Words That Activate Change: Featuring Heidi Castillo and Olé Hongvanthong - Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
Chamber Updates, Impact and Advocacy, Local Stories

The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.

This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.

Our fourteenth article is by Heidi Castillo and Olé Hongvanthong from PhotOlé. PhotOlé is a full-service photography studio. The collection of work developed is intentionally diverse and serves to communicate clear and concise messages and ideas to an audience. The studio has successfully completed training to be able to represent individuals, businesses, and organizations in a thoughtful and responsible way. The photography team has a strong background in producing visuals that are fitting, engaging, and lead to action. 

How To Build A Welcoming Image

By Heidi Castillo and Olé Hongvanthong

In 2014, MIT neuroscientists found that the brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.¹ Visuals have a significant role in business; they help people understand and learn information. Images can serve businesses and organizations to communicate a message, promote products, services, and initiatives, engage an audience, and encourage them to take action. We are conducting business at a time when customers pre-research businesses and organizations online before buying products or booking services online or in-person and calling on businesses and organizations to recognize their individuality. As the demand for diversity and inclusion increases, businesses and organizations that desire to achieve longevity should commit to developing a welcoming image. If you’ve perhaps missed the years of coverage on the necessity of building a sense belonging or need a reason to consider updating your look, assess the following data:

According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. This generation is projected to become majority non-white by 2026.²

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability.³ It is estimated that working-age Americans with disabilities have $21 billion in discretionary income.

Gallup research estimates that more than 11 million Americans identify as members of the LGBT community. In 2016, LGBT buying power was estimated at $917 billion. LGBTQ community members are more likely to purchase from companies with supportive LGBTQ corporate policies and engagement.

Here are four tips to help you choose visuals that 1) represent your business or organization, 2) represent the people you serve, or 3) develop part of your business or organization in a more thoughtful and responsible way.

  1. 1 – Identify minority groups/communities served and form part of your business or organization

This step requires that you look internally for information. Mine demographic and psychographic information in your business’s or organization’s client and employee databases. Including an individual who belongs to a community you do not serve or forms part of your business or organization in your print and digital marketing collateral can be misleading and can have costly consequences. Taking the time to determine which communities you serve can help you avoid making offensive and insensitive decisions. Complete this step thoroughly and with integrity.

  • 2 – Define what diversity and inclusion means to your business or organization

This step requires that you ask others how they perceive your business or organization. Diversity is understanding, respecting, and valuing that each individual is unique in terms of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities,

socio-economic level, etc. Inclusion is the practice of recognizing (crediting achievements and establishing expert credibility) and valuing, monetary (promotions, raises, bonuses) and non-monetary (respect, trust, developing strengths and talents), the contributions of members of a minority group equally as members of a majority group. Being diverse and inclusive is not only about how you feel or see your business or organization, it is also about how your employees, co-workers, and community feel and believe your business’s or organization’s policies respects, values, and cultivates diversity and inclusion. Does every client receive the same customer experience? Do all participants receive the same impact? How do your employees and co-workers define diversity and inclusion in your business or organization? Listen with humility to what your employees, co-workers, and community have to say about you or your organization.

  • 3 – Choose visuals and set goals

Once you have clearly identified how your business or organization defines diversity and inclusion, your visuals should be consistent with the message used to communicate your mission, vision, or values and represent all your stakeholders. Are minority groups/communities embraced in your current visuals? Are the images free from stereotypes? Are minority groups/communities the focus of the photo? Do the images elevate and value the voices of minority groups/communities? Do the visuals reduce bias? Are all the people who make your organization function visible in your visuals? Does the subject in the photograph accurately represent minority groups in your community? To make a better selection, get other people in your business or organization involved. Your goals should be specific, realistic, and within your means. Break them down if you have to. Maybe one quarter you can focus your efforts on a group you haven’t connected with or approached in a while. Then the following quarter, you engage another.

  • 4 – Evaluate and adjust

This step requires that you measure the performance of your message and visuals chosen for your print and digital marketing collateral and make changes as necessary. Once you have implemented your message and visuals in all areas of your business or organization, you can track success through sales, customer retention, customer engagement, fundraising totals, volunteer enrollment and time commitment, applicant response rates, employee turnover rate, etc. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve your goals on your first try. Sometimes external factors that are out of your control can affect your goals. Experiment with your message, marketing and recruitment strategy, and consider using images that had strong potential but nixed during your selection process.

Undertaking the task to build an image that is more inviting may sound overwhelming, but consider the potential consequences of not taking action:

-Your competitor undertakes the task of meeting current demand and you lose market share.

-Another entrepreneur or organization sees a demand no one else is meeting and you create a new competitor.

-You lose business opportunities in markets with high buying power and influence.

-You lose talent and innovation opportunities to your competitor or other countries.

-Don’t hesitate to enlist a visual expert to help you convey your message through images, or reach out to people in your business, organization, and community who are not regularly invited to the table to get a better idea of where you stand.


  1. Anne Trafton, In the Blink of an Eye, MIT News Office, January 16, 2014.
    1. Kim Parker and Ruth Igielnik, On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far, Pew Research Center, May 14, 2020.
    1. Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary, U.S. Bureau of Statistics, February 26, 2020.
    1. Michelle Yin, Dahlia Shaewitz, Cynthia Overton, and Deeza-Mae Smith, A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities, American Institutes for Research, April 17, 2018.
    1. Frank Newport, In U.S., Estimate of LGBT Population Rises to 4.5%, Gallup, May 22, 2018.
    1. America’s LGBT 2015 Buying Power Estimate at $917 Billion, Witeck Communications, July 20, 2016.
    1. LGBTQ Consumer Products Survey Report, Community Marketing and Insights, January 2019.

Catch up on other articles in the series: 

Article 1: Diversity Education & Workforce Development by Dr. Daniel Wubah

Article 2: Celebrating Diversity & Fostering Community by Deepa Balepur 

Article 3: Beyond Pride Month: Celebrating LGBTQ Communities by Todd Snovel

Article 4: Paying The Cost – Learning About Racism And A Call For Business To Invest In Its Eradication by Kevin Ressler

Article 5: My Company Performed Diversity Training. Now What? by Jennifer Craighead Carey

Article 6: Leadership as Confession, Humility, and the Courage to Act by Andy Dula

Article 7: A Call To Advocate For Better Inclusion Of People With Disabilities by Bill Kepner

Article 8: A Taste Of Community And Diversity by Cinthia Kettering 

Article 9: Supporting Sustainable & Local Business During An Uncertain Time by Timbrel Chyatee

Article 10: Creatively Serving our Aging Community By Larry Zook

Article 11: Inspired Knowledge by Vic Rodgers

Article 12: The Veterans Among Us: The Value They Can Bring To Organizations by Brigadier General David E. Wood

Article 13: Fostering An Inclusive Work Environment by Alexandra Jorgensen

Stay tuned for even more perspectives this year as we hear from a variety of local business and community leaders sharing insightful commentary on our society, our community, and our workforce. 

not secure