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Screen Shot 2022-04-01 at 2.13.56 PM.png Photo courtesy Lori Barbely Photography

Stepping Up Your Inclusive Marketing in 2022

Brand messaging that worked in the early aughts or even the ‘10s feel outdated and, in some cases, downright offensive today. 

Digital marketing has taken over the business world by storm as today’s consumers rely on the internet to research brands and make purchasing decisions. And it’s particularly true for the event industry, where visuals reign supreme and the average buyer has grown up with technology at their fingertips. 

But just as the digital landscape has evolved, the market’s values and influencing factors have also changed. As a result, brand messaging that worked in the early aughts or even the ‘10s feel outdated and, in some cases, downright offensive today. 

People have grown in empathy, compassion, and understanding for others, and in that, they expect the businesses they support to follow suit.  

Rethink the way you speak. 

Those who identify within perceived “majorities” (think white, heteronormative, cisgender, non-disabled, etc.) often don’t think about the impact of their words, as they come from a place of privilege—even if there is nothing but kind-hearted intentions. So, while the term “bridal party” may seem commonplace to a cishet wedding pro, it can feel like a separating term for LGBTQ+ couples. 

In marketing especially, words matter—and they can be the difference between an enthusiastic booking and a lost lead. By rethinking your vocabulary and the way you communicate through social media, emails, ads, and other channels, you can create a space that invites all people. 

This isn’t just for reaching individuals in underrepresented communities, either. Today’s consumer is mindful of a brand’s messaging and how it could impact their friends and family within such groups, even if they do not share those identities. Inclusivity is a driving factor for the modern buyer, and it’s up to businesses to meet expectations. 

Accept your mistakes as lessons. 

Rewiring your biases and beliefs can be difficult, so accept that you will slip up from time to time. Much like you’ve made mistakes as a business owner, it’s all a part of growth.  

With that said, it’s not so much about the error but how you handle it. You may feel shame or embarrassment from using the wrong pronoun or phrase, but it’s essential that you accept it with grace, apologize, and learn from it.  

Making excuses, doubling down on a mistake, or pretending like it never happened all demonstrate privilege rather than a willingness to grow. Additionally, being overly apologetic has now made the situation be about your discomfort, and may cause the other person to feel like they need to comfort or educate you, neither of which is their responsibility. Instead, return to your innate empathy and compassion, remain humble, move on, and consider it a lesson learned. 

Avoid tokenism and appropriation. 

Diversity is expected, but there is such a thing as trying “too hard.” Tokenism is the act of marketing to specific subgroups using a limited number of people from that group. For instance, marketing to the disabled community using the same mixed-ability couple for years would be a prime example of tokenism.  

Appropriation, on the other hand, is the act of claiming elements of an underrepresented group as your own. For example, stating that you love same-sex weddings because your favorite cousin is gay does little to relate to the LGBTQ+ community; instead, it only highlights the differences you perceive in a prospect or client. 

While tokenism and appropriation involve different missteps, they are two sides of the same coin. Both come from a place of inauthenticity, as if someone’s identity determines whether or not they are a fit for your business. Rather than focus on differences (even with good intentions), embrace the art of listening and ask questions that get to the root of a client’s needs—regardless of race, gender, orientation, size, or other characteristics. 

Bring your team on board. 

One equality-minded person in a company of many can only make so much of a difference. A truly inclusive brand (and marketing strategy) is one led by a team of people who share the same values and commit to cultivating a welcoming environment for all. 

In many wedding businesses, several people have their hands in the marketing mix—and all it takes is one poorly-timed social media post or ill-worded email to turn market perception sour. Thus, investing in your team’s D&I education is an investment in the sustainability of your business and the comfort of all future prospects and clients. 

There are countless workshops, courses, and other educational tools available for team support, both virtual and in-person.  

So whether you’re planning for a website revamp or your social media accounts need a messaging overhaul, take the time to learn and reflect on what inclusivity means to you, your business, and your clients. Your efforts must come from the heart; otherwise, any measures will feel inauthentic and, at worst, like tokenism or appropriation. Start from within and work on optimizing your marketing approach from there. 

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