As many organizations seek to increase the focus on DE&I in their communication strategy, Vanguard Communications president and CEO Maria Rodriguez says that her "absolute number 1 top tip would be not to make the assumption that because someone represents a particular identity community, that you should tap them to lead a particular project."

She tells Doug Simon that "just out of respect, it's important to really connect with individuals about their personal interests and needs, and then they're just going to do a much better job on the project."

Communication is a key factor in creating an equiable workplace, Rodriguez says. "I would have a conversation and say, is this something you feel passionate about? Is this something that you want to work on?"

She says that companies, especially small businesses like hers, need to "really narrow in on what are the expertise areas that you want to work in within the DEI space. Then I would say that I would look inside my organization to see what expertise is already there within those identity communities."

When it comes to attracting a diverse staff, she suggests working "with organizations that already have memberships" in various groups. "Really look at who are you trying to engage, and make sure you cast that broad net across identity communities."

She also says that promoting DE&I needs to start at the top of an organization. "If it's a priority for your organization, it has to be a priority for your CEO, has to be a priority for your senior leadership."

And while communicating with specific identity groups is a must, it's also essential to see everyone as an individual. "We're all different. We all have different needs. We all have different desires in terms of what we want to do and what our family circumstances are."

To successfully incorporate DE&I into an organization's work, Rodriguez says she "would start with really figuring out who you're trying to reach with the work. Chances are you're not trying to reach everyone with your campaign, so you're really honing in on who is your audience."

She would then "look for an organization that has a real commitment and real track record in engaging with that audience."

"I would want to see an approach that really involves that community in the work," Rodriguez says. "So, how are they going to build partnerships in the community? How are they going to engage the audience in the strategy and in the implementation?"

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