Diversity is missing in digital

Photo of person using a notebook computer with a phone lying next to it.

Why designers and copy creators need to be thinking about inclusion.

By Grazia Pecoraro, Principal Consultant & Founder – Perspective Hive Diversity Consulting

In the last week, digital, content and designing for inclusion have intersected in my lounge. I was offered a place in the Summit of Content Marketing where 100 leading thinkers in social media, digital and communications from across the world shared their insights into navigating the paradigm of online presence and brand. And I didn’t need to leave my home-office desk to attend this conference, scoring an ‘A+’ for Accessibility!

While the content and speakers were absolutely fabulous in the Summit, the lack of designing for inclusion as a topic again reinforced how much work there is to do in this space. What’s the point of creating content if people can’t read it? What impact is imagery going to have if it’s not representative of the audience? And you’ll alienate many current or future customers by not paying attention to language – particularly when it reinforces stereotypes (e.g. ‘Chairman’) or makes certain people feel excluded (by using terms such as ‘the blind leading the blind’). Designing for inclusion is about making a connection with a wide audience.

With my background in public relations, reputation management and internal communications, inclusive communication design is high on my radar. The volume of channels and content now being developed (with low cost and ease) is creating what I refer to as ‘the democratisation of opportunity’, particularly for smaller businesses. Being mindful around inclusive marketing is what will set those that get it apart from those who assume their audience is heterogeneous (specifically white, heterosexual males without any disability).

We’re only now at the cusp of the content and customer-choice revolution that digital promises. Everyone is getting excited (or perhaps a little scared) about the possibilities. Imagine what could happen if you amplify the benefits when a Google search puts your web site at the top of the search list through SEO smarts, but when customers access it, they feel you really get them. You speak to them, in all of their magnificently diverse forms because you’ve build your content to be inclusive. Images are tagged and captioned, your marketing imagery is representative, fonts and colours are accessible, and your blogs avoid language that perpetuates negative stereotypes.

No matter what size your company is, if your brand is about being diverse and inclusive, and you’re investing in a diversity program, then your marketing and communications teams need to tune in. They need to know what inclusive design is and apply it consistently. They need to upskill themselves as well as their ecosystem partners – the designers, IT team, advertising and PR agencies, and the copy writers. As Thomas Carlyle said: ‘Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight’.

How to get started? Get in touch with me. Even think about your existing tools. Microsoft has an inbuilt accessibility tracker to check your documents – use it! Vision Australia has a whole lot of inclusive design resources available as well. Also, companies such as Intopia can do accessibility audits of web sites and are technical experts in accessibility compliance requirements.

I’d like to thank Kirryn Zerna, a former communications colleague from Westpac who has also started her own consultancy, specialising in social media marketing, for the opportunity to attend the Summit of Content Marketing. Perspective Hive is a diversity consulting hub for thinking differently about difference that is set up to connect with other like-minded companies to make real and meaningful change in business.

Perspective Hive diversity consulting offers a range of capabilities to help companies set up and steer an inclusion and diversity agenda that makes meaningful change, drives innovation and creates business value.

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