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Is a Diversity and Inclusion Content Strategy Key to Your Survival? - 4/13/2017 -

Some association publishers are growing more intentional in implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy for content, even calling it a key to their viability and survival.

By Carla Kalogeridis

When I decided to do an article for Signature on diversity and inclusion in association publishing, a long-time AM&P member was among the first to volunteer for an interview.

"I was so happy to see your post on the AM&P listserve about this article,” she tells me. "I have wanted AM&P to talk about this for a long time.”

Her comment gives me pause. I wonder why diversity and inclusion haven’t been on my radar before now. The embarrassing truth: It never crossed my mind. I guess there’s some good and some bad in that admission. The good: I don’t think of people in terms of their skin color, ethnicity, disability, age, or gender. The bad? I don’t think of people in terms of their skin color, ethnicity, disability, age, or gender.

Is proactively thinking about diversity and inclusion not only the right thing to do, but also a strategic move for association communicators? Do association publishing teams need a D&I policy? Do we want — or need — what could amount to affirmative action in publishing?

The idea for this article came from Damita Snow, senior manager, publishing technologies, and chair of the Staff Diversity & Inclusion Council (DIC) for the American Society of Civil Engineers. She had emailed asking if I’d done any articles on diversity and inclusion. She is interested in what other associations are doing in the space and is willing to share ASCE’s initiatives as well.

What are we doing in that space?

I tell her it’s a great idea, and post on the AM&P listserve asking for associations willing to share their thoughts and initiatives on D&I in their publishing activities. Three members respond: One member says her association has no formal D&I initiative but it’s something she consciously does on her own. One member messages that she knows her association needs to be doing something, but isn’t sure what.

The third member is the one who says our discussion of this topic is long overdue. It’s enough for me — I know we need to get the D&I discussion going at AM&P.

Reflect Our Members — Or The People We Want As Members?

It’s not Signature’s style to refer to people by their first names, but this topic is personal, the interviews were deeply personal, and so, here we are. It feels right to use first names for those who are willing to open up to me about this subject.

"Association publications try to reflect the average member in their content and imagery, but that’s a mistake,” says Apryl Motley, CAE, a former association editor and experienced freelance writer and publishing consultant. "We can’t operate in a bubble. We think, ‘These are our members, and this is what they want,’ but associations have a responsibility to introduce people members don’t know and a different kind of perspective.

"If the bulk of your membership is white men 50-60 years old, associations have to turn themselves inside out and ask: ‘Is this everybody we want to reach?’”

It’s an interesting question. We tell ourselves over and over that members want to see themselves in our publications. Do we default to the average member and consider our job done? Or is it just as important to show the people we want as our members? Somehow, that feels a bit dishonest, and I wonder about that. To continue Apryl’s example, if your association is comprised of mostly 50-60-year-old-men — but you want to attract a more diverse crowd — is it wrong to imply in your content and imagery that

your association membership is more diverse than it is?

ASCE is the oldest national engineering society and one of the most progressive. The Diversity & Inclusion Council that Damita chairs is a committee of ASCE staff members whose purpose is to create

a more inclusive and respectful workplace, "embracing our differences because they are beneficial to us all,” she says.

Damita’s colleague, Dr. Lisa Black, is ASCE’s senior manager, diversity and inclusion, and works with members of ASCE’s National Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). The overarching purpose of CDI is to advance the value of diversity and inclusion within the civil engineering profession.

"Many people haven’t come to terms with the fact that there is a huge demographic shift in this country,” says Lisa. "The country is browning, and associations need to address these shifts.” To her point, the U.S. Census projects that by the end of this decade, the majority of children under 18 will be non-white; by 2043, non-whites will comprise the majority of the U.S. population.

ASCE’s D&I initiatives are promoted organizationwide. "Our leadership is committed and accountable to D&I,” Lisa says. "Our outreach begins at the K-12 level, and we partner with affinity organizations to make sure that underserved groups know about civil engineering. These are our future members. Not only is our internal D&I policy important, but so is what we project to the public.”

Carla Kalogeridis is publisher and editorial director of Association Media & Publishing. This article was excerpted from "Good Intentions,” Signature, February/March 15. Signature is a benefit of membership in Association Media & Publishing. To read the original article, join Association Media & Publishing today.


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