A beginner’s guide to inclusive content marketing
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
In a rare instance of good news, diversity and inclusion have been increasingly discussed in recent years, particularly across the marketing world. We all know the importance of inclusion – but what does that actually look like as part of your marketing strategy?
Of course, having a truly inclusive marketing strategy incorporates every element of your brand presence – it’s not enough to just talk about diversity and inclusion publicly on a few occasions a year. You need to let your actions show your intention, so diversity and inclusion don’t just become platitudes. An accessible, inclusive marketing strategy is about walking the walk. However, the way you talk the talk is the first step on the journey.
What is inclusive content?
Simply put, inclusive content appeals to, represents and resonates with a diverse audience with differing characteristics. Content marketing in general is all about attracting an audience and engaging them with relevant, useful information. Whether your goal is transactional or informational, making sure your content appeals to a wider group is obviously a good idea to increase your potential pool of customers.
Truly inclusive content encompasses your entire brand output – the design of your website to video content in ads, models in product imagery and the words used in copy.
Why is inclusive content important?
Carefully considered content is a tried and tested way of building trust with your audience. It gives your brand personality, encourages loyalty and helps you foster a real relationship with your consumers. If your brand promotes an image of inclusivity, diversity and inclusion, you’ll be seen by your customers as more trustworthy.
From the faces and images we use in our paid social ads to the words we use in all content writing output, putting out more collateral that’s reflective of a wide group of people and cultures is a vital part of modern marketing. Failing to use language that’s inclusive not only negatively impacts certain communities, but can also make your company seem outdated, stunted and unwilling to grow.
Quantilope reported that almost 80% of Gen Z said it was important to them that brands reflect diversity, signalling younger consumers’ intentions to purchase with integrity. Similarly, a recent Microsoft Advertising study found that 64% are more trusting of brands with diverse advertising, while the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Study reported that 57% are influenced to buy or boycott based on a brand’s position on social issues.
So beyond the obvious social and ethical benefits, why should you use inclusive content for your business? It may seem obvious but it’s worth reiterating – wider-reaching content will reach a wider audience. Reflecting diversity in your marketing strategy also encourages consumers to consider purchasing. Google research shows that people are more likely to make a purchase or consider a brand after seeing branded content that is inclusive or diverse.
Similarly, the above Microsoft Advertising study found that an inclusive ad increased purchase intent by 23% – whether the user considered themselves represented in the content or not. The study found that the majority of people (64%) said they took an action after seeing content they thought was inclusive or diverse. This percentage skyrockets to 76% for teens, 77% for millennials and 85% for LGBTQ consumers.
Clearly, as marketers and companies, we need to put our money where our mouth is. Or to put it another, more intentional way – we need to start designing and choosing our content to positively impact more people, position ourselves as truly inclusive, and stop assuming a default when it comes to the audience we’re marketing to.
3 top tips on creating inclusive content
So how should you go about creating an inclusive content strategy? Here are a few great starting points to begin with from an initial planning perspective, before looking at your audience targeting, performance creative and more.
Choose your language carefully
This one might seem obvious, but choosing the right words goes a long way. Good content writing takes grammar, spelling, SEO objectives and brand positioning into account – but it should also consider the type of words used.
For example, it can be easy to accidentally use gendered language when trying to use colloquialisms or a casual tone – think addressing your audience as “guys”, for example. To help with this, the UN has put together this list of gender-neutral alternatives.
It’s also a good idea to really consider any descriptors in use. For example, lots of commonly used idioms use terms like “dark” and “black” to be negative. Microsoft’s Marketing with Purpose Playbook suggests focussing on words that evoke a sense of connection, openness and balance instead.
Put accessibility first
Any inclusive strategy should consider all possible users and therefore must have a focus on accessibility. Making web accessibility a priority will involve UX and development input, but every element of creating content should think about being more accessible. The way you present your content is just as important as what it actually contains.
A quality SEO strategy will already work on improving accessibility – things like reducing motion and improving site speed will help accessibility from a technical standpoint. From a content perspective, make sure to include relevant alt tags, break up text with proper headers, and add captions to videos.
Know your audience
As part of your overarching omnichannel strategy you’ll likely be working with personas to understand your customers. But while these profiles might help you understand someone’s shopping or online habits, they might not go deep enough.
You can expand your audience personas by adding additional layers. As per Marketing with Purpose, some things to consider include:
Demographic, e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, location
Experiential, e.g. hobbies, economic level, education, health
Cognitive, e.g. the way your audience thinks and solves problems
Think about blind spots within your marketing team and seek out ways to create more relevant content. Ask for feedback, and always keep an open mind and openness to change.