Ep. 1: Beyond the Rainbow


7 min read

[music]


S?: Welcome to The Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.


Toby Mildon: Hello, thank you ever so much for tuning in to this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. I'm Toby Mildon and I am joined by an amazing guest today, Jennifer Pyne, who works for Radley Yeldar, otherwise known as RY. Jennifer, welcome to the show. It's great to have you.


Jennifer Pyne: Thank you. It's great to be here.


Toby Mildon: Jennifer, can you just continue with a bit of an introduction about your role at RY and some of the kinds of things that you get up to? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, so I'm the Head of Brand at RY. So, I'm responsible for all of the brand strategy and visual identity work that goes through the building, and we work with clients all over the world on brand and communication strategy. And part of what really sets us apart is we have this really in-depth audience expertise, where we understand stakeholders, we understand employees, we understand consumers, customers, citizens, governments, investors, you name it. Because we have this really complex audience expertise, we have a bit of a perspective on different kind of complex issues that companies are grappling with. So, we're often releasing thought leadership, and I'm here chatting about a new piece of thought leadership we recently put out around diversity and inclusion, specifically.


Toby Mildon: Absolutely. And in fact I met you... You were speaking at a conference that I attended, too, the Diversity and Inclusion Leaders Conference in London, and that's why I invited you on to the show because I absolutely loved the content that you put out to the audience at the conference.


Jennifer Pyne: Thank you.


Toby Mildon: So, obviously, you know, some of the work that you do is helping your clients communicating properly in a better way around diversity and inclusion. So, what are some of the mistakes that you see clients or organizations are making when they are trying to communicate about diversity and inclusion, either internally to their employees or externally to the outside world? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yup. So, those mistakes are pretty widespread, [chuckle] and that's exactly why we created the report and the thought leadership that we did because we kept seeing kind of either clients or other companies out there wanting to do something around D&I, but when it came to visualizing it or communicating it, they're just really bad, [chuckle] really bad at it. You see a lot of what we were calling visual clichés. So, you see rainbows everywhere, it doesn't matter if it's about LGBTQ issues, anything under the D&I umbrella was just covered in multicolours. Things like hands, so hands as symbolism. We don't know why hands [chuckle] are the sort of artificial emblem of D&I, but you see sort of high-fives and thumbs-ups, and sort of hands growing out of the ground, all kinds of different things, hands of different colours, and just like really bad stock imagery sort of companies trying to take every single diversity box.


Toby Mildon: Absolutely, yes, I've seen those clichés myself. After I saw you speak at the conference, I was redesigning my own brochure for my business.


Jennifer Pyne: [chuckle] Oh, no. I shamed you.


Toby Mildon: [chuckle] You shamed me, and actually, the brief I gave to my designer was, "Please don't use multicoloured hands or rainbows in anywhere in my brochure." So, you really did help me in that respect. So, when clients approach you what are some of the things that they're asking for you to help with based on those mistakes or clichés that you have seen, that you've put into your reports? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, I mean, I think, honestly, the thing that's heartbreaking about it is everyone's heart is in the right place. We've got clients who are really trying... They see diversity and inclusion as a huge priority at the corporate level, they see the business benefits of it, they know how important it is, and they really wanna do something around it. And it's almost like there's this energy around it like, "Yeah, D&I, we gotta do something," that they kind of completely forget how communications work. And they decide, "Okay, well, forget our brand. We need a D&I brand. We need an identity just for the D&I works that we do." Or, you know, "Our competitor is doing this and it looks like that, so therefore we have to do it and it has to look like that."


