What we DON’T say matters.
What we DO say matters.
When it comes to marketing and communications, the words we use, the photos we share, the tone we take all speak volumes. They have the ability to define our organizations – to create perceptions, right or wrong. Now more than ever, we need to decide if the brand we’ve created accurately reflects who we are as well as the diverse organization we want to become.
First, we need to recognize that “isms” and “phobias”– racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, anti-Semitism – aren’t new. Here’s what is: Digital media has afforded us a powerful platform from which to speak, a pandemic has stressed the globe and younger generations are being introduced to history. We’re being confronted with our own choices and actions both personally and professionally.
As marketing professionals, our voices are often “heard” louder than others because we are the individuals communicating for our organizations. It falls on us to be more cognizant and intentional in the messages we send. This doesn’t mean we need to do a 180 on our efforts – that’s not sustainable. Instead, we can take actionable steps to effectively create change in the long-run.
Watch the language.
The words we use to promote our businesses say a lot about us. They speak to internal values and external choices. To become more inclusive, review your company’s lexicon. Determine what words have negative connotation (think ageism, sexism, etc) and historically racist or problematic roots. Then replace them. Remember, this is not a one and done exercise, it is important to continuously monitor your word choices to eliminate divisive language from your lexicon.
Resources for offensive words:
- Dictionary.com: https://www.dictionary.com/e/s/offensive-words-hiding-plain-sight/#1
- OpportunityAgenda.com: https://www.opportunityagenda.org/explore/resources-publications/social-justice-phrase-guide
- RacialEquityTools.org: https://www.racialequitytools.org/glossary
Show diversity in photography.
We all know that photos are worth a thousand words. But what if those visuals are saying, “You don’t belong here,” or “We don’t have anyone like you here, and we’re okay with that.” We often talk about how photos help the viewer imagine themselves using a service or experiencing a place. If there is only one type of individual shown in photos, we’re effectively “othering” those that don’t fit that mold.
Now is the time to look at the photos you are sharing on social, including in your media, positioning on your website and using to represent your organization and your target markets. We caution against oversharing a stream of able-bodied, Black or brown faces or different body types to “check a box.” Instead, understand your own biases and then develop a strategy to consistently increase visual representation. Plan a photoshoot, purchase stock photos that reflect the diverse world we live in and actively address ways to grow representation internally and externally.
Resources for diverse and inclusive photography:
- Shutterstock.com: https://www.shutterstock.com/blog/black-representation-photography
- Invisionapp.com: https://www.invisionapp.com/inside-design/diverse-stock-photos/
- Forumone.com: https://www.forumone.com/ideas/how-to-choose-diverse-and-inclusive-photos/
Be aware, keep learning and stay vigilant.
Sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a continual effort and education. Once you have cleaned up your language and developed a plan to increase visual representation in your marketing materials, it doesn’t end there. It’s only the beginning. You’ll need to explore how to impact your corporate communications culture, shift your organizational lexicon, help illuminate unintentional biases and implement annual plans that reflect a commitment to diversity and inclusion internally and externally.
Interested in more resources? Check out these blogs: