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International Women’s Day: authentic communications challenge

Indre Hessant | 08.03.2024

International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of women’s achievements which also acts as a spotlight on the numerous outstanding issues relating to achieving gender equality, has become a key exercise in corporate PR in recent years.

While marking this day is doubtlessly important, it is crucial to approach any IWD communications with authenticity stemming from real action and to consider what value it adds, instead of treating it as a traditional media opportunity. Here are some considerations around the why and the how to.

1. Building credibility

Virtue signalling has become a significant reputational risk in the past few years as audiences become increasingly sophisticated and capable to differentiate between authentic efforts and posturing. IWD communications shouldn’t be approached in isolation or as a one-off exercise – consider how your planned IWD comms fits into the firm’s or client’s wider Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) communications programme and supports its wider objectives.


2. Eradicating tokenism

Tokenism, where superficial efforts are made to showcase inclusivity without addressing underlying issues, can end up marginalising the very individuals IWD aims to inspire. Critically evaluate your firm’s or client’s commitment to understanding and addressing the complex challenges women face and consider how it can be best encapsulated in the planned communications. As an example, instead of promoting the success of internal gender diversity programmes, consider highlighting what lessons have been learnt during these programmes.


3. Promoting honest dialogue

Generic messaging may inadvertently stifle meaningful conversations about the challenges women face globally. Strive to highlight the complexities of gender equality issues, by featuring personal perspectives and experiences of women, including those that are not wholly positive. Authenticity and diversity of views can help foster a meaningful dialogue, resulting in a more inclusive and supportive environment for women.


4. Advancing real change

Grounded in genuine values and supported by proof points, authentic communication can help generate tangible actions, leading to shifts in behaviour. If opportunity permits, consider communicating how your firm or client is addressing the internal shortcomings it has identified in relation to advancing gender diversity.


5. Strengthening long-term commitment

IWD is not – or should not be – just about a single day of acknowledgment but about sustained efforts towards gender equality. Consider how your IWD communication projects or campaigns correlate to your firm’s or client’s long-term commitments to promoting equality in corporate policies and practices.

It is crucial to approach IWD communications with sincerity, resisting any perceived or real pressure to just say something. As communications advisers, we should also assume responsibility and advocate for communications that genuinely contribute to the empowerment and recognition of women, not just today, but throughout the year.

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