Jennifer Pyne: And if you look at those two examples at face value and you take out that it's D&I, they're both really broken ways to actually win with your audiences. It's almost like they forget, you know, brands and competitive advantage because they think D&I is this sort of like different, different thing. And I think it's happening because it's really confusing, it's a complex issue, it's not an easy thing to get across. I mean, D&I in and of itself is this umbrella term that doesn't actually get to the heart of each of the individual issues that make it up, as a collective. So, right there, you've got a hugely challenging communications issue that you need to overcome. To a certain extent, unfortunately, as well, it's really nascent. So, you know, you work in D&I, Toby, and you're far... I would say, far along the spectrum in terms of understanding these issues. And I imagine, correct me if I'm wrong, the more you find out about it, the more you realise what you don't know. [chuckle]


Toby Mildon: Oh, yeah. [chuckle]


Jennifer Pyne: So, I think it's still this thing that everyone's just trying to work out, and nobody's really doing it brilliantly. And, frankly, there's no guidebook, there's no here's how you do this. Here's how you get it across. Here's what you should and shouldn't do. And though it's a difficult thing to kind of grasp, without that practical guidance, it's just a bit of a minefield.


Toby Mildon: Absolutely, absolutely. And are you noticing organizations make any other mistakes, in terms of, for example, not really considering the accessibility of their communications? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, I think that's a big issue. So, one example that I talked about when we were at the conference, was this... In the design world anyway, this absolutely beautiful, creative idea that won many design awards. And I think it was connected to breast cancer awareness, and... [chuckle] The campaign was called The Blind See More and it was based on the concept that those who are visually impaired are better able to detect breast cancer which is just an amazing insight in and of itself and talks about the hidden talents that can be there when you have a disability.


Jennifer Pyne: However, it was brought to life in this very design-led, craft-driven, beautiful sort of exploration using Braille which was lovely, won all these awards like D&AD went crazy. However, then later it sort of came to light that the Braille was an actual Braille. And so people who can read Braille couldn't, in fact, sort of read the visual language that was created which is just a classic example of just not even thinking about the accessibility of the audience, particularly, when you're basically appropriating the very thing that they used to read.


Toby Mildon: Oh, wow, that's amazing. So when it comes to creating visual identities for communicating diversity and inclusion, either internally to employees or externally outside of an organization, what does good look like in your opinion in the research that you've conducted? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, so what we did is we analyzed Forbes 100 most valuable companies just to see how often these clichés are happening because we sort of saw them, we had a sense they were kind of everywhere, but we really, we wanted some data to sort of get it a bit further. And what we found was that almost all of them, so 89% of these top 100 companies are communicating D&I which is great. It's good to see that they're embracing that but nearly half, so 47% are using these clichés. So that's a huge statistic when you think about the power of these brands and these companies. So clearly it's a widespread problem.


Jennifer Pyne: So when we saw that, we realised we really needed that practical guidance like we needed to kind of put something out there to make it a bit easier for people. 'Cause what we were seeing was the kind of brands we're trying so hard to get it right that they were sort of pussy-footing around the issues, they weren't really focusing on clear communications, and they were like inadvertently offending the very people they were sort of dancing around. And we kinda came up with a term for it that we called the self-fulfilling faux pas. So you're trying so hard not to get it wrong that you then get it wrong. So we were like, "Well, how do we fix this, this sort of phenomenon that's happening? And we came up with 10 really practical principles on how to get D&I communications right.


Toby Mildon: Those are brilliant principles and I think everyone should download your reports because just going through these 10 principles will help make communications so much better. And so much of what you said really resonates with me because, in my book, Inclusive Growth, I talk about the need for leaders to actually be braver when it comes to diversity and inclusion 'cause quite often when leaders are not bold and they're not brave and they're scared about rocking the boat, we don't really see the change that we need to see happen in organizations.


Toby Mildon: And inclusive leaders, one of the principles of inclusive leadership is really to be brave and step outside your comfort zone. I really like also using humour and there's the... For example, there's the DIVERSish film that was created a couple of years ago, it was launched as part of the valuable 500 campaign, which is all about encouraging organizations to take more of an active interest in disability inclusion and their video is just hilarious. It's based on real-world examples of disability exclusion. But it really does get the message across beautifully. It's well worth watching that on YouTube.


