Last month, I read an exciting book about inclusive communication. Even though I am not a marketer and don't have a target audience, I want to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and safe, and I hope to lead by example. So, I will share my five takeaways from this book with you (I could share a lot more!). Read Hanan Challouki's book Inclusive Communication if this blog inspires you. It's a must-read!
1. Leave stereotypes behind
Inclusive communication tries to normalize diversity not by using stereotypes (which often have a negative connotation) but by showing the reality. Unfortunately, people relate to (harmful) stereotypes, and it is hard to leave them behind. Talking from my own experience, I am often scared to make mistakes that reinforce certain stereotypes.
Hanan also talks about "you can't be what you can't see", meaning that if you never show a female leader or a stay-at-home-dad, people will maintain the same mindset. Humans often stick to their views, which only change by encountering other examples.
Authenticity and taking responsibility are a big part of leaving those stereotypes behind. You want the minority group to feel: "finally! They see us". For example, consider the movie Encanto, a Disney movie about a multigenerational Colombian family, the Madrigals. Many Latino kids and adults could finally recognize themselves in the characters because they looked like them.
2. Three fundamental values of inclusive communication your company needs to be aware of
We all know diversity is not only an important topic because it's the right thing to do. Most businesses consider the business model because being inclusive can grow your company and reach more people. Authenticity is essential if you don't want people to think you only incorporate diversity for money. You can't have an inclusive communication strategy that feels authentic if your company isn't inclusive. Your team must believe in your inclusive values, and you need to implement specific actions to make your environment more inclusive.
Don't say you think inclusivity is essential if you are too scared to talk about it. It's okay if you don't believe in its importance, but don't say you do if you are scared to take action. Some people will not like the things you communicate, or you might lose a client. No doubt. But was it a match in heaven anyway if they don't value your beliefs? Diversity and inclusivity will gain importance, so the sooner you start, the better for you and your company.
We are humans, and that means we fuck up. After being authentic and taking courage, you might make mistakes. Being transparent about your mistakes and showing how you have learned and grown from them is essential in your communication. It's perfectly okay that your company is still learning, that you made some mistakes in the past, and that you still have to figure out what works and what doesn't as long as you are honest about it.
3. How to create internal support
Not only do you want to change your way of communicating with your audience on social media and your website, but you also want inclusivity to live in your work environment. So, how do you enable this?
a. Don’t concentrate your knowledge and responsibility in one spot. Give people the chance to join your meetings/conversations. (Make your inclusivity spot as inclusive as possible)
b. Keep your employees up-to-date with the progress. Share your ups and downs, your wins and loses. You want to be transparent to everyone.
c. Create a safe space where they can ask questions and debate. Inclusivity is a pretty new concept, and it comes with some challenges. You can expect people to have questions or want to challenge your decisions. Being open to feedback and helping people out with their doubts is crucial.
Try to engage with your employees, and give them a chance to communicate. Remember that maybe not everyone feels safe to say certain things out loud, so an anonymous form could help.
4. The way you write your vacancies matters
Job vacancies are all about being able to relate and thinking: wow, this could be me. Writing something that would be meaningful to a broad group of people is not easy. It's vital to know how you write influences the people contacting you.
For example, it's already known that women tend to look for vacancies where they can check everything on the list, rather than most men who are happy with checking off 60%. This has nothing to do with being more confident, as research notices a difference in how young girls are taught to follow all the rules. What you might not know is that there are certain words we unconsciously connect with a specific gender. Here is a list of words that we most likely associate with gender:
Considering this, you might understand better why women would choose a company that calls itself a community instead of a company that calls itself a tribe. The hardest thing is to find a good balance of inclusiveness in your text.
5. Let people know you are pro-diversity
Spread the word, say it, and provide a text on your website or vacancies where you explain that everyone is welcome in your company and that diversity is essential to you and your company. If you want to make this message believable, try to look back at the three fundamental values of inclusive communication. Remember that not saying anything about diversity is also a way of positioning yourself.
Ultimately, talking about it authentically and transparently is the biggest takeaway. Dare to ask questions, dare to listen to what people have to say, and challenge the current way of communication and worldview. There is still so much to say. If you want to know more, check out Hanan Challouki's book here.