Let’s be honest: The communications field has contributed to discriminatory policies and practices in business, government and the nonprofit sector for generations.

The words we use have bestowed dignity upon some people and their communities while unfairly degrading others. And sometimes without ill intent, harmful narratives become acceptable across all sectors.

Sure, we have learned to choose our phrases more carefully over the years, but collectively, we still haven’t gotten it right. We still routinely fail to build narratives that start by recognizing the assets of every person and instead either consciously or inadvertently default to a deficit frame for people of color. We can do better. 

Page Society members can use a new resource to help them communicate more effectively from a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) frame. The resource is a research-based, online toolkit developed by The Communications Network, a professional organization of foundation and nonprofit communications professionals. 

The toolkit focuses on eight specific areas of communications: external communications and outreach; strategy; gatherings; internal communication; thought leadership; digital; research and data; branding and design. It also has a glossary of relevant terms. 

The guidance comes ready to use and is practical. For example, the gatherings tool advises communications professionals who are planning events how to create a diverse, inclusive guest list of speakers, panelists and attendees. It stresses that who you select to put on stage sends a message about the people your organization respects as experts, whose experiences are valued, and who you are welcoming to your gathering. There is a wealth of more information and advice.

So check out the DEI toolkit and share it with your communications colleagues. For more background on development of the toolkit, here is an op-ed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Norris West, a Page Society member, is director of Strategic Communications at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Board member of The Communications Network.