Diversity, Social Awareness, and Your Brand: How Video Can Help
Just this past November, a New York-based video production company called MultiVision Digital launched its Diversity and Inclusion portfolio. Robert Weiss, the president of the company, explained this decision by saying, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion business videos serve to underline an organization’s commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive culture” which can be reflected both within the company and beyond to its clients.
So, what does this have to do with you? Diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility are becoming increasingly important for brands and consumers. Your clients want to know that you stand for the same things that you do. Need some assistance figuring out how to go about that? We’re here to help!
First, Some Vocabulary
Social awareness and responsibility, diversity, and inclusion are all terms that have been appearing more and more in the news cycle over the last several years, but what do they really mean?
From a business perspective, each of these terms relates to how your company interacts with and reflects the world around it. The “social” part of social awareness and responsibility is in regard to people. When considering people, it is important to remember that everybody has an intersectional identity made up of factors including, but not limited to, their race, gender, sexuality, religion, and class which impacts their lived experiences. Social awareness, then, involves having empathy towards those who you work with and who are part of your audience and being able to interact appropriately with different people.
Social responsibility, though a similar term, has a different meaning. Social responsibility is the idea that “individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of their environment and society as a whole.” In business, this can look like making decisions that with benefit both your company and society. For example, environmental concerns are a common issue that businesses take on through a ‘going green’ type of initiative. This is beneficial to them as it makes them appear forward-thinking and conscientious to their audience, and it’s beneficial for society because the company is addressing and trying to help combat environmental issues that affect society as a whole.
Diversity and inclusion are often considered to be the same thing, but that isn’t exactly true. According to ADP’s chief diversity and social responsibility officer Rita Mitjans, “Diversity is the ‘what’; inclusion is the ‘how.’” Diversity reflects the makeup of people in your company or in the content you are producing, and inclusion is ensuring that the culture in your workplace allows everybody to succeed and feel comfortable within your company.
Social Responsibility and Your Brand
Improving your company’s diversity and inclusion isn’t something that can be done with some magic, overnight fix. It requires effort and time, but Wordstream provides three ways in which you can begin to increase diversity with your brand marketing.
First, diversity starts internally. In order for your brand to represent a broad range of people and to feel inclusive, the team within your organization needs to be diverse, too. There are currently several disparities marginalized groups face within the workforce, with white men monopolizing leadership roles. When there is a lack of representation within a workplace, it’s harder for the team to address the needs of their audiences whose lived experiences are different than theirs. When your team is more diverse, you will have a larger scope on the issues different communities are facing and how your company can help. Doing so will also help you better address issues impacting marginalized communities. For example, if your company is wanting to do something for pride month, you might want to have input from LGBTQ+ members on your team about what the best way to go about it is.
The next step they suggest is to collect and utilize market data using an unbiased eye. Doing so will allow you to see what is and isn’t working, so you can continue to replicate what is good. That said, once you find a strategy that seems to be working, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to branch out and try new marketing methods. As your team continues to change and grow, check-in with them to see if they have any strategies that might better address audiences’ needs directly or that you just haven’t thought of yet.
Their third and final suggestion is to consider how your audience is perceiving your brand. If you’re technically taking all the right steps but there is no real action behind it, your company can come across as inauthentic because it is inauthentic. Your company must understand that you can’t just claim diversity and inclusion for the sake of it. Your clients and online audience will easily be able to see through appearances. Again, inclusion starts from within the company, and if you truly put in the effort to increase diversity and inclusion, this will be reflected in the work you produce and the audiences you attract.
By engaging with social responsibility and making it part of your marketing campaign, you are also creating the opportunity to share your company or brand values more explicitly with your audience. This may help you connect with clients who are better suited to your company, as they will be able to get a better judgment of if your values align before reaching out.
Diversity in Content
So you’ve put in the work and you’ve diversified your company. Now what? How does this get represented in the content you are producing? How do you go about making people feel represented?
