Consumers are hyperaware of inclusivity these days. They can spot a lack of inclusion quickly, and because they are more values-focused than previous groups, they are willing to act on what they see by withholding or transferring their buying power. So, an inclusive marketing strategy is imperative for today’s businesses.
Research bears this out. According to a 2019 consumer survey by Google and the Female Quotient, 64% of consumers took action after seeing an ad they deemed diverse or inclusive. What’s more, Salesforce reports, “Beyond diversity, truly inclusive marketing can elevate the stories and voices of people that have been typically marginalized or underrepresented, deepen connections with customers, and even influence positive social change.”
Inclusivity is so powerful that developing your content marketing strategy around it isn’t a bad idea — in fact, this should be the standard.
How to Develop a Truly Inclusive Content Strategy
An inclusive marketing strategy can go a long way in making consumers feel like they belong and that their values align with your company and products or services. To get started on your path to using inclusive language and bringing people in, follow this five-point road map:
1. Who is your audience? No, really.
It’s a much-sung tune, the need to define and determine your target audience. But when it comes to inclusive marketing, it is especially important to really peer beyond the fourth wall to see who you’re already serving, which existing or past clients have been the “ideal” customers for your brand, and who you would like to serve in the future.
Defining the demographics you intend to serve can clarify your strategy. If your existing ideal customer profile is not inclusive of who your existing clients actually are, it’s time to learn more about how to engage the diverse humans behind the screen.
2. What’s your plan?
You don’t need to have all the answers to start building an inclusive content strategy. The first stage of making a plan is just asking the right questions. Ask your team: What do your ideal clients really want to hear from you? News? Information? Stories? How could those forms of engagement include the diverse demographics you’re looking to speak to?
How could you balance that engagement strategy without appearing performative or like you’re just checking boxes? And what are your goals regarding diversity and inclusion in marketing? These goals will determine the content you will and won’t publish.
3. Create an inclusive style guide.
A style guide is an important document to lead you in creating consistent, brand-aligned content. That guide should include strategies for consistently using inclusive language in all your content (and even across all company communications).
Choosing your language intentionally and purposefully is a surefire way to make people feel heard and seen. Inclusive language and inclusive images should represent your brand. Are you using descriptions and pronouns that represent the diversity of the people you serve? Are you screening out words and phrases that could alienate or oppress? For example, Influence & Co.’s content style guide has a section on editing for sensitivity, including how to use language that isn’t ableist and doesn’t favor one gender or race over another.
4. Educate your entire team.
The more aware you are of the need for inclusion, the easier it will be to catch mistakes and insensitive moments. All roles within your team should be aware of your inclusive marketing strategy and should be encouraged to keep topping up their learning.
This learning could include listening to advocates and educators in your field on LinkedIn or other platforms. It could consist of reading books, keeping a diverse library in your workplace, or having regular conversations about issues such as unconscious bias and pronoun use. You could also hire a diversity educator. We have sought guidance from Bakau Consulting to teach on a variety of topics, including race, gender, and sexuality.
5. Audit yourself.
Having an external eye evaluate your inclusivity can be a scary but deeply worthwhile endeavor. You might not always be able to provide a neutral, unbiased view of your own team and projects. An outside perspective can give you actionable steps to increase your companywide awareness and could drive policy and procedure changes toward greater inclusion.
One thing you can quickly assess in an audit is whether you’re using gender-exclusive greetings such as “Hey, guys!” or “Morning, ladies!” If you can shift to using words such as “everyone,” “y’all,” or “folks,” more people will feel included. Another thing to review is how your digital or physical space is set up for those with disabilities. Does your website work with a screen reader, for example?
Knowing what inclusive language means for your brand and your audience can help you create a content marketing strategy that brings people in and brings people together. How could you utilize a content strategy that accepts, includes, and extends a warm welcome to people who have so far been excluded or marginalized?