Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) In Influencer Marketing: Why It’s Important
Before we begin, a few thoughts from Lyle Stevens, Mavrck CEO
- “To put people first acknowledges that it must be for all people and we believe this is done by creating a safe space for all backgrounds and developing a culture that encourages vulnerability.”
- By working with our brands, marketers, influencers, and Mavrck squad members with more inclusivity, prioritizing diversity, and delivering with equity, our impact within the industry can be far-reaching.
Why Representation Matters
In efforts toward a more equitable and inclusive influencer industry, it is imperative that all voices are heard, every step of the way. While the importance and value of representation may seem obvious to some, there is always work to be done. It is clear that the road towards inclusivity and diversity is an ever-evolving journey, and the process of fully supporting this lifelong effort needs constant reiteration and reinforcement to make a lasting impact.
In the context of influencer marketing, it’s important to keep in mind the story that’s being told. Content that’s published on social channels shares relatable experiences with an audience and by limiting the diversity within the content itself, you limit that content’s ability to reach a large portion of your target audience. By perpetuating harmful stereotypes of underrepresented people or excluding them altogether, we fail those people and perpetuate inequity.
Creator and author Stephanie Yeboah wrote in an article in 2019, “By exclusively using white influencers to tout holiday experiences, beauty and skincare products, and fashion pieces, the story being told is that these experiences are only available to white people.” And it’s a sentiment that is felt by many.
5 Steps To Make Your Influencer Marketing Programs More Diverse And Inclusive
The best time to start becoming more inclusive is yesterday. This process is not always easy, but it shouldn’t be. By committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), you are taking an incremental step towards a fundamental change to support humanity and all its lived experiences, so don’t be surprised if an equitable transformation in your program doesn’t happen overnight. That being said, the following strategies will aid in the ideation, implementation, and iterative improvement on making your influencer programs more diverse and inclusive, right now:
1. Listen, learn, and then unlearn.
“Unlearning” means learning to think, behave, or perceive differently when there are already beliefs, behaviors, or assumptions in place. While unlearning your own biases, make sure to involve your influencers and potential influencer partners — survey them, talk to them, solicit ideas from them. And ensure the group you’re surveying is diverse and includes underrepresented people.
2. Set progress markers and establish accountability processes.
Inclusive marketing should be embedded into every stage of your marketing efforts. Understand where you currently stand when it comes to the inclusivity of your influencer efforts, and create systems of continuous improvement. Focus on creating ongoing accountability and always keep this top of mind: representation matters.
3. Look at your external, internal, and partner teams.
Who is at the table? Create a safe ecosystem of collaboration between underrepresented individuals and consistently ask yourself: whose voice isn’t being heard? Remember: representation matters (yes, we said it again), and holding your marketing partners accountable is also key to inclusive marketing.
4. Evaluate your brand materials, processes, and practices.
Through a diversity and inclusion lens, review your brand guidelines, brand book, brand briefs, and any other marketing materials. Are you being as inclusive as possible? After doing a deep dive into your materials, make sure to curate inclusive mood boards, create flexible briefs to allow for creative freedom, and ensure that you offer fair and equitable payment for your collaborations.
5. Gather feedback. And listen some more.
Track your progress and solicit feedback from both influencers, team members, and even end consumers, if resources allow. Take the feedback into account and consideration for future campaigns to optimize accordingly.
How to Make Your Marketing Materials More Inclusive
Step four above highlights the action of evaluating your marketing materials to ensure they are inclusive. While working on this, you may notice which materials fall short when it comes to your brand’s commitment to diversity and representation. Don’t worry; recognizing where your program needs improvement is a vital stage in your growth to supporting DEI. But more importantly, what actions will you take after this introspection? The following strategies can serve as pillars to support the foundation of your brand’s commitment to inclusion within your influencer programs and beyond.
1. Diversify your influencer persona types.
While identifying your brand’s influencer persona types, you must make a conscious effort to include a wide variety of personas, each representing your consumer.
2. Provide creators with inclusive mood boards to inspire creativity.
It’s important to give creators just the right amount of guidance so that their genuine creativity and voice can be portrayed in a way that also aligns with the brand itself.
3. Repurpose diverse influencer-generated content (IGC) across all marketing efforts.
This is content that brands can then repurpose across their other marketing initiatives, whether within their brand books, in their customer emails, across their website, or on their social media channels — the possibilities are endless.
The Creator Perspective on DEI in Influencer Marketing
To not include the perspective of underrepresented creators would only perpetuate the inequity we see within the marketing world. Here are a few thoughts on inclusivity, from creators who have experience on this important topic.
- Jamie Lynn, blogger and content creator, recommends that creators should “speak up and ask for what you want and what you believe you deserve. Don’t let the fear of backlash or not being invited to a future campaign hold you back. Use your voice.”
- Trystan Reese established thought leader, educator, and speaker, explains that “… the difference is treating the influencers like people, not ad units, where you want to invest in them and help them up their game. In the end, it creates a more marketable relationship, where a brand can confidently say that ‘we consistently work with X amount of trans creators and we are proud of the content they create.’”
- Sarah Amann & Rachel Benson advise that brands need to “make diversity a part of your overarching strategy and not just during these ‘banner months.’ This shift in strategy is just a good business move.”
Let’s Keep The Conversation Going
We don’t want the ultimate message of this blog to be muddled with how to “best optimize” your influencer marketing strategy to support DEI. While Mavrck is a business and this blog aims to provide business strategy solutions, inclusivity and diversity is a human problem that needs human effort. You could always simply take the above steps and make your program seem more inclusive, but that wouldn’t be a true commitment to diversity.
Commitment comes through the conscious effort to exercise empathy and compassion through every action, not just in the workplace. Your commitment is not just to diversity and inclusion in influencer marketing, but to yourself. Decide how you will personally take an active role to combat inequity in your everyday life, and determine how you will contribute to the advancement of a more equitable society (in every capacity available to you). Feel for others, empower underrepresented voices to be heard, listen to those voices, and whether it seems big or small, make a real impact for all people.
Want to learn more? Download our guide to inclusive influencer marketing.