“Too often, marketers start to view their audience as a reflection of themselves and create content for them. They end up thinking that all the people consuming their content have the same background and challenges as themselves. They then cannot connect with all the other folks who can find that content to be useful if only it speaks to them as well and doesn’t make them feel excluded.” – Erika Heald
Read through a few highlights from the conversation below, and listen to the full audio recording here.
Q1: How do you define inclusive content?
“Inclusive content is about creating content—web copy, social media [posts], etc.—that reaches not only your target audience, but subgroups within your target audience. I use the example of if your target audience is a 35-year-old white woman married with two kids, what about the Black woman who’s the same age and also married with two kids? What is she doing, where is she going, and what is she reading? [It’s about] really trying to find a way to go deep with your content before you go wide.” – Michelle Ngome
“[Marketers must consider] how to avoid saying, doing, or presenting things in a way that is a real turn off or causes a disconnect [for specific audiences]. I think that can happen a lot, because you get into your own kind of organizational silos and have those blinders on of ‘this is how we’ve always done and this is who we’ve always talked to,’ but there is so much more out there.” – Erika Heald
Q2: How can you gather information on your brand’s community to understand their range of perspectives and backgrounds?
Michelle shares the following advice in the audio recap:
- Gather your team.
- Audit what you have done—conduct a SWOT analysis.
- Review past surveys and conduct new surveys to understand what representation looks like within your company, both for internal team members and customers.
- Conduct social listening and join webinars to immerse yourself in cultures and communities different than your normal.
- Attend conferences and events that help you connect with and understand audiences different than your own.
- Create a strategy in order to move forward.
“You don’t want to say that you advocate for and support African Americans, when meanwhile your Black employees don’t feel comfortable about certain things within the workplace. Make sure that you’re aligned and you’re having conversations internally to figure out what that audience wants from you.” – Michelle Ngome
“I’ve seen companies get called out by employees when they’re trying to put stuff out there about diversity and inclusion when that’s not the reality of the workplace. We’ve seen a lot of brands have that blow up for them from a content perspective.” – Erika Heald
Q3: In what ways can you infuse diverse perspectives into content in a natural and engaging way?
Michelle recommends you start by tapping into your internal team to understand what your representation looks like. For Black History Month, for example, you can profile your Black employees and highlight their accomplishments. Next, tap into your network. When seeking a diverse perspective, ask your connections if they know anyone from a specific background who would be willing to speak to you to inform your upcoming content or campaign.
“When you have a platform, it gives you leverage. Don’t be afraid to utilize that. In this age of personal branding, people want to brag about themselves and what they’re doing. The opportunities are there, but you have to stretch yourself and get a little uncomfortable.” – Michelle Ngome
“If you find that it’s hard for you to reach out, then you need to ask yourself why that is. I am an introvert, but it is really darn easy to reach out to people through email, Twitter, or a LinkedIn message. You’re asking for help, and the help you’re asking for is for someone to share their story or share somebody that inspires them. You’re asking for help, but you’re asking for help from someone to help other people.” – Erika Heald
When creating your content calendar and aligning it with special dates and holidays, consider the people that you know—people you admire and are doing good work—and bring them on board for content collaboration.
“So many people have this idea that an editorial calendar is a list of rigid topics that you’re going to publish whatever it is on a specific date and who’s writing it. [The misconception is that] it’s basically a really big to-do list that makes you less able to engage. For me, it’s about making sure you’re being inclusive and that you’re hitting all the things. I always have one day per week per channel that works on [a specific focus]—like to go into LinkedIn on Tuesdays and see what people are talking about and to actually amplify other people’s great content.” – Erika Heald
“Engagement is support. Those things [likes, comments, reshares] go a long way, especially in social media, because if you like my post, now your audience sees it.” – Michelle Ngome
Q4: What is the Be Inclusive, a DEI card game?
Be Inclusive includes two card decks that are meant to facilitate conversations around DEI and help teams explore topics in a comfortable group setting. Questions include: How do we practice DEI beyond social media, what are some characteristics of inclusive leadership, and how do we create an environment for people to do their best work. Learn all about Be Inclusive and order your decks through Michelle’s website.
Q5: What is the African American Marketing Association?
Michelle founded the African American Marketing Association in 2019. It is a nonprofit organization to galvanize Black marketers in order for them to have the resources and opportunities they need to grow their brands. The association offers monthly webinars, professional development resources, and networking opportunities.
Q6: What are your go-to resources for keeping up with the latest best practices and examples around inclusive content marketing?
Michelle recommends the following resources: