Craig Barnes is Chair of Nedbank’s LGBTQI+ Forum in South Africa and a Radius Network Leadership Programme graduate.

In this new spotlight article, Craig shares his ERG story and explains why good communication and branding are central to employee network success.

Our LGBTQI+ Forum has an inspiring mandate, to ‘close gaps within the EDI space, wholeheartedly.’ This is top of mind, whenever we come together, and we’re always looking for ways to extend our impact. We have a passion to bring the change and we’d like to be seen as a thought leader, not just within our organisation, but beyond. As we seek to amplify our message, communication and branding are increasingly important to us.

We’ve worked hard to establish a network identity that makes us recognisable, and we bring this to life in all of our communications. We’ve have had some beautiful feedback around the way we communicate, particularly in relation to our merchandise. We’ve enjoyed creating items such as notepads, pins, and t-shirts with quirky slogans. Recently we designed a coffee mug with the slogan Espresso Yourself! Merchandise is just one aspect of our branding strategy, but it helps us to show our personality and get our message across in a light-hearted way.

One of our proudest achievements, is the #ColourOfMySoul social media campaign, which we launched in late 2021. The centrepiece of the campaign was illuminating the Nedbank head office in Sandton, Johannesburg, in the rainbow colours of the Pride flag for two weeks. We were the first corporate in South Africa to do this and the campaign – which sparked awareness and a deeper understanding of LGBTQI+ issues – really put our forum on the map. It was our first bold step and so well received. People felt validated and seen.

Something else we’re really proud of, is our gender-neutral bathroom project. From a personal perspective, I come from a place of privilege. But listening to my brothers and sister in this space, it’s clear that this is a big issue for some colleagues. As a network, we’ve been able to influence policy in this area, which feels like a real achievement. Communication and education played a part in this. We’re doing lots of work around supporting transgender colleagues at the moment and having some really important conversations.

Good communication and branding are key for employee networks, but cutting through the noise can be a challenge. It’s important to be clear and concise and get to the point quickly. Because our mandate as a network is to close EDI gaps wholeheartedly, we try to ensure that our messaging always reaches the person on the other side of the line. This means thinking carefully about our communication methods, to land things in the right way. We use interactive social platforms to enable two-way conversations and short video clips, which are really engaging too.

Linking out to the wider business is really important when it comes to ERG communications. One of our forum members supports us with this aspect, and it’s very much a two-way dialogue. We have senior buy-in, which is fantastic, and all of our communication work feels like a collective effort. October was Africa Pride Month, and we worked with our colleagues across the business to get our message across.

Sometimes our messaging is a little playful, and that makes it feel refreshing. It shows who we are as an employee network, and it’s close to our corporate tone of voice too. We try to incorporate organisational values into our communication, and I think this is really important for employee networks. It demonstrates that networks are part of the organisation and not a separate entity. We’re all in this together.

Looking to the future, we’d love to expand our footprint even further, and increase our impact, in terms of education. We have such a beautiful presence in South Africa and it would be so powerful to extend this. As a team, we have achieved so much success, and it’s not stopping! I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved. We’ll keep working together to make a difference.

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