Start creating more inclusive communications using these top tips.
In a world that thrives on diversity and interconnectedness, creating content that welcomes and includes everyone is crucial. When we create inclusive and accessible communications, we strengthen the bonds of community and build a more accepting world for future generations.
As comms and marketing experts, we have the power to shape perspectives, challenge biases, and foster inclusivity with our words. So, imagine the impact we can have when we prioritise inclusion in our work.
Embedding inclusion in your communications isn't just a box to check; it's a commitment to understanding good practices and putting them into action. Adopt these four strategies to ensure your content resonates with a wide range of readers.
1. Inclusive language
The language we use plays a vital role in shaping perceptions and attitudes. By making conscious choices in our vocabulary, we can create a more inclusive tone in our writing. Consider the following:
Gender-neutral language: opt for gender-neutral terms to avoid reinforcing stereotypes or excluding individuals. Instead of using "he" or "she," use inclusive alternatives such as "they" or rephrase sentences to avoid gender-specific pronouns altogether.
Inclusive pronouns: show respect by acknowledging and using people’s pronouns appropriately. Incorporate gender-neutral pronouns like "they/them" or specific pronouns such as "he/him," "she/her," or others if known.
Identity-first and person-first language: when writing about disability, it's always best to ask your customers or audience how they prefer to be identified. Identity-first language, commonly used in the UK, places the disability or impairment before the person: a blind person, a disabled person, an Autistic person, or a Deaf/deaf person. This approach aligns with the social model of disability, highlighting that society is responsible for disabling individuals rather than their impairments.
On the other hand, person-first language emphasises that a person should not be defined solely by their disability or impairment. Instead of "a blind person", you would say "a person who is blind". Similarly, you would use phrases like "people with learning difficulties" or "people with mental health conditions". Person-first language is usually preferred in the United States of America, Australia and South Africa.
2. Cultural sensitivity
In a globalised world, cultural sensitivity is crucial to fostering inclusivity. Consider these tips to ensure your content is respectful and inclusive of diverse cultures.
Avoid stereotypes: challenge stereotypes and generalisations that perpetuate biases. Recognise the rich diversity within each culture and strive for accurate and nuanced portrayals.
Cultivate nuance: present diverse cultures accurately and authentically by incorporating nuanced perspectives into your comms. Do your research to understand people's values, traditions, and attitudes. Consult with individuals from those communities to gain authentic insights and avoid misrepresentation.
3. Accessibility considerations
Making your content accessible means reaching a wider range of people. Accessible content is good for everyone: disabled people, people whose first language isn’t English, people with low literacy, and time-poor people.
Here are some ways to make your content more accessible.
Alt text for images: provide alternative text descriptions for images to assist visually impaired readers who rely on screen readers to access content.
Clear and concise writing: use simple language, short sentences, and break up complex ideas into smaller, digestible chunks. Aim for one idea per sentence to help readers of all literacy levels and cognitive abilities engage with your content.
Captioning and transcripts: include captions for videos and provide transcripts for audio content. It not only makes your content accessible to those with hearing impairments but also for those who prefer not to use audio (while on a train, for example).
4. Inclusive storytelling
Stories can connect people, challenge perspectives, and inspire change. By adopting inclusive storytelling practices, we can ensure our narratives reflect the richness of human experiences. Consider the following:
Diverse characters: introduce characters from various backgrounds, identities, and experiences to represent society better. Avoid tokenism and give these characters meaningful roles within your narrative.
Intersectionality: acknowledge the intersectionality of identities by recognising that individuals can face multiple forms of discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, and more. Explore these intersections and promote empathy and understanding.
Authentic voices: whenever possible, amplify marginalised or under-represented voices and provide platforms for individuals to share their stories in their own words. It helps to avoid the pitfalls of speaking on behalf of others and fosters authentic representation.
Embedding inclusive thinking in your comms planning and execution requires sustained, collective effort. Not least because, as society moves on, so does our language. Think of it as a journey rather than a race to the finish line.
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