically representative marketing have become a strategic imperative for companies in today’s diverse and socially conscious marketplace. What is surprising is how many companies still seem unconvinced and unconvincing in their implementations.

By embracing inclusion and fostering a culture of belonging, we can attract diverse talent and build trust with our clients and consumers. But without taking concrete steps to combat systemic racism we sell ourselves and our customers short on authenticity, and it shows.

 

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