How to embed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into your people, processes and creative work

02 Feb 2022

We were delighted to start our 2022 Agency Seminar Programme with a hugely relevant session on DEI with the impressive Yuliya Pankratova and Kirsty Nicol of UNLRN. Here they summarise the key points from the seminar, and offer valuable guidance for agencies looking to progress their DEI journey.

UNRLN x AAR seminar round-up

In our AAR seminar for senior leaders in the creative industry, we found that 50% of agencies have already made their first steps in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and are now working on embedding DEI into their company culture.

It’s encouraging to see the industry’s progress, especially in data collection, learning & development and flexible working (doubtless hurried along by the pandemic), but there’s much further to go. In particular, agency leaders felt the industry was lagging in inclusive recruitment, accessibility and authentic representation of diverse experiences within their creative output.

To help your agency on its DEI journey, we have outlined some of the tips we covered in our seminar, including: (1) How to embed DEI at your agency, and (2) How to embed DEI into your creative work.

1) How to embed DEI at your agency:

  • Review current DEI situation: collate and analyse demographics data, run an anonymous inclusion survey and review people processes against DEI best practices.
  • Define your DEI vision: define where you want your company to be in terms of DEI in 1-5 years. Set SMART goals that will help you achieve this.
  • Communicate honesty and openly: share your vision and goals with the company and commit to regular progress updates.
  • Get leadership on board: share the business, legal and moral case for DEI and run inclusive leadership training.
  • Recruit DEI Champions: invite volunteers from all levels and Empower them to make real change, by giving them access to training, budget and leadership.
  • Run mandatory DEI training for all: set a company-wide standard.
  • Embed DEI into all people processes: including leadership, recruitment, promotions, retention, performance reviews, etc.
  • Iterate: prioritise progress over perfection. Create and protect spaces for honest feedback. Commit to lifelong of learning and unlearning.

 2) How to embed DEI into your creative work:

  • Embed DEI in creative briefs: appoint specialised DEI strategists and/or agree and follow best practice rules with your internal team & clients.
  • Research the diversity of your audience: don’t reduce audiences to a single homogenous ‘audience persona’. Remember there is diversity in all groups and take the time to research marginalised experiences.
  • Make your work accessible: add captions to videos, use readable font sizes, use simple language, use alt text for digital images, avoid certain colour combinations.
  • Use inclusive language: bias & discrimination are baked into language. Encourage copywriters to think critically and to use DEI style guides and glossaries when in doubt. (View our DEI Glossary here:
  • Represent diverse experiences: search niche stock libraries (e.g. TONL, picnoi, CreateHER Stock, Nappy), hire a photographer, cast for diversity.
  • Don’t tokenise: tokenism is diversity without inclusion. Don’t ‘use’ someone’s identity to tick the diversity box. Do this with careful consideration.
  • Celebrate real lives: show joy and ordinary lives, not just trauma or oppression.
  • Practice what you preach: representation is not enough. We need inclusion behind the camera for truly authentic representation. Remember the famous term from disability activism: “Nothing about us without us”.

If you’d like to learn more about embedding DEI at your agency, you can visit UNLRN's website or contact them at

Sharing is good

fka Twitter




© 2024 AAR Group. All rights reserved.