Why inclusion matters and how to use your marketing to promote it
Updated: Jun 8
Earlier this year, fellow Golden marketer Erica presented at a great Table Talk run by one of Golden’s local networking organizations, Golden Women in Business. She discussed how we can all encourage inclusion in our businesses, and I thought it was important and something that more people should think about with regards to their business.
So, I invited her for coffee and quizzed her some more about inclusion, what it means to her, and how we can be a force for it in our businesses. This blog is a write-up of our conversation.
Q - What does inclusion mean to you?
A - To me, inclusion means eliminating bad feelings in situations where people might feel isolated or excluded, whoever they are. My goal as a marketer and a leader within an organization is to create a space where people can just be themselves and need feel no negative emotions about coming to work.
Ultimately, the idea of inclusion is relevant to everyone. At some point in our lives we have all been excluded from something, large or small. Or we have felt different, for whatever reason, be it our age, gender, color of our skin, nationality, accent, whatever. No-one likes to be left out, or to feel excluded. And why should they? This is why promoting the idea of inclusion is important – because it matters to all of us.
Q - What about marketing, what marketing tactics are particularly helpful in promoting inclusion within an organization?
A - At the end of the day marketing is just a toolbox and any of the tools in it can be used for any cause. Let’s take just four: grassroots marketing, branding, digital marketing and analytics.
Grassroots: Who are you targeting? At a networking event (virtual or in-person) you're going to talk to a whole bunch of people. A way to be inclusive is to say, Hi my name is X, my pronouns are she/her/hers or whatever yours are. Even if that has no impact on the person in front of you, other people will hear it, it will make an impact and will start to change the dialogue.
Branding: Branding turns your business into a living, breathing being. There is a personality to that. When you are operating under the brand, you are representative of it, and your inclusive actions (or lack thereof) are directly representing the brand.
Digital marketing: Think about how you can make sure that everybody is being heard, seen and understood. The goal is to not have anyone feel like they do not belong or are not wanted. It can be less of a specific action item and more of an attitude and a personal check to make sure that whatever you're doing, you're doing it in an inclusive way.
Analytics: Data proves the effectiveness of any approach. You want your message to hit home with your whole target audience and you can use data to check and prove this.
Q - How can I go about motivating other people in my organization? A - Talking to a business person, you instinctively want to prove things with data, but that might not be the most effective approach. I’m inspired by Brené Brown. She says that interacting with others through the lens of empathy is critical. It’s important to ask more questions than tell or prove. I like to ask people coaching questions to help them relate to their personal life stories in order to encourage empathy. Drawing the link between their lives and the lives of others within their communities really helps them understand what inclusion actually means.
Sometimes people don't think of themselves as part of a group that needs "inclusion" so making comparisons with their lives can be helpful in sparking empathy. At the end of the day we're all just human and have been excluded from something at some point. You want to avoid an "Us" and "Them" scenario. We're all just people.
Q - How do you continue if you hit a brick wall in an organization?
A - Sometimes you have to play the long game as social attitudes change. Sometimes you just have to choose your battles. The point is the attitude of inclusion, so if the term "inclusion" isn't something an organization is comfortable with, is there an equivalent, such as "respect" which achieves the same goal? Can you reframe the conversation into something that will go over easier?
Equally, a win could constitute establishing an understanding of what inclusion really means and that it extends to everyone, not just "other people". For instance, inclusion can cover the fight against ageism or sexism.
However, at the end of the day, the battle for inclusion is never really "won", it's always a work in progress. For example, if you're with a colleague and they do something that aligns with the values of inclusivity, that should be acknowledged and encouraged.
Q - How can small business owners encourage inclusion within their businesses and outside?
A - If being inclusive is a core value to you and your business, then that's something you need to live and breathe. Some small businesses can be anxious about losing customers if they take a particular stance, and that can be scary when every penny can make or break you. But you can start softly, even with a solid stance and make it about education and empathy rather than a battle. For example, if someone reacts to something on social media, take it as a public opportunity to diffuse the situation and educate that person rather than a combative element.
Ultimately, if this is something you genuinely believe in, you need to be authentic and stand up for inclusion. If you have a prospect who won't work with you unless you go against your beliefs, and you do so, then you're a hypocrite. If you're not staying true to your values, you might as well not have them. But if you decline one client because you're sticking to your guns, then you'll often find four other clients who want to take their place. People want to work with authentic brands who have convictions, and who don't just act out of convenience.
Q - How did inclusion become so important to you?
A - I didn't realise I was such a social warrior until I met my fiancé. His whole family are social activists. I had lived in Florida my whole life. As a cis-gendered, white female I'm as plain Jane, white bread as they come but growing up as a non-churchgoer in a very religious area in Florida, exclusion was something that I faced. I found myself being very angry but not really being able to put a voice to it. Moving to Colorado, meeting my fiancé, educating myself and meeting some really great people motivated me to start standing up for others. Part of the reason I love being a manager is because it gives me an opportunity to make my team really feel like they matter, whoever they are. When I see that not happening, that's something I try to change.
If you’d like to find out more about encouraging inclusion in your organization, feel free to get in touch with Erica on 407.619.1594 or email her at email@example.com.
If you're interested in making your workplace a more inclusive environment and would like some help from the experts, here are some consultancies which can support you with this work:
KITH - Offers inclusion consulting, customized content and training creation, and group facilitations.
Inclusivity Strategic Consulting - Inclusivity is part of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, a leading civil rights law firm with offices in Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC.
Jennifer Brown Consulting - JBC partners with HR, talent management, diversity and inclusion, and business leadership teams on change management efforts relating to human capital everywhere from North America to Southeast Asia.