How an inclusive workplace and marketing can impact your bottom line

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Online opportunities for learning reached new heights as we moved through COVID. I had three amazing experiences I wanted to share. All focus on fostering inclusion in the workplace and designing inclusive marketing. When your business and brand embrace inclusion, you’ll build the bottom line. Go here to learn more about including diversity, equity, and belonging in your business plan to create an amazing brand culture.

Inclusion in the workplace

A green circle encases a white circle with green lettering that says Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate.

First, a grateful thank you to my former colleague and always friend, Natasha. Earlier in the year, we had a Zoom call. We diverted into a DEI conversation and my desire for certification. I was exploring options and they were all costly. Following our call, she sent me a link to USF’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace certificate program.

This seven-week online course was packed with modules. A few highlights include emotional intelligence, stereotypes and biases, recruitment and retention, and creating a sustainable business model. The first session was free through the incredible sponsorship of Jabil and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thank you! Mad props to the USF Muma School of Business for imagining, designing, and deploying this incredible program. If you want to learn more, search #USFDEIcert on social media.

What is unconscious bias?

A white woman in black, gold and green print dress stands on a stage talking with her hands out to her side.
Photo Credit: Valerie Alexander website

There are two women I’d like to highlight as program presenters. First, Valerie Alexander, CEO, keynote speaker, author, and publisher. She spoke about unconscious bias and embodied authenticity, humility, and empathy. Our pre-homework? Watch her TEDx talk.

Here’s how she opens: Close your eyes. Imagine you’re running through the airport to catch a plane to attend a work-related conference. You just make it. As you board, the pilot comes out to say hello. Later that night, you decide to enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant. As you eat, you notice the couple next to you celebrating their anniversary. The following morning, you enter the conference where the CEO of a tech startup is getting ready to speak.

I will stop here. You must watch the video to learn how this exercise will enlighten, inform, and teach you about unconscious bias.

Accessible, inclusive marketing for the disabled community

A white woman with a beige sweater stands in front of white wall with black writing and symbols on it.
Photo Credit: Jenny Lay-Flurrie LinkedIn images

Jenny Lay-Flurrie had me at hello. She’s the Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft and she brought her engaging, positive energy to our virtual classroom. She schooled us on the incredible culture of the disabled community, including the importance of considering accessibility early during product development.

When it comes to access, we learned about the amazing paths Microsoft is trailblazing. For example, the company has developed a full suite of digital marketing tools to help businesses build accessible websites for the sight-impaired and the hearing impaired.

Design for one and others will follow

I follow Lay-Flurrie on LinkedIn. As a result, I learned about the Ability Summit. Their mission is to “bring together employees with disabilities to share their best practices, pain points, and dreams.”

The Marketing with Purpose course was facilitated by Chris Capossela, CMO of Microsoft. It featured MJ DePalma, Head of Inclusive Marketing and Marketing Excellence at Microsoft, and Sarah Horton, Senior Director of Innovation and Integrated Marketing at Tommy Hilfiger. If you want to know about inclusive marketing, these people are your brethren! Key takeaways:

  • Think serving vs hacking. Accessible, inclusive marketing is about serving an audience at launch. It’s not about hacking a solution together afterward. Consumer groups with buying power – the disabled, persons of color, LGBTQ+, seniors – all are looking for brands to include their voice in their marketing efforts.
  • Design marketing with your audience vs for your audience. Talk with them from the beginning. Early conversations will ensure your product or service will fit an existing need.
  • Design for one and others will follow. Inclusive marketing attracts a larger audience based on what your brand stands for. Brands are defined by a shared set of values; shared values build connections.

Marketing with purpose

Three women and a man sit at a table drinking coffee with a brick wall behind representing an inclusive marketing image.
Photo Credit: Marketing with Purpose course image

After attending the Marketing with Purpose session at the Summit, I learned about the Marketing with Purpose course. Yes, there’s a pattern here! This course demonstrates how to build a trusted brand by communicating “responsibility, values, and inclusion in your advertising.”

  • Responsibility relates to privacy laws, communicating honestly, ethical practices, and digital accessibility.
  • Values are about exchange and reciprocity. These are the gives and the gets. For example, prospects and customers may give their email addresses in order to get something from you.
  • Inclusion means building products, services, and experiences for all abilities. Not only do inclusive marketing companies generate 28 percent higher revenue, but they also increase their economic profit margin performance by 30 percent. And company net income is 2x higher, according to the research DePalma shared.

Calling inclusive marketing professionals and DEI allies

Full disclosure. I’m re-evaluating my professional purpose. My head has always been in marketing and branding. At the same time, my heart has always been in diversity and inclusion. I’m working on bridging this intersection by:

  • Seeking education and passing it on to others looking for opportunities in the DEI and inclusive marketing space
  • Sharing takeaways with business owners who want to market inclusively yet aren’t sure how to start
  • Connecting with directors of marketing and ad agencies to share inclusive marketing tools and resources
  • Inviting feedback from HR professionals and DEI officers willing to share insight

Simply put, I’m yoked with you and learning. Unfortunately, we’re a small community. There aren’t many faces and voices filling this gap. I encourage and invite new connections via LinkedIn. And while I don’t have a course offering or webinar (yet!), I welcome questions via my contact form. I’m more than happy to consult and share the expertise I’ve gleaned.

Debbie Schallock is a content and brand strategist, DEI ally, communication thought leader, and content marketing partner to agencies. She’s the founder of Seachange Branding, arming startups and SMBs with the right tools to clarify business positioning and carve a competitive advantage. She blogs on the topics of branding and inclusion. Her research has been published in the International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations – A Space for Gray: The Value of Difference.

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6 Comments

Valerie Alexander · June 27, 2021 at 2:45 pm

It’s so wonderful that you’re doing this important work and taking advantage of these opportunities. Congratulations!

    Debbie · June 27, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you Valerie. Thank you for sharing your expertise and for your continued support, especially via LinkedIn!

Natasha Ashe-Suber · June 27, 2021 at 9:44 pm

Kudos!! Your commitment to enhancing DEI in the workplace and our profession is inspiring and encouraging! Love you’re taking advantage of these opportunities to learn more to help advance DEI. Proud of you and glad we’re on this journey together! ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏼✊🏻✊

    Debbie · June 28, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    I appreciate it Natasha. Thank YOU for your intellect and inspiration. And thank you for sharing your journey with me and guiding my path forward. Brava!

Robin Adams · June 28, 2021 at 10:48 am

This is always been who you are. From working with the Lost Boys until now, you are being your authentic self.

Debbie · June 28, 2021 at 4:22 pm

Robin, thank you. My brothers did start me on a journey of cultural values and differences. They taught me so much. 🙏🏽😊 Thank you for being a friend and steward on my path. 👊🏽😀

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