The Importance of Inclusive Communications
As business leaders, we spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to make our companies more attractive to clients, prospects, teammates, and potential employees. I think some people refer to these efforts as “brand-building.”
Yet many of us, even those who are investing significant sums of time and money into logos, colors, designs, and copy, are falling behind. We risk decline in performance and even extinction by failing to adapt to change in our marketplace. We risk losing the battle to attract and retain great employees and grow market share with more customers.
Our country’s demographics are changing, and they’re doing so at an unprecedented rate. This dynamic applies whether your market is business-oriented or consumer-driven.
Generational turnover and societal change are fueling this phenomenon. The less diverse Baby Boomers are passing away, replaced by Generation Z, the most diverse in our nation’s history. Women business ownership has now reached 40 percent, the number of teens identifying as LGBTQ+ has climbed to nearly 12 percent, and over a third of Millenials now say they are non-religious.
It’s time to take the blinders off and make your business communications more inclusive, whether you’re addressing your team or your marketplace. Here are some steps to consider.
Rethink Your Use of Pronouns
Those of us who matriculated from the old school of written communications have been trained to default to male examples or pronoun references in our writing. Despite the fact that women are prominent and prolific in the business world, we constantly give men as examples, when remaining gender-neutral or sprinkling in female pronouns is more inclusive.
Instead of saying, “Our customer can find the right solution for himself for virtually any digital need,” opt for “herself” or “themselves.” Using a combination of all three gives your writing more vibrance and variability anyway, so you’re able to not only use more inclusive pronouns, but also communicate with greater style.
Diversity in Visual Assets
Whether you’re using original or stock photography for your websites, social media posts, commercials, or marketing collateral, make your human subjects as universal as possible.
For many of us, that begins with showing not only white families, but also families of color. It means showing people of all genders and cultural backgrounds, as well as LGBTQ+ relationships.
But don’t stop there. Diversity isn’t limited to race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. You want all kinds of people to picture themselves using your product or service, because that’ll help you grow market share. And you want all kinds of people to see themselves working at your company, because then you’ll be able to attract the best talent.
When you tailor your imagery to include as many dimensions of diversity as possible—body type, veteran status, disability, and much more—you’re letting everyone know that you have them in mind.
Communication should be a two-way street. The more you open yourself up to be inclusive in your customer and talent acquisition, the more you should expect frequent conversation. As we really began to embrace DEI at Parklife, one of my people questioned how authentic we would be, with a bunch of white people working here.
As I listened and spoke with her, we were able to realize that we had some diversity among our ranks that transcended our whiteness. We have men and women, and we also have generational diversity. We have straight and LGBTQ+ people working here. One of us comes from a family of veterans.
But we didn’t just audit these differences to feel better about ourselves—instead, we identified gaps that we’d like to fill among our hires. Yes, we’d like to be more multicultural, beyond the fact that I am part of a transracial family myself. And we’d like to be even more LGBTQ+ friendly. To these ends, we are now recruiting among diverse student populations to build a more diverse talent pipeline, and we are partnering with business organizations at the intersection of commerce and diversity.
It’s important to remember that even well-intentioned organizations can’t build more inclusive brands overnight. But the first step to a brand revolution that’s better-suited for today’s and especially tomorrow’s marketplace is starting with your communications. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of opportunity, from your website and social media to podcasting and video, to communicate your aspirations and, just as importantly, share your progress.
As with other aspects of your work, be honest, transparent, and authentic—and remember, there’s no neutral position here. You’re either moving forward with the marketplace or standing still with a culture that’s diminishing to extinction within the next few years. That’s the choice.
Interested in making your marketing communications more inclusive? We can help. Our team has undergone formal training in this area, and we devote significant resources to staying on the leading edge through our partnership with The Diversity Movement here in North Carolina. Contact me personally at email@example.com to start a conversation.