A 2020 Catalyst report delivers compelling motivation for business leaders to work harder to reach more diverse customers:
- People of color hold a growing share of buying power in the American economy
- Consumer spending by women worldwide reached an estimated US$31.8 Trillion in 2019
- Buying power of the global LGBT population rose to about US$3.6 Trillion
I see encouraging examples of multiculturalism, with more people of color, women and other minority groups turning up in mass advertising campaigns. Moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach is to be applauded. However, it only scratches the surface. In fact, it’s almost certainly just skin deep in a lot of instances.
Companies with the most potential for success need to be authentically diverse. Their actions should go beyond making their ads and marketing materials resonate with their customers. McKinsey analysis from 2020 affirms the strong business case for gender, ethnic and cultural inclusion and diversity, especially in executive teams: “The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.”
As a PR professional, I know from my work with clients that employees with unique differences can enrich a brand identity. I see how crucial diverse leadership and workforce are to companies looking to grow their reputation and connect with customers of diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
Employees who represent a company’s brand should mirror society. Businesses have the opportunity to expand their group of trained spokespeople to include employees of different ethnicities, age and gender. Ensuring those staff members who are public facing—in media, video and podcast interviews, as authors of articles and speakers at conferences and virtual events—represent all of the customers they’re selling to. Representation matters. After all, we’re more likely to buy products from people who look and sound like us.
Training subject-matter experts to represent the company as spokespeople is critical, too. Not everyone has natural communications skills, but they can learn to deliver corporate messaging and position their company in a consistent and engaging way. Developing and honing these professional skills can be done with expert media and speaker coaching. Companies can further their employees’ development as public speakers through organizations like Toastmasters. They can maximize their internal experts’ efficiency and impact by having a professional writer interview and ghost-write contributed articles for them for placement in industry publications. The return on this investment will be realized through exposure to potential new customers.
I appreciate not everyone has the confidence of Amanda Gorman when it comes to public speaking, but these are communications skills we can learn. The extraordinary performance of America’s first Youth Poet Laureate at the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration was uplifting. This diverse young woman of the next generation is inspiring others to fulfill their potential. Our workforce and business leaders of the future can become competent brand ambassadors for their company given the opportunity.
Many well-known brands are setting examples all businesses can learn from. Diversity Journal recently highlighted 53 black executives who are contributing their talents to organizations across all industries from technology to pharmaceutical and financial to consumer goods. One of the winners of the first Diversity Journal Black Leaders Worth Watching award is Candice Blacknall, a young African American female entrepreneur. As CEO of GABA, Candice understands the importance of using the media and social platforms to create her brand to build trust in her company, which uses machine learning technology and precise “cognitive thumbprints” of individual medical students to link them with ideal educational resources and personalized career development. Juggling day-to-day operations and raising capital, Candice is also bringing significant public visibility to her startup as an author of contributed articles and as an expert in her field interviewed by reporters for feature stories.
Not only does representation matter to consumers, it matters to potential employees, as well. The next generation of workers have a choice of employers. If they see a diversity of people representing a company publicly, that will inform their career decisions – just as it does the decisions of people considering what products to buy.
Vivian Kelly is founder and CEO of Interprose.
With roots deeply embedded in B2B technology and telecoms PR, she has been caring for and shaping brand reputations for industry giants and innovative startups for 30 years. Business leaders trust her to keep them top of mind and current with the latest best practices in PR, social media and content creation for engaging and influencing target audiences. In addition to her wide ranging communications expertise, Vivian has worked with numerous companies to prepare for, avoid and survive a crisis – helping transform negative opinions in the press and social media into positive reviews.
Vivian was named by Diversity Journal among the 67 winners of the 2020 Women Worth Watching® in Leadership Award.
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