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The Shipyard's ethos of 'Engineering Brand Love' starts with a human approach

DEIB: Embrace An Open, Learning Mindset

Originally featured by AdForum.
Specializing in personalized marketing experiences, The Shipyard is committed to highlighting diverse perspectives. Chatting with Trisha Chong, VP of People & Culture at The Shipyard, we learn more about how they build inclusive practices and make space and support employees in all communities.

How do you make space and support your employees in marginalized communities, beyond hiring?

We are truly defining what diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) means to us at The Shipyard, not only to give us a clear path for how we should be working with one another, but also to understand what each of us brings to the table. Every single person at the agency plays a role in helping build more inclusive practices, a safe environment, and making people feel like they belong in our team. This intentional buy-in gives us an opportunity to embrace the journey together, making strides to evolve and change the way we look at supporting marginalized communities.

Some of the best ways to make space and support employees in all communities is to create a culture where people feel that they have a voice and are comfortable bringing their entire selves to work (if they choose to do so).

One way we’ve created opportunities for our team to engage authentically is through a video series we’ve launched called Voices. In these videos, employees can share their experience and what a cultural observance means to them. These testimonials have started impactful conversations in our organization and on our social media channels. 

The Shipyard has also invested in a partnership with a third-party DEI consultancy, Paradigm, that has helped us establish a baseline understanding of where our organization is excelling and where we have opportunities to drive more DEI&B. This road map has given us a path forward on where more education is needed to reinforce understandings and behaviors as well as where our procedures and actions need to evolve.

We continue to keep a learning mindset and remain open to new ways of doing things. This will not only impact our organization, but also the work we do for our clients, their organizations and our communities.

In what ways does your team ensure that diverse, intersectional perspectives and ideas are included in the creative process?

Our approach to creative work starts with our Engineering Brand Love mantra. At The Shipyard, we are committed to not only brand love but also human love. Our model is built on personalized marketing experiences, and, to make those authentic, we believe it is our responsibility to bring diverse perspectives to our clients. With that in mind, we kick off every project with a brief that asks a key question to spark diverse thinking in our executions:

  • What Human Knowledge do we start with? “Human knowledge” is common reference to all we know about science and history and humanity. We’ll use it to lend grand importance to target audience, motivations, behavioral insights.
We also frequently host ideation sessions where we intentionally invite crew members who are not working directly on that account. This allows us to bring in a wider POV to the challenge at hand.

On a crew member level, one way we’re making space for different voices is being thoughtful about creating policies that allow for people to give feedback at their own pace to ensure all voices are heard – not just the loudest ones in a room. We offer multiple avenues for feedback to be shared – written word, verbally, group setting or in a one-on-one setting.


Calendar holidays and honorary months put a momentary spotlight on marginalized communities, creating a wave of temporary support and celebration. While this is a positive step, the industry agrees that authenticity comes through consistent engagement. What can brands do to maintain continuous connection with groups?

Everyone has to start somewhere, and cultural observances can be a good stepping stone, but brands can’t just let it end there. You have to be consistent in your involvement and support of the community you’re participating in outside of cultural observances – internally and externally.

The first question to ask yourself is: Are you supporting this community authentically in your employee population? Small ways to do this could be going beyond surface-level support of an observance by building internal education into holiday observances or creating norms policies that discuss how people can communicate their preferred pronouns and communication preferences, for instance. These steps lend authenticity and credibility to anything you do externally in the market.

Once you’ve got your internal house in order, follow up with two more questions.

Are you marketing to this population outside of trendy cultural observances?

Once you’re making efforts to do so, then ask: are you being intentional about including members of the target audience in the creative process? Doing your research and inviting members of that community to share input will allow you to find nuances and details that truly connect and build a genuine relationship with your brand.

Which brands do you see as true agents of change, across the full spectrum of DEI, including social issues? How do they inspire you?

Patagonia is a brand that I have always revered. They stick to and deliver on their promise to uphold social good through environmental activism, and they’re rewarded with loyal customers and employees.