A couple takes a selfie with a beautiful Duluth sunset

4 Tips for Prioritizing Inclusivity in Marketing and Communications

Inclu­sion and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing isn’t just one ini­tia­tive or cam­paign – it’s some­thing that must be woven into every­thing we do and backed up with actions. Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s also a wise busi­ness deci­sion in a con­sumer world that keeps get­ting more and more diverse, and as con­sumers are look­ing to sup­port busi­ness­es whose val­ues align with their own.

We want to acknowl­edge that we are com­ing to this con­ver­sa­tion from a place of priv­i­lege. And, that there’s so much more than com­mu­ni­ca­tions when it comes to cre­at­ing inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ties and work­places. How­ev­er, this is one piece of the puz­zle and an approach­able way to show inten­tion­al inclu­siv­i­ty as we all work to build strong, safe places for everyone.

Creating a Welcoming Experience - Visit Duluth

While we’ll be the first to admit there is always room for improve­ment, last week, we were grate­ful to have our work for the City of Duluth hon­ored at the Explore Min­neso­ta Tourism Con­fer­ence Awards as the win­ner of the “Cre­at­ing a Wel­com­ing Expe­ri­ence Award.” Along­side the won­der­ful team at the city and our part­ners at Lawrence & Schiller, and those in the Duluth tourism indus­try, we’ve been work­ing to ensure we’re help­ing all poten­tial vis­i­tors see them­selves in Duluth – and feel like they belong in Duluth. How? By focus­ing on these four pil­lars that pri­or­i­tize inclu­siv­i­ty in our work – and that can apply to any busi­ness and brand.

Use Inclu­sive Imagery

In order to use inclu­sive imagery, you need to have inclu­sive imagery. We have inten­tion­al­ly planned pho­to and video shoots to ensure we have a wide vari­ety of peo­ple to fea­ture, includ­ing work­ing with a  Duluth agency to hire diverse tal­ent. Gath­er­ing assets that fea­ture a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent folks, espe­cial­ly when a shoot is hap­pen­ing with­in a lim­it­ed time­frame, doesn’t hap­pen by acci­dent. And even though it might take more leg­work upfront, it pays off. We want poten­tial vis­i­tors to see visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion – which includes race and eth­nic­i­ty, and also extends to gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, age, abil­i­ty and more – so we didn’t rely on chance to make this hap­pen. Take mat­ters into your own hands to get the assets you need.

Through­out all your work, keep authen­tic­i­ty in mind. For exam­ple, if you show a per­son of col­or on the cov­er of a brochure but then don’t fea­ture oth­ers from the BIPOC com­mu­ni­ty in any oth­er way, it demon­strates that using diverse imagery is more of a check­box than any­thing else. Avoid tokenism and make sure you’re being thought­ful and intentional.

Once you have inclu­sive imagery, use it. Take a hard look at con­tent, and keep your goal top-of-mind through­out cre­ation and approval process­es. If this is an area with room for improve­ment at your busi­ness, don’t be afraid to be a squeaky wheel! The more it is point­ed out that there is a lack of inclu­sive imagery being used, the soon­er it will become sec­ond nature to ensure that there is rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all kinds in your brand’s visuals.

Cre­ate and Ampli­fy Con­tent Cel­e­brat­ing Diversity

Sto­ry­telling is a pow­er­ful way to cre­ate an inclu­sive, wel­com­ing busi­ness and brand. Uplift­ing sto­ries about peo­ple who are from dif­fer­ent back­grounds or have dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties helps show that every­one belongs. It also helps to think about all aspects of diver­si­ty. When it comes to a trav­el des­ti­na­tion, we con­sid­er far more than dif­fer­ences that can been seen. In addi­tion to things such as race, eth­nic­i­ty, gen­der and more, we think about con­tent we can cre­ate that helps plan for lifestyle needs that are inclu­sive to con­sid­er those who want to avoid alco­hol or may have spe­cial dietary needs, who may need sen­so­ry-friend­ly activ­i­ties, who come from dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus­es and more.

How can this be trans­lat­ed into a plan? There are many ways! Pro­files pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty to high­light a wide array of indi­vid­u­als from your orga­ni­za­tion or des­ti­na­tion. The Faces of Duluth series does just this, shin­ing a spot­light on Duluthi­ans who are part of the tourist indus­try and rep­re­sent many back­grounds, inter­ests and sto­ries. Anoth­er option could be cre­at­ing con­tent to help peo­ple know what to expect when they vis­it your busi­ness or city, such as this guide to acces­si­bil­i­ty and sen­so­ry-friend­ly infor­ma­tion or this round-up of bud­get-friend­ly ideas. It also includes the every­day con­tent you cre­ate, such as social media posts, and active­ly work­ing to ensure that there are a diverse vari­ety of top­ics and peo­ple rep­re­sent­ed on an ongo­ing basis.

Choose Diverse Vendors

When it comes to action­able items that can real­ly make a dif­fer­ence when work­ing to oper­ate equi­tably, choos­ing to spend dol­lars with diverse ven­dors is a must. From ven­dors you work with for hard goods, to cre­ative part­ners, to restau­rants team meals are being pur­chased from, there are so many ways in which busi­ness­es can sup­port diverse ven­dors. Influ­encer part­ner­ships are one place to keep this top-of-mind. Not only can work­ing with diverse part­ners expand your audi­ence, it also shows that you’re spend­ing your dol­lars in line with your beliefs.

Col­lab­o­rate with Peo­ple from Dif­fer­ent Backgrounds

While plan­ning and cre­at­ing diverse con­tent is impor­tant, it’s even more impor­tant to work close­ly with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to devel­op these mate­ri­als. This ensures that people’s sto­ries are told authen­ti­cal­ly, and not marred with notes of colo­nial­ism or oth­er uncon­scious bias. This also helps clar­i­fy what peo­ple from dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties may be look­ing for from your busi­ness or des­ti­na­tion, so you can help meet their needs and show how they belong. It’s also help­ful to acknowl­edge we might not get it right every time. Keep­ing an open mind to receiv­ing feed­back, apol­o­giz­ing and edu­cat­ing our­selves is imper­a­tive. Approach col­lab­o­ra­tion from a stand­point of under­stand­ing to tru­ly lis­ten and have oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn. Work to earn trust with peo­ple from diverse back­grounds, hear their sto­ries, and then help share them.

When it comes to over­all work to cre­ate a more inclu­sive space and orga­ni­za­tion, one thing that can be help­ful is to pri­or­i­tize DEIA work­shops and train­ings for your team. As we indi­vid­u­al­ly grow in our edu­ca­tion and under­stand­ing about inclu­sion, we can bet­ter iden­ti­fy ways our orga­ni­za­tions can grow, as well. If you have oth­er ways you pri­or­i­tize inclu­sion in your com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing work, or if you’re inter­est­ed in dis­cussing how we could help you imple­ment some of these ideas, leave a com­ment or send us a note – we’d love to connect!

Cov­er pho­to cred­it: Vis­it Duluth

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