Jennifer Pyne: Yes, and in fact, I've seen that film, it's brilliant. We were really inspired by that film. One of the examples I wanted to bring up was some work we recently did for the International Labor Organization, which is a UN agency which is sort of globally responsible for setting standards for decent work around the world. So they're one of our clients, they do profoundly important work and they gave us this brief all about how do we encourage more employers around the world to consider people with disabilities, because it's a big problem where, you know, unconscious bias gets in the way and people with a disability have a harder time finding gainful employment.


Jennifer Pyne: And we've seen that DIVERSish film which is great and I totally agree. And I've met the woman from the Valuable 500 who's behind it, she's fabulous and amazing, and just doing wonderful work. We were really inspired by that and we sort of took a step back at that challenge and thought, "Right, well, we could create a film where we just sort of talk about how important it is to hire people with disabilities." But that's... You know, everybody knows that on paper, right? That doesn't really make you think. It doesn't really change your... We knew we needed to change perceptions. So we said, "Well, okay, rather than talking about the disability, what if we talk about talent? 


Jennifer Pyne: What if we talk about kind of the things that these amazing people have to offer? And then we juxtaposition that with some of the horrible discrimination that they, on a personal level, face all the time. There's no way that that's not gonna be a bit of a mic drop moment for anyone watching it. And so sort of very similar approach, where we had real people with a variety of disabilities kind of come and talk about some horrible things that have been said and done to them in light of their disability in the past and the assumptions that people make about them. And then we sort of paired that with, "Actually, this is an incredibly talented, successful person in the workforce who's contributing massively to their organization." And kind of throughout this... It was sort of like mean tweets as well was the inspiration if you've ever seen that on Jimmy Kimmel where celebrities read mean tweets about themselves. It really does kind of make you stop and think and sort of question the things that you say and do.


Jennifer Pyne: And we called the whole thing Invalid Opinions, which was our example of bravery where you're taking this term that for many years has been used in such a derogatory way and we're sort of reclaiming it and saying, "No, actually when you discriminate, your opinion is invalid." And kind of put that out there. And it was massively successful, it didn't have a huge budget or paid support behind it, but it got more than a million views and shares around the world. And it's already doing so much more to help kind of the employment market really look at disability as an important part of their workforce as opposed to just some more noise on the topic.


Toby Mildon: That's brilliant, that's excellent. Well, thank you, thanks, that's brilliant. I mean, you've got so much advice and wisdom to share, it's brilliant. So to somebody listening to this show, you know, they could be a diversity and inclusion leader, or an HR director, or they could be a Chief Executive Officer who's really thinking about how they get diversity and inclusion really fully embedded in their organization, what is one piece of advice in how they can start to build much more inclusive communications, or just communicate their diversity and inclusion aspirations in a much better way? 


Jennifer Pyne: I guess if I could give one piece of advice when it comes to D&I, is to use the same care, attention, and audience insight that would guide any other important form of communications. So, to marketers out there who are trying to kind of achieve a marketing objective, there is a lot of thought, attention, and insight that goes into the development of a campaign. And similarly around recruitment strategies, around engagement strategies, it's basically to use that same kind of principle around D&I. At the end of the day, all diversity and inclusion is about relating to and connecting with your audiences, which frankly, that is what any good piece of communication should do. So, I think it's trying to get your head into D&I as this separate thing and just think about it like a communications objective. Does that make sense? 


Toby Mildon: Absolutely, and that's such beautiful advice, because my book the kind of subtitle of my book is about hard-wiring diversity into your organization and that this is what I do with my clients. It's about making diversity and inclusion business as usual.


Jennifer Pyne: Yes, exactly.


Toby Mildon: Like you say, you shouldn't have a separate D&I communications strategy, it should just be incorporated and woven into your into your usual communications strategy.


