While All PR Efforts Begin with Research, Inclusive Campaigns Require Special Preparation

rainbow silhouettes illustrating inclusive bodies

Diversity and inclusion continue to be at the forefront of necessary change in the PR industry (and beyond). As such, communicators should be crafting inclusive messaging. Among their considerations should be race, gender and identification, sexual orientation, religion and disability, along with other factors. To create inclusive messaging, PR pros need to look beyond their unintentional biases.

“Often the barriers to representative creative come in the form of unconscious bias,” says Jerry Daykin, senior media director EMEA at GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Fortunately, there are resources that can help communicators. For example, Daykin is also global diversity and inclusion ambassador for the World Federation of Advertisers, which recently released “Diversity & Representation: A Guide to Potential Areas for Bias in the Creative Process.” The guide, Daykin says in its introduction, highlights “some of the simple nudges and critical questions marketers can use to avoid the gaps in representation that these biases can create.”

Resources for Inclusion

In addition, there are agencies that specialize in helping create inclusive campaigns. One such firm, andHumanity, offers tools on its site for potential clients and consumers interested in the topic. Resources include a glossary of DEI terms and a self-assessment tool to measure brand inclusion.

For andHumanity’s co-founders, Matthew and Tammy Tsang, one of the keys to success with inclusive campaigns is preparation and research.

Typically, communicators do plenty of research prior to beginning a campaign. Such homework is designed to guide communicators toward objective truths about markets en route to strategic decisions.

The Tsangs and other pros in this specialty, though, concentrate on how such research is conducted and who is doing it. They vet for research teams’ intercultural sensitivity, for instance. If necessary, they offer additional personnel and resources to fill gaps.

They make this effort because standard forms of research often are inherently biased. This makes sense considering everyone has an unintentional bias. Sometimes such biases are learned during childhood.

“Research points us in the direction we should be looking…so, if [the research] starts off in a biased space, then the campaign is set up to be biased from the get go,” Tammy Tsang said during a PRNEWS LinkedIn Live session.

To overcome this, she says, requires taking account of the dominant cultural lens. “When you see a survey and you check off gender—it’s Male, Female, Other,” she says. “And now you might see Male, Female, Trans, Other; it’s literally in order of priority of the dominant culture.”

A more unbiased, inclusive survey might offer choices in alphabetical order, she adds. It also might include an option to ‘Select All That Apply,’ for example.

Applying these types of methods can help communicators account for biases before starting a campaign. Considering inclusivity in “all steps in the marketing process, from strategy to the way you create your projects, to understanding how to remove lens and bias...is a starting point,” Tsang says.

While it may seem overwhelming for communicators to constantly consider inclusivity, Tsang argues otherwise.

“Inclusive marketing isn’t about including everyone; it’s about being purposeful about whom you include…instead of defaulting to the white cisgender male lens,” she says. “It is important to identify where you’re under- and over-representing in these dimensions and work to close those gaps.”

Benefits Of Inclusion

In addition, augmenting inclusivity and diversity as part of the communicator’s efforts can offer several rewards.

“Often companies assume that they know who is buying from them and what they want…In reality, there are under-served people and opportunities to reach beyond the current customer base,” says Kathleen Tarrant, director of communications at TomboyX, a gender-neutral apparel company.

Tammy suggests organizations utilize research when looking for objective insights to help with strategy. Those conducting research should reflect the audience you are looking to reach.

In addition to looking at its existing customer base, the company “sends out surveys to the general public as well as current customers to gauge what interest would be in certain styles, cuts and colorways,” says Tarrant. “You’d be surprised with how inclusive this ends up being.”

Moreover, soliciting a wide array of opinions can benefit product creation. An example is TomboyX’s development of an adaptable bra for people recovering from a mastectomy. “The data [from an inclusive survey] is super helpful to get an idea [of]…what people want,” Tarrant says.

Inclusivity permeates TomboyX. Prior to fashion shoots, the company provides models with a check-in form that includes questions about preferred pronouns and accessibility needs, WWD reports. Completing the form ensures models are as comfortable as possible when they arrive on set.

“To be truly inclusive, we look at what our core values are and how we can better meet them,” says Tarrant. “That means if we have a chance to serve a community, we make that happen,” she adds.

Serving more communities motivated Motherly, an online destination for the modern mom, to tweak its annual State of Motherhood survey.

Jenan A. Matari, director of accounts at Victory Public Relations, helped Motherly ensure its survey resonated with a more inclusive community of mothers. For example, Matari advised Motherly to include a box for Middle Eastern & North African (MENA) moms. This allowed MENA survey-takers to check more than one ethnicity and racial box, she says.

An Increase In Inclusive Messages

Owing to the national dialogue about racial issues in 2020, some major companies and organizations pledged to bolster diversity and inclusivity. Often this begins with messaging.

Examples include companies like Netflix and Target publishing diversity and inclusion reports, providing stakeholders with tangible evidence of accomplishments and goals.

No stranger to inclusivity, Target aims to make everyone feel comfortable as a Target shopper. Its first ad featuring a model with disability premiered almost a decade ago, and customers noticed.

A 2-year-old boy in a wheelchair became a viral sensation, as well as an ambassador for the brand, after his mother shared a photo of her son staring up in awe at an in-store display featuring another child in a wheelchair.

Unilever made news last month when it announced it would no longer use the term “normal” to describe hair and skin. In the announcement, the company says, “The decision to remove ‘normal’ is one of many steps that we are taking to challenge narrow beauty ideals, as we work towards helping to end discrimination and advocating for a more inclusive vision of beauty.”

Lexus made a splash during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl LV with its “All In” campaign for the 2021 IS vehicle. The ad features drivers from various backgrounds celebrating their own styles and personalities.

“The “All In” campaign stemmed from a shared truth between the IS and our audience,” says Vinay Shahani, VP of Lexus Marketing. “These are the kind of people who fully embrace their identity...To them, authenticity is being brave enough to have unusual hobbies and interesting backstories that they’re willing to share and embrace.”

Shahani says Lexus wanted the campaign’s messages to reflect the outlook of the target audience.

Lexus took a unique route, including psychographics rather than just demographics.

Lexus worked with a casting company to identify micro-influencers who had gone “all in” on their respective passions—be it fashion, music or food—and focused in on authenticity.

“The influencers didn’t need to act,” he says. “They just needed to be themselves. It all starts with a deep understanding of who our customers are and a desire to show up authentically in their world.”

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