Representation is a timely issue that all teams should consider, especially where their communication is concerned. Diverse voices not only allow for more connective communication. They promote ideas that are important to a growing number of consumers in a massive and active audience. But are messages about “inclusion” or “representation” enough? No, say the majority of people most closely connected to these concerns. Words matter, but general, nonspecific, and neutral terminology helps no one. To achieve active and healthy cross-cultural communication, the messages must be targeted, authentic, and specific.
Making this happen is about more than simply trying to identify and excise unintended bias. It’s about being systemically proactive in one’s approach to communicating cultural connection rather than passive cultural sensitivity.
Thought leaders and communication professionals interested in getting this right don’t need to go out and reshape their teams to “look” diverse. Still, they need to work with stakeholders to gather real, actionable insight that will allow them to close the culture gap and communicate positively both internally and externally.
Work with these stakeholders to assess past and current campaigns, see what worked and where improvements may be made. Identify the groups the brand wants to target and bring in voices representing those groups honestly and well.
If there is a need to supplement or shift the team, look for ways to make it better, rather than simply changing our faces for the sake of representation. Shift steps in the recruitment and onboarding processes that tend to send you back to the same places so that the search is organically expanded to include a more diverse talent pool. And don’t bring in “diverse” voices only to work on “diverse” topics or campaigns. Bring everyone to the table and allow all voices to complement each other.
Collect data from diverse stakeholders and allow that data to influence approaches and campaigns going forward. Look at this as a structural shift to address very real cultural shifts happening in the marketplace. Some brands are, unfortunately, actively ignoring these shifts to their detriment.
As this process – and it should be viewed as a process, not a switch to flip – is being implemented, consider specific metrics to gauge the process’s success. Do you see short-term shifts that will likely lead to long-term shifts that work with clear shifts in the marketplace?
It will take time, trial, patience, and commitment to continue tracking, assessing, and shifting. Bridging the cultural gap and committing to more equitable representation is not a one-and-done, set it and forget it program. It’s a proactive, ongoing cultural shift that accounts for cultural trends while looking for specific ways to cast not just a wider but more effectively targeted net.
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