The most important thing we have learned this year is that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is not just a statement on a page of a website. It is an honest conviction part of a company’s corporate culture and the fabric of its brand. Especially in the higher education sector, our team believes that community colleges not only need a strategic voice, but also an inclusive one.
Whether we work on a website redesign or a marketing campaign, DE&I is at the forefront of everything we create. We pay close attention to the messaging, the choice of photography, and accessibility requirements. We make sure all features of a website are available to people with disabilities.
Addressing Diversity and Accessibility
When building your web space, there are several things to keep in mind—for instance, your choice of imagery. The number one concern with redesigning a college website or online advertising campaign is authenticity. An organization cannot and should not try to create pretenses around diversity and inclusion. Equity isn't something you can forge by adding images of diverse students. Your student culture is sincere, therefore you must highlight real students and their stories.
Questions to review with your marketing team:
· Does your website photography perpetuate stereotypes?
· Do the images you share on social media reflect student diversity at your campus?
· Does your administration encourage students to tell their personal stories in their own words?
Building a college website that is accessible is a huge piece of your DE&I policy. Providing equal footing to all is extremely important. This means being inclusive of students living with physical disabilities or blindness. Let’s take for example the website design of Raritan Vallee Community College (RVCC). The user interface and set of attributes have for mission to improve the interoperability of web content and applications. Making a website accessible involves solving challenges — code, technical know-how, and implementation compliance. The goal for us is to create digital information that can be experienced the same way by all students and allow everyone to visit RVCC’s web pages.
Social Media Messaging
It’s important to share content that demonstrates that you are a DE&I-focused organization. For instance, promoting all the different campus clubs, creating cultural events, and celebrating everyone's holidays and traditions. This shows that your school is inclusive and thinks about its students and audiences with empathy. DE&I-focused content indicates that you are willing to be bold and you are willing to be open about your beliefs.
For example, RVCC’s website is infused with photography capturing life on the campus and genuine friendships between students from different backgrounds. The school is not over-promising diversity to prospective students but shows how much it values it.
Leave no underrepresented students and give them a platform to share their stories and experiences. Fitting in is very important to students when choosing a school.
Besides publishing regular updates, you need to highlight your DE&I content and make it easy to find. To emphasize the inclusive culture at RVCC, we created a separate website page for their Office of DE&I. The goal of this page is to introduce the office and Windy, the person responsible for diversity questions at RVCC. The college has hired Windy to be its inclusion champion and show that change is happening across the organization. This is not a marketing move on behalf of the school, it's an actual organizational change within the college. The DE&I office is an important part of RVCC’s mission and culture that needs to be communicated to the public.
After the COVID-19 pandemic data shows that college enrollment continues to trend downward compared to 2019, especially for first-year students. Advocates are particularly worried about community colleges. Higher education marketing experts voice concerns that institutions with weak branding may suffer irreparable damages and risk permanent foreclosures.
Now is the time to rethink your diversity and inclusion goals and update your school’s website and photography. We can help you highlight your authentic voice and student stories across your organization, website, and marketing campaigns.
To connect with our team, just say firstname.lastname@example.org.