January 26, 2023
Your Clients Have Questions About DEI. Here Are 3 Ways CMOs Should Respond
Following the widespread racial reckoning of the past few years, legal and executive decision makers are paying closer attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues than ever before. It’s no surprise, then, that these leaders are looking for useful content to help them navigate an increasingly complex set of DEI-related challenges and initiatives within their organizations–especially given the heightened focus on environmental, social and governance factors.
But Greentarget’s latest research shows decision makers aren’t finding the depth and breadth of DEI guidance they need from their professional services providers.
This presents a tremendous opportunity to position your firm as an authority on this evolving and complex subject. Crafting thoughtful content that demonstrates your firm’s understanding of DEI pain points and challenges— and how those differ between legal and C-suite executives — can spark conversations with clients seeking to advance their organizations’ DEI agendas. And if your own progress on this front is especially compelling, it can reinforce your authority and even serve as a roadmap for clients to follow.
To that end, here are three content strategies to champion a DEI-focused sea change at your firm and beyond.
1. Collaborate With Diversity Chiefs to Create Your Recruitment and Retention Narrative
According to the 200 executives we surveyed for Greentarget and Zeughauser Group’s inaugural State of DEI Content Report, in-house counsel and C-suite executives are seeking actionable guidance on how to recruit and retain diverse talent. In fact, 69% of law firm CMOs said that clients ask for content around this topic more than any other.
However, our research found those same decision makers think their professional services providers have room for improvement when it comes to advancing their own DEI goals.
While CMOs tend to link those internal challenges to a shortage of qualified candidates, diversity officers say firms could move the needle by expanding their recruitment strategies and looking beyond traditional talent pools. Retention plays a significant role in improving DEI metrics — especially at leadership levels. After all, if junior and mid-level associates leave, they never have a chance to advance into managerial and senior positions.
Tell a Better DEI Story
CMOs need to collaborate with diversity officers to advance an authentic and compelling DEI narrative — one that moves beyond optics and percentages.
Like clients, diverse candidates want to see what the numbers say about DEI at your firm. And they want to see more representation of people who look like them in your content. But more than that, they want evidence that your firm is serious about creating and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming culture. Your current employees want this, too.
By working closely with your firm’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion leaders, you can:
- Uncover and highlight ways your firm is maximizing contributions from individuals in traditionally underrepresented groups — and help them to secure strategic work
- Elevate diverse subject-matter experts through earned media, thought leadership, and publishing efforts that showcase a range of perspectives in your content
- Create narratives that foster a stronger ethos of belonging and support
It’s important to avoid a “check-the-box” mentality here. Your content should reflect a genuine commitment to growth. Achieving this kind of authenticity requires you to demonstrate a willingness to listen to people whose lived experiences differ from your own.
Once your firm has walked the walk in this area, you can more effectively help your clients address their own recruitment and retention challenges.
2. Communicate a Broader DEI Value Proposition to Stakeholders
As the chief marketing officer, you shape how your firm is seen by your stakeholders. Through the lens of your organization’s mission and values, you make the case for the value proposition your firm offers to the world. As one GC put it: “Marketing has the credibility and expertise to tell stories about the journey of the underrepresented so that they are in a position to secure more strategic work.”
Deepening your commitment to DEI while also advising clients on their most pressing DEI priorities bolsters your value and strengthens your position as an authority.
How? Our 2022 State of Digital & Content Marketing Report shows that corporate legal and C-suite executives look for — and trust — expert advice in the form of articles, webinars/conferences, research reports, and traditional media. Meanwhile, editors and reporters at traditional media outlets want diverse sources to bring richer and more varied perspectives to their journalism. That’s historically been a challenge in areas such as business and financial media, where “expert” voices have typically been white and male.
Being deliberate about elevating and promoting diverse subject matter authorities in your external comms and content strategy underscores your organization’s breadth of talent and experience. And it’s a powerful way to distinguish your firm in the market.
3. Tailor DEI Content to Your Audience’s Needs
Creating content that’s centered around your own firm’s DEI initiatives is undoubtedly valuable, especially since it’s a way to establish your credible POV. But producing content that addresses the range of pressing DEI topics and issues with which clients are grappling today is arguably what they will find most useful.
Our research shows that key decision-makers unanimously want more content on DEI issues. But understandably, the types of content they’re looking for differ based on the role they hold in their firm.
What the C-Suite Want from DEI Content
Chief executives and management teams think about DEI in broad terms. As such, they tend to view the issue as they would an operating plan — something that requires goals, milestones, and metrics in order to make and measure progress. Since much of their DEI agendas are board-driven, they want advice on developing tangible KPIs so they can report quantitative progress.
You can meet their unmet need by infusing your owned media content strategy with guidance on issues such as how to incorporate DEI as a strategic priority and who should be involved in developing and implementing key initiatives.
What In-House Counsel and Other Departments Need
By contrast, corporate legal officers and other leaders who are responsible for implementing DEI initiatives are looking for detailed, tactical advice to help them carry out their firm’s strategic vision. For example, legal officers want advice from law firms on the “right” way to focus on social justice and speak out on sensitive social issues.
Other DEI topics that resonate with in-house counsel include:
- How to create affinity and/or peer mentoring groups to foster a deeper sense of belonging and grow diverse leaders
- Ways to broaden recruitment practices to attract a wider pool of qualified candidates
- How to clear the path for members of underrepresented groups to share their ideas and feedback
- Strategies to increase buy-in and support from mid-level managers and employees across the organization
Despite these different priorities, C-suite and legal department leaders alike need to understand this important truth: Using a business case alone to justify DEI initiatives can actually erode their effectiveness by undermining underrepresented groups’ sense of belonging. Therefore, it’s also important to reinforce the moral aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In other words, your content strategy should emphasize that caring about DEI is not just good for business. It’s the right thing to do.
Start a Smarter DEI-Focused Conversation
Creating a truly equitable and inclusive workplace — and communicating about it effectively — can be a challenging and messy process. And we all know that real, meaningful change doesn’t happen overnight.
You, your firm, and your clients will undoubtedly face difficult conversations and navigate challenging circumstances along the way. The team at Greentarget can help you participate skillfully as you seek to direct a smarter DEI-focused conversation at your firm and beyond. Just reach out — we’d love to hear from you.