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, and you know what? We recently were approached by a company to pitch for a piece of work, and they very much said, "We want a D&I brand." And we said, "No, that's not what you need. You need to embed inclusion into every step of your employee journey, and that's how you're gonna win with this." Unfortunately, we didn't win the pitch, [chuckle] because they just weren't ready for that. But I know that smart organizations out there will start to get this, because the proof is in the pudding, right? There's any number of stats that show that when you have an inclusive workforce, and when D&I is at the top of the true corporate agenda, that those companies financially perform better, they recruit better talent.


Jennifer Pyne: Goldman Sachs recently announced that they will not take public any company that does not have at least one diverse board member. And although that term comes across a bit awkward, it starts to show that if one of the biggest and most powerful investment banks in the world isn't gonna invest in companies unless they're making this a corporate priority, clearly there's a financial benefit there.


Toby Mildon: Absolutely, absolutely, that's brilliant. Thank you ever so much. I mean, the other piece of advice is that we should be downloading your report as well, demystifying diversity. So, how do we get our hands on the copy of your report? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, no worries. I mean, we actually do a whole bunch of communications around diversity and inclusion, whether that's external campaigns, employee engagement strategies, creating films, doing brand work for brands that wanna make this a priority. So, we do all of this stuff, and we've created this content hub on our website. If you go to ry.com, you'll find it, it's called the content hub's called Inclusive by Design, and then our report is on there, Demystifying D&I, which is a mouthful but it's that practical guide to tell you exactly how to get started. And if you're still confused, by all means, just give us a call, shoot us an email. We'd love to chat.


Toby Mildon: Brilliant. And so, this is The Inclusive Growth Show. It's all about how organizations can grow by being more diverse and more inclusive. So, how do you see inclusive communications helping organizations growth? 


Jennifer Pyne: Yeah, so, in addition to kind of example I told you before about the ILO, I think the best way to kinda demonstrate that is to just talk about where we've done it and where it's been successful. So, we work for a big oil and gas company, and we do a lot of work. They have a global presence, they are a household name. We do a lot of work with them around their culture. They're in 70 countries, and they've got these sort of wildly different cultural norms, and they really wanted to tackle unconscious bias in the workplace, and so they sort of tasked us with that.


Jennifer Pyne: The thing is the whole catch-22 but unconscious biases that people don't realise that they're biased. [chuckle] So, we really had to stop and make them think and make them realise it. So, it wasn't just a, you know, "Check your bias," it's like, "How do we get people to realise that they're part of the problem?" So, we created this big campaign to help everyone in the company discard any and all assumptions they have using all kinds of different visual metaphors.


Jennifer Pyne: And I think what was critical about it is we didn't create the separate identity or the separate look and feel for this. It was very much in the kind of look and feel and brand identity that's so recognizable, and so understood to be part of this sort of company's core brand, that it was sort of accepted as normal communications. So, it was this really successful wide-reaching campaign, which was great, but I think the best part, the proof is in the stats themselves. So, after having seen the campaign, 58% of employees agreed that it made them feel more positive about working there, and then another 63% had a conversation with their line manager about respect and inclusion. And, you know, if you're getting those proactive conversations coming on the back of something like this, you know it's been a success. So, I think it's really proof that if you follow this type of guidance, it can help you much better achieve your objectives.


Toby Mildon: Brilliant, that's excellent. Thank you ever so much. I've thoroughly enjoyed talking with you on today's episode. I've learned so much from you and anyone can get in touch with you, if they've got any questions around internal communications. Can you just remind us what your website address is if people want to get in touch with you? 


Jennifer Pyne: Of course, thank you, Toby. It's very easy, it's ry.com. So, just reach out to us there, and we'll be happy to chat more. And thank you so much for having me on your show, Toby. It's been amazing.


Toby Mildon: You're welcome. Thank you for joining me, Jennifer, it's been fantastic. And thank you for listening to the show today, and we'll be back again with another episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. Until then, have a great time. Thank you.


S?: Thank you for listening to The Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.