Whether this post finds you at the start of your journey, or whether your company is already practicing inclusive marketing, we’re sharing our perspective to help you go even further than before. This is not an overnight transformation, and it’s much, much more than ensuring racial diversity in your choice of actors or voiceovers.
Today, we’re specifically looking at how you can build inclusivity and diversity into your video marketing from the ground up. First, we’ll look at what it takes to build an inclusive company and brand. Then, we’ll take a deep dive into how that will ultimately impact your video marketing.
Why Inclusive Video Marketing Matters
Every now and then, a marketing video crops up that stops you in your tracks for all the wrong reasons and leaves you wondering how it ever saw the light of day.
Well, that happens more than you’d think.
There is a long, awful history of brands attempting a message that should be incredibly straightforward (like “don’t be racist” or, better yet, “be anti-racist”) and getting it incredibly wrong. Perhaps the most well-known example is Pepsi’s commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, which has rightfully become the gold standard of what not to do. Further prominent examples include Dolce and Gabbana’s blatantly racist video as part of its “DG Loves China” campaign in 2018, and a more recent condemnable ad from Volkswagen. Even brands that have carefully tried to craft an inclusive brand image, like Dove, miss the mark all too often. It just should never happen, but yet it does.
Inclusive video marketing is not just about avoiding scandals; it’s about positioning your company and brand to be on the right side of history, and to craft video marketing campaigns that will resonate with an increasingly diverse audience.
You can’t create inclusive video marketing without an inclusive brand, and you can’t build an inclusive brand if your culture isn’t inclusive. It all starts with your company culture.
Harvard Business Review says it best.
“If your culture and your brand are driven by the same purpose and values and if you weave them together into a single guiding force for your company, you will win the competitive battle for customers and employees, future-proof your business from failures and downturns, and produce an organization that operates with integrity and authenticity.”
Put simply, if your company and brand are not diverse and inclusive, you can’t expect your video marketing to suddenly put a different spin on things.
Developing an Anti-Racist Culture
It can be really hard to move away from an engrained company culture and make changes for the better. Progress can be uneven or uncertain at times, but continual focus and pressure to move in the right direction will pay off in the long run.
The path looks different for every company since not all organizations will start their anti-racist journey from the same place. However, certain steps to ensure progress are considered foundational:
- Identify the current strengths and weaknesses your organization faces on its path to becoming more diverse and inclusive
- Revisit your company values and ensure they are aligned with your commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Make resources available for ongoing training and learning on diversity and inclusivity for employees, managers, and executives
- Leverage internal or external accountability to keep tabs on progress and correct issues as they arise
- Develop clear mechanisms for reporting and responding to instances of discrimination, and ensure anyone reporting an incident has no cause to fear retaliation
That list is hardly complete and truth be told, the topic deserves more time and attention than this particular blog post can afford. For further reading, we point you to the Safehouse Alliance for a more specific toolkit on building an anti-racist organization, this quick guide to help identify the stage your organization is at in its anti-racist journey, and Just Capital for many more resources on combating systemic racism in the workplace.
Building a Diverse Team
Change doesn’t just come from the top. After all, you can’t have an anti-racist company culture if you don’t have employees who support it and live it.
Diversity is important in all facets of life, from your stock portfolio to the media you consume and the food you eat, but above all, it matters most when it comes to the people you surround yourself with. However, you don’t want to have diversity for the sake of diversity. Having different perspectives within your organization allows you to build a stronger business. Anyone who says differently isn’t paying attention.
According to McKinsey research, diversity increases the likelihood to outperform competitors by 35%. Research from Cedric Herring found that more diversity means more money. Highly diverse companies earn 15x more revenue than those who are not. It was also found that a more diverse company attracts more customers.
This applies whether you’re hiring permanent staff, studios, or freelancers. Not all video projects are handled in-house, so it’s important to apply the same standards regardless of whether they’re outsourced to a third party.
When it comes to your organization, building a diverse team starts with hiring. The first step is acknowledging that there is a good chance that you have implicit bias. A study by TalentWorks shows that white applicants are interviewed 2.3x more than non-white people. This means that knowingly or not, there are signifiers that might draw you to choose white candidates over people of color. Once you acknowledge bias, then you can begin working towards ways to remove it so everyone gets a fair shot.
So how do you counteract a bias you might not even be aware of? There are many resources that can help to make the hiring process one that favors everyone equally. These tactics vary from something as simple as blocking the names of candidates, posting on a wider variety of job boards, or going as far as having your hiring team attend various diversity training programs.
Below we’ve found several resources that can be helpful in curbing bias:
- Diversity Hiring: 6 Steps To Hiring More Diverse Candidates. This guide from Ideal takes you through actionable steps you can accomplish in your company right away.
- 10 Ways to Attract and Hire Diverse Candidates. This list focuses on ways to get diverse talent through the door, such as recruiting from diverse talent pools and highlighting diversity in your job descriptions.
