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Inclusive writing: the new comms skill

Why comms and marketing professionals must adapt their skills to align with changing societal expectations.

A person holding a rainbow-coloured sign in their hand with the words love, respect, freedom, tolerance, equality and pride printed on it. Credit: RDNE Stock project
Using inclusive language shows respect, empathy and consideration for others

Language has the power to shape our thoughts and actions. In communications and marketing, we use language to build brands, sell products, services, lifestyles, and even dreams. But what if the words you choose could also help bring about a more equitable and just society?

Using inclusive language in your communications ensures that everyone you’re trying to reach feels represented and respected. Embedding inclusive thinking in your work is a valuable addition to your skillset that will help you stand out from the competition. But first, let’s look at the role of inclusive writing in modern marcomms.


Inclusive writing is good for business and society


Companies and organisations increasingly recognise the importance of promoting diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) in their operations and communications. They must attract and retain talent, connect with diverse customers, and adapt to evolving societal expectations.


By actively promoting inclusive language and representation, businesses are contributing to the larger goal of creating a more inclusive and equitable society. Here are four ways in which inclusive writing is a win-win for you and your customers.


1. It avoids discrimination and bias

We all have our own implicit biases: our subconscious attitudes towards different groups of people. Changing the lens through which you view others will help you to challenge your own perceptions and recognise exclusion. Ask yourself: does the language reinforce existing stereotypes? Am I making assumptions? Am I using gender-neutral language? Which groups are under-represented?


2. It helps you reach a wider range of people with your messages

Clear, accessible language is good for everyone. Make it easy for your potential and existing customers to understand and act upon your communications. Avoid jargon and technical language.


3. It helps you build positive relationships with your customers and communities

Using inclusive language shows respect, empathy and consideration for others. The words we use can create a sense of belonging where everyone’s perspectives and experiences are valued. This cultivates trust in your brand, leading customers to be more inclined to engage with and support your products or services.


4. It helps employers attract and retain talent

Using inclusive language in job descriptions, recruitment materials, and company communications helps to attract a wider pool of diverse candidates. It demonstrates that your organisation is committed to inclusion and diversity, making it more appealing to individuals from different backgrounds. Research shows (check out McKinsey, among others) that a diverse and talented workforce drives innovation and leads to better business outcomes.

Lots of people crossing over a traffic island. The people are blurred, indicating movement. Credit: @mauromora
Do your communications reflect the diversity of wider society?

Who are you not reaching with your communications?


Hopefully, you already know your customers, their needs and motivations. But have you thought about who might be excluded from your target audience? Exclusion can happen for many reasons, including implicit bias, the design, language, delivery (channels) and timing of your communications.


Exclusion can perpetuate biases, reinforce stereotypes, and hinder effective communication and engagement with diverse audiences.


Have a look at the following groups of people. Are any of them under-represented in your communications? Would they be able to see themselves reflected in your communications and marketing? Use the list with other comms and marketing colleagues to start a conversation around inclusion and diversity in your campaigns and activities.

  • People from different cultures, backgrounds and faiths

  • People with disabilities, including those with sensory and mobility impairments, mental health conditions, and neurodivergent conditions

  • Older people

  • Younger people

  • People from different socio-economic groups

  • People from different sex and gender groups

  • People from different migratory or refugee groups

  • People for whom English is not their first language

So, how do you get started?


Wooden letter tiles spell out the words 'be the change'. Credit: Brett Jordan, Unsplash
Be open to learning and challenge your thinking

Become an advocate for inclusive writing in your organisation


To embed inclusive thinking in your writing you’ll need the support of your organisation. If your employer isn’t committed to inclusion and diversity, it might feel like an uphill struggle. But, as a talented communications professional, you are well placed to influence change.


If it feels like you are at the start of that journey (or stuck), follow these steps to enhance your skills and promote inclusivity in your organisation.


Educate yourself

Research good practices and principles. Take a look at other organisations that are exemplars of inclusive communications. Use resources that offer insights into inclusive language, including socially acceptable words and terms. See the links at the end of this blog. Also, seek out influencers in the DEI space – LinkedIn is a great place to start and you’ll grow your network in the process.


Build relationships

Develop positive relationships with colleagues and managers, including those from diverse backgrounds. It will give you a broader perspective and support when advocating for inclusivity.


Lead by example

Embrace inclusive behaviours in your own interactions, such as respecting diverse opinions, promoting fairness, and treating everyone with dignity. Your actions can inspire others to follow suit.


Communicate concerns

Share your observations or experiences regarding inclusivity issues with your employer. Choose a suitable time and place to have a constructive conversation, emphasising your desire to contribute to a more inclusive environment.


Provide evidence and solutions

Back up your concerns with specific examples and data, if possible. Check to see if your organisation already has a DEI policy or similar (a dignity at work policy, for example) that sets out the behaviours required of employees. Refer back to the policy to support your conversations. Offer suggestions or propose initiatives that can help improve inclusivity, such as diversity training, mentorship opportunities or employee resource groups.


Form alliances

Connect with like-minded colleagues who also value inclusivity. Collaborate and present a unified front to management, demonstrating the collective desire for change.


Get involved in diversity initiatives

Actively participate in any inclusion or diversity initiatives or programmes offered by your employer. Getting involved shows your commitment and helps influence positive change.


Support policy changes

Stay informed about company policies and procedures related to inclusion and diversity. If you identify areas that need improvement, provide feedback and support policy changes that promote inclusivity.


Offer your expertise

Share your inclusion and diversity expertise or knowledge with others around the organisation. Provide assistance in the development of inclusive policies or initiatives.


Be patient and persistent

Change takes time, and not all suggestions may be implemented straight away. Stay committed, maintain a positive attitude, and continue advocating for inclusivity in the workplace.


Links to inclusion and diversity resources


How to talk and write about autism, National Autistic Society

D&I in communications, World Federation of Advertisers

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Unstereotype Alliance


 

Are you ready to unleash the power of inclusive writing? Contact me for a fresh perspective on your communications.

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