As communications professionals gear up for cultural holidays like Black History Month and Women’s History Month, our public relations, marketing and social media should not be performative. It’s important that our efforts are inclusive and authentic, with direct paths toward helping those communities in and outside of our business.
Consumers are more diverse than ever and hold large purchasing powers. Younger generations like Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) are holding companies accountable for their actions, especially in regard to performative allyship. Communicators can work with different parts of the business – from Human Resources (HR) to Product Operations to the C-suite – to create impactful changes and progress.
Communications and marketing teams are increasingly celebrating cultural holidays like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month. These teams need to remember it requires cultural intelligence, authenticity and a deep respect and understanding for those communities they wish to promote and serve.
Here are some core principles to keep in mind as you develop communications and marketing campaigns.
Your efforts should occur throughout the year. Although these cultural holidays might fall within one month, week or day, they should be celebrated throughout the year, every year. Diversity, equity and inclusion are ongoing efforts. When you relegate your marketing and communications to a specific time period, it becomes exploitative. When you incorporate these strategies and tactics all year long, it strengthens and amplifies your efforts during annual cultural holidays.
Tie in company efforts to advance those communities in your marketing campaigns. If you’re promoting a cultural holiday but aren’t advancing those communities inside and/or outside of your organization, it’s performative. Brainstorm ways with your internal departments to create that change. If you are already advancing these efforts in a meaningful way, connect them to your campaign. It shows audiences you are committed to action, not just words.
Highlight relevant employees and customers and promote their accomplishments. A brand’s staff and customers help define who they are. Promoting their stories and accomplishments inside and outside of the organization helps show a human side to the brand. It shows how proud you are of them and how you are advancing their efforts. If you discover you don’t have many stories, or you keep promoting the same small group of people, this opportunity can be used to drive change in your organization to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.
Utilise diverse team members to create, lead and inform campaigns. Not only is it important for diverse members of your team to help inform campaigns, you should be giving them the opportunity to create and lead them. These efforts are often spearheaded by people who are not a part of these cultural groups. Even worse, these campaigns are often created without their input. You cannot incorporate cultural intelligence, authenticity and respect if you won’t even give them a seat at the table, especially with proper support and resources.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are important to prioritize in your organization, especially if you are going to use these elements to promote your brand. A sustained commitment to these communities will help garner their attention, increase their engagement, and earn their respect. In turn, it will help you build a better organisation and brand.
Sabrina Ram is the president of Blu Lotus, a strategic communications consulting agency, and has more than 15 years of experience in public relations, marketing and social media. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.