One place to begin is considering what language you’re using. Whether it be in a blog post for your website or a caption for a social media post, you should be conscientious about whether or not the wording you are using is inclusive. If you are uncertain about the language you’re using to address your audience or a certain issue, that’s okay. Thankfully, there are several online resources available in this day and age, so a quick Google search can help you out. One readily available website is the Conscious Style Guide which provides a thorough list of resources for language on various topics such as ability and disability, gender and sexuality, race, health, appearance, and more.
A second factor to consider is what changes you can accommodate in production and post-production. Start considering the accessibility of your content for those who may come into contact with it. If you have a video with audio, add subtitles to make it accessible to a wider audience. If you have an audio file only, provide a transcript. If you’re posting an image, add alt-text. If you’re using a graphic, make sure that it is organized by something other than just colour.
Looking at your marketing strategy as a whole, it is crucial that you create a campaign that is sustainable when it comes to taking on social responsibility. When the media focuses really hard on one social/environmental/human rights issue at a time, it’s easy for it to seem like that problem is resolved or doesn’t matter anymore when it stops trending. Realistically, just because a news cycle has moved on from an issue, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be talked about or that any real change has taken place. Environmental and social issues aren’t a trend, or something that you can incorporate into your marketing strategy while the iron is hot and then give up on.
One approach for maintaining your social responsibility momentum is what Sprout Social refers to as “Show, Don’t Tell.” Rather than just telling your audience what your plan is through a statement or preliminary online post, you want to ensure that there is follow up with whatever it is that you initially said your company or brand will be doing. How you follow up can look different depending on what the goals you set were, but some examples include providing receipts of any monetary contributions you may have made to a cause, portfolios on any volunteer work your team may have done, or sharing any resources your team has been using to educate themselves on the matter at hand. As always, make sure your actions and your messaging as a brand match up.
Something to remember is that you don’t want to overstep or try to accidentally diminish real issues through a poorly thought out marketing campaign (think the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial or that “The Activist” TV show). Know when you can appropriately participate in conversations, and when it is better to listen and learn.
Video Can Help!
Video can be a great way for you to get your brand’s message across. As always, it is important that you are not presenting your company as virtue signalling, or participating in social movements for their gain. An authentic, well-done video can be a great way to educate your audience on issues and your initiatives. Videos are also able to exist across various platforms, including different social media accounts and pages on your website.
While there are a wide variety of video styles you could choose from when creating your content, we are going to highlight a few key contenders, which are commercial/promotional videos, testimonial videos, social media videos, and educational videos. Commercial or promotional videos allow you to create a narrative around a social cause and your business, allowing you to simultaneously highlight both. Customer testimonials allow for a “people-first narrative” and can help viewers feel more connected to what they’re viewing, as this style of video feels more like you are hearing from a real person about an experience, rather than just watching an ad. Social media videos are great because they are often short and are accessible to a wide audience. They can be cross-posted on different platforms, giving them a wide reach. Educational videos are essentially exactly what they sound like, videos used to educate the audience on something. In this instance, an educational video could be used to tell your audience a bit more about your initiative or to explain the cause you are supporting.
Expanding on some of the ideas mentioned above, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your video content is as inclusive as possible no matter what style of video you are creating. Subtitles in an easily readable font have been becoming increasingly common in social media content, with several platforms even now offering auto-generated captions for video content. Captions are a relatively easy add and can be greatly beneficial to those who are hard of hearing. If you’re creating animated content, think about how you can diversify your cast of characters. With animation, you have the power to represent all sorts of different body types, ethnicities, genders, and so on which is fantastic. Just make sure that when you are doing so, you are taking care to not portray your characters through a stereotypical lens. Another, somewhat more time-consuming option, is to create versions of the video in different languages. This can be done either by recording new audio for the video or simply by rewriting the captions in a new language.
By this point, you’ve hopefully realized how important it is to be socially conscious and understand the voice your company has. By partaking in social and environmental conversations, you are creating a deeper and more authentic relationship with your clientele and audience through your shared values. As always, think critically before you post and double-check the language you are using. If you have a few more minutes, we encourage you to take a look through the resources we have provided throughout this blog post to further educate yourself on the numerous efforts you can take to make your content as inclusive as possible.