Representation Matters: Why Associations Need to Ensure Their Content Includes Diverse Voices and How to Do It

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It’s well established that diversity makes associations and the industries they serve more successful. But associations sometimes find it challenging to go from creating a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement to incorporating that mindset into processes, strategic initiatives, and everyday interactions with members.

One meaningful way that associations can demonstrate their commitment to DEI that is relevant to both members and staff is by ensuring their content includes diverse voices of people from all different backgrounds. 

When both current and prospective members can see themselves represented in your association’s content, you’re much more likely to succeed in engaging them, getting them to respond to your message, and attracting or retaining them as members.

Making the effort to amplify voices that haven’t traditionally been featured in your content not only will aid your member recruitment efforts, it also will resonate with your staff, making them feel seen, heard and included, and introduce your association to new sources of talent to hire.

Understanding Your Audience

Whether you’re looking to develop content for the association magazine, branded graphics for social media, or a brand inclusion campaign using video, effectively incorporating diversity into your content requires that you know your audience. Make sure you’re obtaining and analyzing current membership data so you can understand the demographics of your membership. 

Though race, ethnicity and cultural background might be the aspects many people name first when defining it, diversity also encompasses demographic and experiential considerations such as age, gender, sexual orientation, family structure, education level, economic diversity and physical ability. 

Revisit your audience descriptions and personas with diversity in mind, making sure they reflect not only the varied aspects of your current membership, but also all the characteristics of the next generation of professionals you want to attract to your community in the future. Underrepresented groups may currently exist outside your membership as untapped talent pools. 

With member data and audience descriptions in hand, you can be intentional about what groups you need to start addressing and recruiting for your editorial and marketing content.

Collaborating with Real People

In creating association content, it’s not necessary to include all facets of diversity in all pieces of content; instead, it’s best to authentically incorporate only the elements of diversity that are relevant to the purpose of each piece.  

One of the most dependable ways to achieve authenticity is by featuring real people in your association’s storytelling efforts. While stock imagery has come a long way, it can be much more effective to invite your members to help you participate in creating not only original photography, but also the written and video content you need to communicate your message. 

Some ways you can work with members to ensure equity in how different groups are included within your association’s content are:

  • Making it easy for members to contribute their own photos and videos using user-generated content platforms
  • Proactively mining your association’s volunteer committee structure to connect with subject-matter experts for article quotes, podcast interviews, testimonials and sound bites.
  • Inviting members to participate in candid photo opportunities during association events or by profiling them in a photo and/or video shoot while at work on-site at their own facilities and workplaces.
  • Reaching out to alliance groups in your industry, such as those with a commitment to race, gender, family status or sexual identity, to see if you can partner with them on content development.
  • Offering complimentary digital advertising placements to uplift underrepresented voices, as demonstrated by a program recently launched by C&EN Media Group for content published on American Chemical Society websites and social accounts.

Keep in mind that some people belonging to underrepresented groups have not always felt welcome to contribute their expertise within their professional communities in the past, so don’t assume that your members will automatically step up and volunteer. You may need to make a concerted effort to personally invite new people to ensure they are heard, feel welcome and have equal access to participating in your content initiatives.

If in the past your association has been complacent about always relying on the same members as content sources, it’s time to make a conscious effort to expand your outreach and tap into new segments of your membership and professional community. Gather Voices empowers associations to do this quickly, affordably, and simply.

Want more on this topic?

Watch the replay of our webinar, Opening the Invisible Door: How to Identify and Break Down the Barriers that are Holding You Back from Creating a Truly Equitable Organization, with guest, DJ Johnson, Vice President of Membership and Volunteer Engagement for the Association for Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices. 


Diversity and Inclusion. (2020). ASAE Research Foundation.
Uplifting Underrepresented Scientific Voices at C&EN. (April 2021). C&EN Media Group.

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