- The Right Way To Incorporate Diversity Hiring Goals And Strategies. This post goes through a three-step process for diversity hiring, addresses how to deal with biases, and provides examples of mistakes to avoid.
Help Existing Employees Learn and Adopt Anti-Racist Practices
Of course, your new hires can’t be expected to transform your culture and brand. Make sure your existing staff also has the tools they need to operate as part of an increasingly diverse team. Offering anti-racist resources is essential to continually improve and evolve as an organization.
A large part of adapting and thriving with a cultural shift comes from understanding new perspectives. For example, The Atlantic has an in-depth article covering how the experience of Black people in predominantly white workforces is very different, and more stressful, than that of white people.
Seek learning opportunities that will help existing employees understand different perspectives on the current situation, and why specific changes are being made. For instance, there are programs and resources on counteracting implicit biases and microaggressions, as well as affirmative steps like Employee Resource Groups. The right solutions depend on the specific problems your organization is facing when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Listening to Your Diverse Team
When you’re building out a diverse team, the work continues well after you’ve hired new people or the diversity training programs are completed.
For example, if you’re in the early days of your company’s diversity expansion, there is a good chance you may not have many Black people on the team. Be mindful of the fact that they may have encountered discrimination or bias in the past, both on the job and off. There’s a good chance they’ve been talked over or not heard at other organizations.
It is important to cultivate an environment that not only accepts their voice, but encourages them to speak up because it’s vital to the business. Their perspective is also going to be important moving forward with your video marketing.
Building a Better Brand
All of those changes will impact and shape your brand over time. However, you can accelerate the process by auditing your branding to ensure it’s aligned with your company culture and values. From the basics, like design elements, taglines, and copy, to events, sponsorships, and co-branding endeavors, there are many levers that can be pulled to signal an increase in diversity and inclusion.
Of course, a huge part of branding is video marketing since it’s one of the most effective ways to get a message across and communicate your brand identity. Here’s how to ensure your video marketing campaigns are always promoting the right ideas and never crossing the line.
Scripting: Language and Dynamics
As we know, most video projects begin with writing a script. This is the best opportunity to prevent issues from cropping up in the final product, and to craft a message aligned with your company and brand values.
Avoid creative tunnel vision by frequently checking in on your concept from different angles, starting at very early stages.
For example, check the broad themes of your script for sources of potential issues. Learn from the mistakes of others by ensuring conventional dynamics won’t be misinterpreted or presented as discriminatory.
If your script is based on good versus evil, a before and after (Dove), dark versus light, dirty versus clean (Nivea), features people as artistic representations of a concept (Intel), or if someone is dressing as or impersonating someone of a different background (Popchips), you may run into trouble if you aren’t thinking through every detail. Some concepts, like that last one, almost never work.
Once your concept is squared away, before you hit record, take a step back and look at the words you plan on presenting in your video. Even common vernacular can have shocking origins or connotations.
This doesn’t just apply to new videos. Take a minute to audit some of your past videos as well. Check for any words that may be offensive, problematic, insensitive, or taken out of context.
Beyond avoiding problematic dynamics or language, actively seek ways to build inclusivity into your messaging.
This resource from Buffer is a great place to start to go deeper into the way language can fuel inclusivity, or harm it: “An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Startups and Tech.”
Preproduction: Subtle Signals
One of the next steps in the video production process is preparing all the necessary visual components of your project. That includes set design, wardrobe, hair, makeup, location scouting, and more.
As you’re deciding how to spend your budget on the various aspects of your production, be mindful of where that money is going. Do you have any opportunities to support Black-owned businesses? Are you seeking gender and racial diversity as much as possible as you’re hiring freelancers and artists?
Remember that everything you include has a particular meaning to you, but could also represent something completely different to someone else. While there is no “official” list of possible connotations of different items, this is where the power of diversity comes in handy. The wider range of backgrounds you have on your team when preparing your video, the better chance you have of catching insensitive subtle messages that otherwise might slip by.
Now you’re on to casting. A Shutterstock study revealed that over 88% of marketers agree that using diverse representations help with a brand’s reputation.
A lot of the same ideas put forth in hiring a diverse team of employees apply here as well. Diversify where you source your talent, implement processes that remove your biases, and so on.
Also, if you’re hiring actors for your videos, try to envision each role for as many types of people as possible. That way, when you’re scouting talent, you are more open-minded to a diverse group of actors.
As you can tell, this is hardly a quick fix. However, truly inclusive video marketing is worth working towards. Beyond avoiding scandals, you’re likely to win more customers and build a more reputable brand in the process.
Ultimately, this type of transformation is best described as a journey. There’s always more that can be done in the name of diversity and inclusivity. Whatever part of the journey you are currently on, the good news is that you don’t have to wait to get started on the rest. What better day than today?
Let us know what steps you are taking toward being a more inclusive company in the comments below.