Why creating more diverse PR content starts with your workforce

Marketing has a unique role to play in rewriting the rules on diversity in business. As clichéd as it sounds, diversity and representation in marketing has come a long way – but that doesn’t mean the job is done, on the contrary in fact, it is just beginning.

Diversity is a movement

Diversity should be seen as a movement, not a trend.

More and more brands have now recognised that this isn’t just a ‘trend’ which is going to wither away, it is a movement which is only growing bigger. As such, companies are now paying closer attention to how they portray inclusivity in their messaging. However, it can still appear a somewhat daunting task for businesses.

Unfortunately, the majority of content marketing and advertising still has plenty of examples of bias. In recent research, it was found that in advertising:

  • There are twice as many male characters in adverts than female characters
  • 25% of adverts feature men only, in contrast to 5% of adverts feature women only.

Brand control

So why should brands be getting behind this movement in full force?

Diversity within a marketing team offers new perspectives, through an understanding of different communities. A team who develops understanding and empathy through their ideas can generate increased revenue and brand loyalty for a business.

Drawing examples from H&M with the “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie or the Gucci ‘blackface’ jumper or even the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign signifies the lack of people of colour within corporations – from the initial ideas to implementation. Having people of colour within these organisations will not eliminate the problem, however, having various different people from different background in different departments would mean this sort of errors are less likely to occur.

As such, more brands are getting behind bringing more diversity into a business, and in particular marketing, mainly because it brings great results! For example, Mars shared that it grew its Maltesers brand by 8% in 2017 after launching three adverts that included disabled actors. The benefits are very clear, but how can brands take action to improve diversity?

First, for brands looking to be more inclusive, they should be aware that this is not an easy feat and should prepare for it not to be easy.

Education

Businesses need to firstly educate themselves, and then the rest of the team. Challenges within creating more diversity are driven by conscious and unconscious bias. One way to overcome that is education. Once educated, business are then more open to change and are more likely to do things differently, not only in their operations but the content they produce. A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is no longer suitable for brands that are wanting to build awareness and trust effectively with their consumers

Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Be proactive. Ensure that the workforce understands the importance of diversity, inclusion and equal employment opportunity. Make it mandatory and develop training for all to complete.
  2. Start from leadership. The most important thing a company can do is have its leadership team be diverse. Different views and experiences in the room naturally leads to more creative and inclusive solutions.
  3. Create a safe space for dialogue. Lessons learned tend to wear off without continuing communication. Create a safe place online and offline that allows continuing dialogue and encourages discussions.
  4. Culture of inclusion. Create a culture where everyone feels welcome.
  5. Celebrate diversity. Training can only create change if the culture of the company simultaneously changes and the culture of a company is created by what is celebrated.

Include those who think differently

Moreover, marketers must ensure they don’t alienate people who think differently. Unfortunately, advertising and marketing companies tend to not be reflective of the society we operate in. When marketing teams are made from ‘like-minded’ people, and when ideas are brought to the table that do not agree with the ‘status-quo’, they are excluded from the decision-making process.

Recently Kaizen partnered up with London-based art centre Rich Mix to explore diversity in the film industry. In a brainstorm, we discover how representation is a much-discussed topic within both mainstream and independent cinema. Many believe the industry is not doing enough, with this in mind we conducted a study on the nationality, race, and gender of award-winning directors from the Oscars and Sundance Film Festival, to discover the level of diversity over the last 20 years in mainstream Hollywood and Independent film circles. The research found that 10% of Oscar-winning screenwriters are Black or Asian, compared to one quarter (24%) of Sundance-winning screenwriters. However, for both awards, over 70% of winners are Caucasian.

So what can be done to immediately to improve inclusivity within your company?

  • Review the recent content that you’ve produced. Are images of people diverse, gender, age? Consider any genders you describe or ages.
  • Watch out specifically for roles that are considered to be dominated by one gender, and use different gender descriptions to reverse the trend.
  • There are very few, if any, marketing scenarios where you need to point out someone’s ethnicity, therefore content markets should avoid describing people in racial and ethnic terms at all costs.
  • Include questions around diversity and inclusion in an appraisal questionnaire or staff surveys. For example, do new members of staff feel included in the organisation, does your manager value diversity?

So, next time you are hiring, or holding an ideation session (brainstorm) consider these points.

Have you got a diverse team working on this piece of content? Has everyone had the opportunity to bring ideas to the table no matter their gender, age or ethnicity?

Always be working with the thought that everyone can do better to embrace diversity and inclusivity within a brand or marketing team.

Written by Gideon Parirenyatwa, digital PR executive at content marketing agency Kaizen

PRmoment Awards 2020