Proven Strategies

Couple sitting in the grass behind a brown brindle pit bull type dog

Inclusive External Communications Council Digs into Ways to Reach, Reflect Diverse Audiences

A few weeks ago you read about some of the work of the People Experience council on this editorial page, and I wanted to share what the Inclusive External Communications (IEC) council has been up to. Of course, we know we have a massive amount of work ahead, so we’re taking baby steps just like the rest of the councils and are starting off with the following charter goals:   

  • Communicate Best Friends’ position on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) clearly to donors and stakeholders.  
  • Find ways to reach diverse audiences. 
  • Activate initiatives that are inclusive of everybody.  

Before we can even think about building out such initiatives, we need to know how Best Friends is already doing in terms of reaching diverse audiences. Sure, we’ve translated some of our resources into Spanish and when we did pop-up adoption events in New York City’s Chinatown, it was critical to have people there who could speak Mandarin or Cantonese. But what about other common languages; do we have speakers within our volunteers and staff who could expand on our translated resources even further?  

And no matter the language, there are nuances that we need to evaluate. Are we being careful to use terminology that is inclusive and respectful of LGBTQIA+ communities, for instance? Have we stopped labeling people as “homeless” when they may be merely experiencing a period of difficulty in their lives? 

The IEC council is also exploring our social and mainstream media outlets and asking, how can we reach new audiences? Who have we never engaged with and how can we engage with them? How do we build collaborations with third parties like corporate partners and other organizations that have strong ties to multicultural communities? And several people on the team are looking at the relationship-building work we are doing with celebrities, influencers and the media and exploring how to diversify.  

External messaging can seem overwhelming because it encompasses economics, sexual orientation, disability, race—there are so many layers. To get the marketing and messaging right and put out communication that rings true to a broad swath of society, we need to incorporate data and insights from different demographics and psychographics. 

So, like the rest of the councils, we prefaced our work by holding an organization-wide brainstorming session to gather multiple different perspectives. Next, we will be using a combination of formal and informal research tools to gather data from people outside of Best Friends who are representative of a wide range of backgrounds.  

Our messaging needs to reflect the fact that this movement needs and welcomes diverse people to adopt, foster, volunteer, serve on boards, drive development efforts and sit at the highest levels of leadership. The IEC council has embarked on the journey to developing this messaging. Only by meeting one another where we are at and learning from one another can we build initiatives together that have lifesaving benefits for pets and positive impacts for people from all walks of life.  

As we take our baby steps, I hope we can inspire people, spark their curiosity, and bring them onto the journey with us. But this is very personal work.  It requires a lot of reflection on our own biases. We need to ask, “How do I change this in myself, in my organization, and make it a lasting change?”  Similarly, even though Best Friends has been around for more than 30 years and has changed a lot of things about animal welfare, what has worked has done so with a pretty narrow demographic, and we know that this must change. And as we dig into this DEI journey and get feedback on our messaging from new audiences, we are likely to have to ask similar questions of ourselves as an organization, “Do we have the courage to look at the way we’ve branded ourselves, and how we’ve communicated with the public and make the changes necessary to advance the movement? Do we have the courage to make the changes that truly embrace what DEI requires?” 

Amy Davila Sanchez 
Manager of marketing and strategic initiatives
Best Friends Animal Society

Like many of the councils, the Inclusive External Communications team is working closely with Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE) to shepherd them carefully through this process. Check out CARE’s blog for some insightful pieces on the DEI experience.   

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