With the U.S. becoming more diverse by the moment, anyone promoting their personal brand will find that their messages need to reflect society’s changing demographics and attitudes – or risk that their efforts will fall on deaf ears.
After all, with marketing in general, consumers who don’t see themselves reflected in the brands they buy from often feel inclined to take their dollars elsewhere. Just as an example, an Accenture survey found that 29 percent of shoppers say they are likely to switch to a business that values identity and diversity as much as they do.
The same holds true for personal branding, which needs to be inclusive to have the broadest appeal, says Adam Witty, the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.
But embracing inclusivity should be about more than just boosting your personal brand and your bottom line, says Witty. “Inclusivity should be an imperative because it’s the right thing to do,” he says.
Witty offers a few suggestions to help make personal-branding efforts more inclusive:
• Review your website’s appeal to diversity. Witty suggests asking yourself this question: When someone goes to your website, will what they find encourage them or dissuade them from reaching out to you? “Certainly, there’s a lot that can go into answering that question, but inclusivity plays a significant role,” he says. “If your website has stock or customer images or videos, who do they capture? Will people who visit the site find themselves represented in the visual material you share? If not, it’s probably time to reconsider your approach.”
• Make sure your language is inclusive. A website is much more than an online brochure, Witty says. “It’s an online-media property that should provide fresh content to inform and entertain your audience,” he says. “You could think of it as your own personal newspaper.” But pay close attention to the language you use in that newspaper and make sure it’s inclusive. “Think about who your copy speaks to and who it excludes,” Witty says. Even words like “he” or “she” – which can be easily swapped for “they” – may limit the number of people who feel welcomed or valued by you, he says. “It’s worth double checking that you’re not relying on stereotypes, either,” Witty says. “For instance, traditional family and gender roles have gone out the window for so many people, and your approach should likely reflect that.”
• Talk to your clients or customers. You don’t have to just guess about what people need, Witty says. “The only way to find out if you’re truly serving your audience is to do your research,” he says. “Don’t hesitate to ask them what they want and need, and to inquire again at regular intervals.”
• Maintain a beginner’s mindset. Witty suggests you can work on being more inclusive by adopting a beginner’s mindset, an approach that originated in Zen Buddhism where you set aside what you know about a subject and approach it from a fresh perspective. “When it comes to inclusivity, there is always more to learn,” Witty says. “You’ll never be finished, no matter how much homework you’ve done. Stay curious and open, and be willing to adjust when you acquire new information.”
But even with the best efforts and best intentions, mistakes can occur.
“If that happens, be ready and willing to take responsibility for the issue and offer up a sincere apology,” Witty says. “Then view it as another opportunity to learn and do better next time.”
Adam Witty is the CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders.