Implementing DEI inclusive marketing the right way is necessary to make your business feel welcoming to everyone. But this doesn’t just end in using politically correct words in the correct context. Penny Zenker digs deeper into this subject with her guest, Michelle Ngome. They discuss how DEI is also impacted by your visuals and other related media, as well as the way your recruit people into your business. Michelle also explains the importance of having a strong collaborative work to keep your team diverse and creative.
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Doing DEI Inclusive Marketing The Right Way With Michelle Ngome
I’m always looking for different approaches and different ways of how we can help you to take back time to be smarter. We’re going to talk about how you can recruit smarter with DEI-inclusive marketing. Michelle Ngome is here with me. She is going to tell us what that is. She’s got some great strategies that are going to help to make you more efficient and effective in the way that you market yourself as an organization. We all know how important that is now and how difficult it is to find good people for the organization. Michelle, thank you for being here.
Thanks for having me.
What is DEI-inclusive marketing? That’s got to be my first question because I was like, “What’s that?” I love that you’ve got something different and a new approach to the marketplace. Let’s hear it.
I’d like to say that lots of times when we hear diversity, equity, and inclusion, DEI, DE&I, we’re always thinking about the HR perspective, hiring, talent management, and all of the HR duties. That’s important. As inclusive marketing, I hope organizations understand their messaging as well as their visuals when it comes to recruiting diverse candidates as well as their consumers.
If I’m understanding you correctly, it seems like the organization is very focused internally on this inclusion, but not externally, and putting forth the best image and reflecting what and who they want to bring into the organization. Is that what I’m understanding?
Yes. What I try to help organizations understand is if you’re recruiting diverse talent also in the marketing team, that’s going to help you create those diverse marketing campaigns for your consumers.
I’m all about focus. Sometimes we get over-focused on one side of things without bringing in the right people. If you bring people who already embrace inclusivity and diversity, then that’s going to come into the organization. If we’re too focused on the organization and not who we bring in, then we’re missing a big piece. Thank you for illuminating that for me. Maybe that was clear to others, but I wasn’t seeing this gap. That’s pretty important. Do you find that to be so? Am I a representative? Are you finding as you’re talking to different organizations that they weren’t aware of this gap?
I believe so. I have previous corporate finance background, and then I got into marketing. People are like, “Those are two different things.” I’m like, “There are historical trends and data. Those things tend to repeat.” With those careers, I’ve been able to identify gaps. As I stated, history tends to repeat itself. I look at how we can minimize this gap. I’m a marketer, so I see things through a marketing lens, but it’s also true in HR and IT, especially now with AI, and different industries because we’re all trying to solve that diversity gap in one way or another.
As I know nothing about this, I hardly know what questions to ask. What’s the first thing when you go in to educate organizations about this perspective? What’s the most important thing? If they just have five minutes with them, what is it that you need them to know?
The first thing is diversity is broad. What aspect of diversity do you want to focus on? Lots of times, especially with recent events over the past 2 to 3 years, we tend to default to race and gender when it comes to diversity. Nothing is wrong with that, but if this is going to be the objective, then we can go through the plan. I help organizations and I have a five-point framework. When it comes to inclusive marketing, one is our content and communications are the foundation. That’s the content to your consumers and your communication, particularly to your employees, as well as the stakeholders of the company. How are you sharing messages?
The second thing is how you are recruiting diverse candidates. Your employee engagement, which is the company culture because you want to retain the employees. You don’t want to have a high turnover rate. The fourth is consumers. The fifth is community engagement. How are you getting involved in the community? How are you creating a talent pipeline or all kinds of pipelines? How do you show them in the community? I think all of those have their own lane when it comes to marketing. Everything is not about digital marketing or traditional marketing as far as billboards and maybe a TV ad, but there are aspects of marketing in each one of those lanes.
It sounds to me like your framework covers the 360-degree diversity look. I was thinking at first that you were just saying external marketing, but it sounds like it’s external marketing and internal marketing, knowing that there’s a difference. That broader community piece of things is what I heard stands out and is important.
What I love about the community aspect, especially for small business owners, is they feel like, “I don’t have a Nike budget or a Chase budget,” even if you create maybe a $500 or $1,000 scholarship to go to a high school student, that speaks volumes. If you serve on a nonprofit board or volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or just anything within your community, your church, or whatever the case may be, you’re giving back in some shape or form. Once again, diversity is broad. Race and gender are important, but there are other aspects that we need to tap into.
What are those other aspects? Let’s get a peek into what that looks like.
What are you passionate about? What do you find yourself advocating? Climate change is part of diversity. Religion, culture, volunteering at your church or your place of spiritual worship, and giving a webinar to an organization that probably can’t pay your speaker fee. Those are aspects of diversity. There are so many things. The biggest thing that I try to communicate with people is we all have skills, talents, gifts, and things that we’re passionate about that we do naturally. This is my pocket. This is my network. Who are those groups of people that don’t look like me that can benefit from this that I can come and speak for an hour or I’ll come volunteer for four hours one Saturday a quarter? Little things like that can go a long way.
I love the idea of donating to a scholarship. All the ideas that you gave were great. That’s something that I had never really thought of that could be powerful because it builds up education. I want to take switch to recruitment because I think that’s a hot topic right now. Finding good people is always hard, especially these days. It’s very competitive. It is important that we have a lot of diversity on our teams because that’s where creativity comes from.
It has been proven from Google’s study that psychological safety is one of the top things that make high-performing teams, but I’m sure that quickly behind that is being able to have such diverse perspectives that can help you make connections that you might have never made before. That’s how we can optimize our organizations. That’s how we can creatively grow and innovate. What are some tips to be leading the forefront with DEI inclusivity from the recruitment perspective, or some things that people should look out for or pay attention to?
The first thing is you have to understand where your organization stands when it comes to the current workplace environment. Are we remote, hybrid, or in the office? That is a major factor for the organization, as well as the candidates. What does that look like? If it’s remote, the pool of applicants opens up so you can take people nationwide. If not, let’s start small, and then all of this can be duplicated. For example, if you are a recruiter, maybe you already have your top two schools or universities that you recruit from. How can you look at maybe Hispanic serving institutions, historical Black colleges, or minority-based universities, and do recruiting there? I did a workshop not too long ago. This guy in operations said they constantly recruit from the same university, and it’s cookie-cutter.
You get the same type of person. Even if it’s different races, it’s still the same way of thinking because they’re coming from the same way.
Stretch yourself. What are some of the neighboring universities, be it in the city, stateside, or even next door? I’m in Houston, Texas. Louisiana is a 3 to 4-hour drive for me. That can be a very easy move for a lot of people. Consider that.
I want to interject here real quick for the audience. It’s so easy to want to recruit and find a clone of yourself. “I went to this university, so I’m going to go back to this university because I know everybody there is great.” That’s not going to give you the full level of diversity that could benefit your organization. I do think that that’s an important point. We have a tendency to want to seek out likeness when it makes total sense. At the same time, that’s not what’s going to be the best for the organization.
I understand that we’re all busy, and when we’re busy, we tend to stay in our comfort zone.If we are so busy with eveything, we tend to just stay in our comfort zone. Click To Tweet
We’re narrow-minded. The way we’ve always done things.
If you want to be strategic and do something different, you definitely have to think and act outside the box. The second thing I would mention, especially when it comes to mid-level and executive-level professionals, this is the time you really want to do your homework and tap into professional organizations, because they have the network. They’re going to be able to share that with their members, be it locally or nationwide. More importantly, a lot of those individuals are probably not even looking on Indeed or LinkedIn. They might be comfortable with their current job, but they get this email from this association that they’re paying $100 a year for or whatever.
They may perk up and be like, “That sounds interesting.” Going through associations is a great idea.
If your organization is like, “We want to come out, sponsor an event, do a webinar, and speak at the event,” then it’s like, “I’ve never heard of this company before,” or “I’m learning more about this company that I’ll always see.” You get that substance, and then people are able to inquire because there are a ton of jobs. Sometimes, people start applying blindly.
You can be building a relationship.
I say the middleman, meaning the organization. That information is going to tranquil down to the members.
I like organizations too. I like to speak to associations of the broad membership, and that can bring in a lot of different speaking engagements and things like that. I see the broad relationship building that creates. Let me switch to a point around messaging. How do you include the DEI inclusivity marketing aspect in the messaging? How should my messaging differ so that I’m attracting the right people and a diverse set of people?
It does depend on your product or service. For example, I have worked with a nonprofit organization that was membership based. There were monthly or annual fees. One thing was they did a lot of great work in the community. For example, when it came to membership, it would always show a White family, husband, wife, and two kids, “Come here. We’re here to serve.”
In the pictures that they use, is that what you’re saying?
Pictures and even language. Mainly pictures because a lot of times, we’re just scrolling. When it came to, “If you need help, we have childcare.” If you need health screening, it would show overweight Black people or overweight Black women. There’s a major difference in how they’re marketing things to these two different family groups. There are plenty of black people that have disposable income and families that can participate in this organization. There are plenty of white people that need to do health screenings as well.
From their images, they’re making messaging. That is a message. Your images are messages. You’re bucketing people, and it can turn people off to the other services saying it’s not a fit.
It’s being mindful of your language. Lots of times, we say single-parent, single-member household, or things of that nature. When you describe yourself or your organization as a family organization, we have to understand that family means a lot of things to a lot of people. When you’re singling people out with the language, that can be a turnoff.
That’s a fantastic point. I never thought of that either. This is enlightening because we don’t know what we don’t know. We’re not conscious of some of those messaging that have been there forever. That makes total sense. You’re showing your biases and bucketing through your language. You have to challenge yourself when you’re reading through your language to put your hat on different types of families or backgrounds and so forth, and see how they might perceive that when you read that through or look at those pictures.
I know we’re all doing our best, but that’s the importance of having a diverse team, or in this case, a diverse marketing team, when you have people of all types of backgrounds and experience that can speak up in the meeting and be like, “We need to correct this,” or “Here are some other options. What’s going to read better when we put this out there?”
I was a single mom for a long time. I did just get remarried, so I can’t call myself a single mom anymore, but I never would have thought of that. It is true. What does that matter putting language out there? So what if you’re a single parent, you’re still a family. I do sometimes see things where I have to put on a thing whether I’m single or whatever. I’m like, “What does that matter to this?” It is a little offensive. So what if I’m single?
My client’s brand was a family-oriented organization. Now, language is iffy because you’re isolating people in this, “I don’t know if I belong. I don’t know if I see myself.” I already feel bad because of my situation. Maybe I went from two incomes to one income regardless of the circumstance.
It’s that sensitivity. I like what you said about you wanting to make people feel like they belong. You have to be thinking about what creates belonging, and what language that might have somebody question, “Maybe that’s not for me. Maybe that’s not what they’re looking for.” That makes a lot of sense. Let’s say I’m a consulting company, and I’m looking to recruit more consultants. I’m picking a service business. When they say, “We’re looking for a diverse set of people,” sometimes you don’t believe it. Could there be something better that we could be saying that’s more attractive?
It’s opening the language unless we want to say every single thing, Black, indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, and neurodiversity. That’s one way of doing it, but across the board, it’s pretty much diverse. Even now, a lot of people don’t like the word minority, but it’s still a valid word. It just depends on the context.A lot of people don’t like the word ‘minority.’ Even though it is still a valid word, it just depends on the context of how you use it. Click To Tweet
The only reason I say this is because we get desensitized to certain things. Even something like, “How are you?” You’re walking and you’re passing somebody and you said, “How are you?” Do you really care? You only have half a second. I can only say good. What if I’m not good today? What if I want to say, “I’m having a really bad morning. Can I talk about it with you?” It’s more of a greeting versus an actual question that you want an answer to. It’s not ”How are you,” but “Good morning.” I think that there are certain phrases and words that we’ve been desensitized to that we really don’t hear for what they’re meant to be. That’s what I meant.
You can do your homework. You can go to the website and to the leadership page. What does the leadership look like? You can challenge. If you’re feeling bold, you can ask those questions in the interview if you get to that stage. I also think some companies are very transparent when it comes to those details on their website, not necessarily the job description, but on their website.
That’s another way for you to communicate. It’s to make sure that you’re putting different things about yourselves on your website so that people can see where those words come to play, whether it’s having a daycare. It’s through those types of things, the activities that you do, the charities you sponsor, all that’s on their website.
The overall company culture.
Thank you so much. We could keep going on and on. I have learned that people have an attention span. Apparently, it’s less than a goldfish. I think we’re at the end of our attention span with people. I ask everybody on the show this question, and I’m curious from your perspective, how would you define productivity and why?
I would define productivity as getting stuff done, starting with the revenue-generating activities, whether you’re working solo, collaborating, or delegating.
Spoken as a true businesswoman there. I love it. Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you feel is important to share?
The most important thing when it comes to the overall diversity talk is we’re all in different places in our journey, just remain open-minded, keep learning, and keep teaching.
Michelle, thank you for being here.
Thank you for having me.
Thank you all for being here. This is an important discussion to understand that there is so much more. It’s not just internal and external. It’s the community and how you embrace diversity. We heard that it’s also not just race, color, and religion. There are so many different parts of diversity to think about as you are creating a diverse culture in your organization and striving to be more collaborative, creative, and innovative in the way that you move forward in your businesses. Thank you all so much. We’ll see you in the next episode.
About Michelle Ngome
Michelle Ngome is an award-winning inclusive marketing consultant. As the founder of Line 25 Consulting, she trains and consults with organizations on how to develop inclusive marketing strategies. In 2019, she founded the African-American Marketing Association, creating a nonprofit platform that empowers Black marketers. Michelle is the creator of the Be Inclusive: a DEI Card Game to help facilitate conversation on diversity and company culture.
She is the recipient of the Diversity in Business award by the Houston Business Journal. In addition to being recognized by LinkedIn as 25 Inspiration Black Women in Marketing; LinkedIn’s Rising Stars in the Marketing World; SIA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Influencer List, and Semrush’s Top 100 Influencers in Content Marketing.
In addition, she has written white papers on The 6 Methods For Your Organization to Become Inclusive and The Language of Inclusion Guide. She has presented to AIG, Ad Age, Content Marketing World, as well as numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
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