Diversity and Inclusion in Marketing Materials

March 31, 2016

Cheryl Howard

A message from the President's Office with Cheryl Howard ’71, Vice President of Marketing

This week Cheryl Howard ’71, Vice President of Marketing, and I are writing about our college marketing materials and the images we use in them. There were concerns raised about the portrayal of the demographics of people of color on campus in the Ten Demands that were shared last fall.


The purpose of our marketing materials is to raise awareness of and to promote Simmons College to Boston, New England, national, and international audiences. A particularly important goal of marketing is to support the recruitment of prospective students to all Simmons programs. Marketing tools include digital and print advertisements, public and media relations, publications (including viewbooks, program brochures, the SIMMONS Magazine, direct mailers, posters, postcards, and other assorted printed materials), social media, the college website, etc. Among the primary audiences for our marketing materials are prospective students and their families, alumnae/i and potential donors, and other key college stakeholders.

While producing marketing materials is generally considered an art, meaning that there is not one specific way to create them, our marketing team holds to a few key principles during their development:

  1. Unlike some organizations, we do not purchase “stock” photos created by others. It is our belief that we tell the story of Simmons College best by showcasing our remarkable students, faculty, alums, and staff. The photos and videos that are posted to the college website and used in our marketing materials are of Simmons people, and it’s been that way for years.
  2. We secure signed image consent forms directly from the people we photograph prior to publishing them. We ask people to volunteer to participate in a photo shoot; we do not compel anyone to participate.
  3. Under most circumstances, we do not “stage” photographs. We take photos of people in classrooms, laboratories, in collaborative settings, or just enjoying free time. On rare occasions, however, we may plan a more structured photo shoot where we will direct students, faculty or staff and use “props” in order to strengthen our desired brand messages. We always try to discuss this approach, in advance, with people.
  4. We tell the people we are photographing where the photos might appear. For example, if we are taking photos for a program brochure, we will explain that to our subjects prior to taking the photos. We do this so people are not surprised when they see their image in marketing materials. However, not all photographs we take will be used right away or they might appear in other materials in the future, as needs arise. Once we have images in our photo library, we may use them for multiple purposes (such as on the college website and also in a digital advertisement) consistent with the permission that was granted by the subject.
  5. If someone volunteers to participate, and the person’s image appears either online or in print, and later that participant expresses the desire to not have the image used again, we honor that desire and delete the image from our photo library. While it is often impossible from a budgetary and/or logistics perspective to remove someone’s image from an already printed publication at their request, if the publication is being reprinted, we will not use their image.

Diversity & Inclusion in Our Marketing Materials

As our campus community is discussing what our aspirations are for diversity and inclusion, we recognize that our marketing materials play a key role. We have confirmed, as a community, that we would like to increase the representation of students, faculty, and staff of color on campus. Therefore, we need to present Simmons as a welcoming environment to people of color. It is for this reason that the marketing team is purposeful when selecting the range of photos to appear in our materials. We believe that showing images of students, alums, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds is critical to advance our goal of increasing diversity and inclusion at Simmons. We strive to create marketing materials that can inspire all people to want to join our community.

Having said that, the marketing team is extremely sensitive to the fact that we must walk a fine line between purposefully showcasing students, faculty, alums, and staff of different backgrounds to encourage diversity while not giving the appearance of “tokenism” or a misrepresentation of where we are today. It is really quite a challenge to balance both of these important goals.

The Marketing team invites you to join a discussion about how our marketing materials contribute to our goals of increasing diversity. Online Communications Content Manager Andrea Gimler, Director of Communications Jeremy Solomon, Social Media Lead Annie Thompson, Publications Senior Director Christine Van Doren, and Vice President Howard will be hosting a Campus Forum on Simmons marketing practices, philosophy, and materials related to diversity and inclusion on Thursday April 21 at 3:30 in room C-103.

We hope many of you will provide your input about how the marketing team can best fulfill our goals as an institution to heighten awareness of our remarkable students, faculty, and alumnae/i, to promote our exceptional academic offerings, and to attract the most qualified and diverse people to Simmons. Together, we want to develop the best strategies to enrich our Simmons culture and identity.