As a communications professional (or any other professional for that matter) in a diverse world, it is critically important to understand whom you are serving with your communications efforts. Just as each individual and organization has their own culture, segments of our population have values, beliefs and traditions to which they ascribe.
The purpose of my presentation was to build awareness and engage the guests in a solutions-oriented discussion about what we can do, wherever we live, to improve community conditions for African Americans. The impetus for my presentation was the 24/7 Wall Street ranking of Racine, Wisconsin, my hometown, as the third worst place in the United States for African Americans.
Preparing for the presentation reinforced the importance of understanding the communities we serve – not just reading about what’s going on, but understanding at a deeper level. I prepared by pulling local, state and national data to paint a picture of the plight and status of African Americans in Racine, the state of Wisconsin and our nation.
I also reflected on my own lived experiences and life path as they related to the data and the state of affairs for African Americans. The data, coupled with my personal experiences, told a powerful story of what it means to be African American today – the challenges, adversity, successes and opportunities to improve life and the community for myself, my children and future generations.
What is Cultural Competence?
There are two very popular words used today to refer to being aware that a culture outside of your own exists, beyond race and skin color, and making concerted efforts to work in ways that honor and respect those cultures.
Those two words are cultural competence.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say they are culturally competent or the materials or collateral they develop are culturally relevant. Developing culturally relevant collateral and engaging your clients, customers, audience and the community requires thoughtfulness and intentionality.
One simple way to show your clients you value and respect their culture is to make time to be part of the activities and events that are important to them. In a former position, I was invited to an annual dinner to celebrate the accomplishments of a youth-serving organization we partnered with. The dinner featured presentation, testimonials from youth and videos of special events. I was blown away by the energy, passion and growth of the youth. Seeing the program in action and actually having a chance to meet the youth brought the human element and helped me get a deeper understanding of not only the organization but the youth they serve.
In the hectic world we live in, we often use time as an excuse for not fully engaging. So the next time a client invites you to be part of their world and the world of their audiences, clear your calendar and immerse yourself in what’s important to them.
How Do I Develop Culturally Relevant Collateral?
Here are a few tips for developing culturally relevant marketing and communications collateral and engaging in ways that demonstrate that you value others:
Understand your own cultural identity. Knowing who you are is an important first step to working with others. Do a personal assessment so you can fully understand your values. You’ll be better equipped to serve others as you’ll be aware of how your values can influence the way you work with others – in good and bad ways ranging from empathy and understanding to being judgemental.
Be inclusive in thoughts, words and actions. In the famous words of Lao Tzu, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Pause and think about what you are saying and doing and how it might be received by others.
Educate yourself. Learn about the people you serve not only by reading or looking at data but by immersing yourself in their culture. The importance of immersion was reinforced for me recently when I took on the role of Project Manager for one of our accounts. I started off managing the project in a traditional way from my office – getting updates from team members, reading emails and participating in phone meetings. After I attended an evening community engagement event that was part of the project, I instantly felt a deeper sense of connection and understanding, not only to the project and its magnitude but to the people whose lives are being impacted by the project.
Create collateral through a broader lens than that of your own limited worldview. Consider the lived experiences of the target audience and create collateral with the client’s brand standards and the target audience top of mind. Things to keep in mind:
Writing: Copy is written based on the goals of the collateral, the target audience, the distribution method and in alignment with the client’s key messages related to the project.
Images: Use authentic images that are reflective of the community and target audience.
Layout/Design: Layout/design that best fits the intended audience and method of distribution should drive the layout/design work.
Proofreading: Kane follows the “three sets of eyes” rule, meaning a minimum of three Kane team members review communications collateral before a draft is shared with a client.
Translation: Materials should be translated into the language(s) of the target audience.
Testing: Engage your team members and/or others who are reflective of the target audience in the review of your collateral. Their feedback and insight will be invaluable.
As communications professionals, the effectiveness of our work depends on our ability to reach diverse audiences. We are charged with creating impactful collateral that is authentic and captures the stories and experiences of our diverse communities. Our communications collateral speaks to the hearts and minds of not only our clients but also to their target audiences and the global communities in which we live and work.
I challenge you to evaluate your own practices for creating culturally relevant materials. Hold onto the “bright spots” or what you are doing well and integrate best practices to enhance your work.
Are you ready to elevate your communications? Kane Communications Group can take your materials and messaging to the next level. Contact us to learn more.
Developing culturally relevant collateral and engaging your clients, customers, audience and the community requires thoughtfulness and intentionality.
- Kimberly Payne
Looking Back on a Whirlwind Week at PRSA ICON 2019