The call to become more diverse and inclusive in marketing has never been more important and urgent than it is now. As current events bring inequality in representation to the forefront, many marketers and influencers are looking for concrete ways to improve their role in fostering diversity and inclusivity in the creative work they do.
But where do we begin? Here are five starting points that can help set us all on the right path.
Hold yourself accountable
The very first step of addressing the problem of lack of diversity and inclusiveness in marketing? Acknowledging that there is a problem, and recognising the full extent of that problem. In order to do that, you and your organisation must first audit yourselves— and audit yourselves deeply, without turning a blind eye to areas that make you uncomfortable or might look bad.
Remember— the process of increasing diversity and inclusion is about changing for the better. You can’t do that if you’re unwilling to fully see where you stand right now.
Don’t sugar-coat your current status, and don’t shy away from using hard facts and figures to understand where you stand. Some organisations avoid this because they don’t want to reduce something as important and deeply human as D&I to something as cold and raw as facts and figures. But these figures tell you unequivocally where you stand, and help you compare yourself to the standard you want to set.
What percentage of your team includes POC or marginalised groups? What percentage of your ads or marketing campaigns feature these groups? These are the questions you may need to ask and answer to truly start from a place of truth.
Hold partners accountable
Now that you’ve held yourself accountable, it’s time to start looking at how you can hold your partners accountable. When brands ask an agency for a list of influencers to work with, most that come up in a general search will often be non-POC influencers. This is a systemic issue and doesn’t necessarily mean that the agency or their partners are directly at fault. It’s often due to a lack of representation in the market.
But marketers and their partners have the power to shift that dynamic and bring representation to the forefront. Don’t be afraid to let your partners know that you consider diversity and inclusion an essential part of the creative process for your marketing strategies, and explain that you expect those partners to do the same. These conversations may feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually, they’ll become second-nature as an essential part of your process.
Make internal changes
You’ve looked at where you stand. You’ve decided that diversity and inclusion matter for you and your organisation, as well as the partners and influencers you market with and work with on a regular basis. Now what?
Far too many organisations get this far and admit that they can improve, but never create real change by following concrete steps. There comes a point where we all actually have to do something. Hire more diverse creative teams. Institute explicitly D&I-focused policies. Set goals for where you’d like to be one month, six months, and a year from now— and then outline concrete steps that will take you to those goals. Change the shape of your organisation and watch how this begins the process of improving your role in social justice.
Now, go beyond internal changes
Notice how, in the last section, we said that internal changes are the best way to begin the process of improving your D&I work. It’s only the beginning.
Too many organisations fall into the trap of hiring more diverse teams and then assuming that these teams will just naturally make more inclusive campaigns, ads, and creative decisions. But a lack of diversity and inclusion in marketing doesn’t fall exclusively on your teams, and it’s not up to POC and other minority or marginalised groups to correct them on your own. You have to fight against decades of non-inclusive marketing.
To do that, you have to set goals for yourself in your work and then hold everyone accountable for reaching them.
For example, imagine if before every campaign creative launch you had a series of questions to answer that addressed diversity and inclusion. How will we make this campaign representative of underrepresented groups? How will we avoid stereotypical depictions of these groups? Questions like these, and their honest answers, can go a long way in helping drive change in your creative.
Be a positive influence for influencers
Most global brands have a very diverse audience, and their partners need to reflect that. This includes influencers. Representation matters when it comes to diversity and inclusion in influencer marketing, but it’s way too easy for marketers to simply work with the influencers with the loudest voices and biggest online presences.
Our job isn’t to try to pick the most diverse options available from these loud voices, but to go beyond that— to actively seek out underserved voices and bring them forward in powerful ways. At this point, it becomes about more than a marketing campaign, but a campaign to change marketing for the better.
Path to greater diversity and inclusion
The path to greater inclusion and diversity isn’t a simple one, and the steps I’ve shared here are only a few opportunities to get your mindset in the right place to get started. But we can’t be so overwhelmed by the task of correcting decades of underrepresentation that we fail to start. The key is to do something and to start today. Even the smallest step forward is a step in the right direction, and one step will almost always lead to another.
Soon, we’ll all be walking forward together towards a better, more inclusive marketing landscape.