When you choose to pursue a culture of diversity, you are opening your company to new possibilities. If you allow the change on the inside of your company to be reflected on the outside, people who may have not done business with you in the past will see you in a new light. By aligning your brand-culture relationship, you may appeal to customers you could not have reached in the past. If your brand expression is a genuine representation of an internal culture change, diversity could become a customer acquisition strategy.
Now, if the brand-culture relationship is out of alignment, then one of two things will happen. If your internal culture embraces diversity and your external brand does not reflect that, then you are missing an opportunity. If your external brand embraces diversity and your internal culture does not reflect that, then you are exhibiting hypocrisy.
Keeping the brand-culture relationship in alignment is key. Incorporating diversity into your brand messaging before your culture is ready to support it can be detrimental to your brand. However, pursuing diversity as a customer acquisition strategy as a reflection of your company culture can be beneficial for your brand.
Here are three things that must be in place first for you to represent diversity authentically in your brand.
1. Leadership support
To begin with, the company leadership must be supportive of the diversity message. But they cannot be in favor of the message for the wrong reasons. If they look at diversity solely as a customer acquisition strategy, they should not pursue it. It has to be something that they genuinely support.
The leaders must feel strongly about moving the organization in this direction. They can’t look at it from a mercenary perspective. They have to believe they are doing the right thing. But in the process of leading, they need to make sure that others are following.
2. Employee buy-in
Employees must also buy into the diversity message. There must be a general acceptance among the employees—at least by a vocal plurality—due to hiring the right people and operationalizing the company values.
As a result of a vocal plurality, you can foster acceptance from other employees. Some employees may not have thought about it much or may be skeptical about it. Through hiring the right people and operationalizing the company values, they will have the opportunity to get on board. And those who don’t feel like they can buy-in will likely pursue employment elsewhere.
3. Cultural readiness
The organizational culture must be ready for the brand. There must be enough support and buy-in for diversity before it becomes part of the brand message. If the organizational culture is not supportive, then customer interactions with employees will reveal the disconnect between the culture and the brand. As a result, customers will be confused—and confusion kills branding.
Internal cultural readiness is crucial to external brand acceptance. Your organization needs to believe it’s the right thing to do. If it is for only monetary gain, then don’t do it. It has to be an authentic expression of your organization’s values.
People will smell a fake if your diversity strategy is solely to acquire new customers. It is possible—even likely—that the external messaging will fail if it does not spring from an internal acceptance of diversity. Your organization should believe that this is the direction that you want to go, regardless of the outcome.
How authentically is diversity represented in your brand?
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies make ideals actionable.