5 Ways to Promote Diversity & Inclusion in Digital Marketing

June 10, 2024
Behind the scenes of a DCI marketing photoshoot

The digital landscape for place marketers has become crowded with everyone competing for the same space. One way to cut through the noise is to focus on sharing real connections. It’s a way to reach out to potential customers, build communities and share the stories of our places and brands. To build impactful connections with our target audience and communities, we must be sure that we’re building Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts into our marketing strategies.  

Creating inclusive marketing strategies is more than just checking a box. It’s about understanding your audience, crafting inclusive messaging and fostering a culture of representation within your organization or community.  By implementing these practices into your marketing campaigns and organization, you’ll not only reach a wider audience but also project a forward-thinking brand image and build stronger connections with the communities you serve.   

1. Understand Your Audience

For place marketers looking to incorporate inclusion and diversity into their digital marketing strategy, it’s essential to understand the target market that you’re reaching – who they are and what is important to them. Whether talent, executives or travelers, they are a diverse group of people looking to find themselves on your website or in your advertising. 
In the tourism sector, 70% of consumers would choose a destination, transportation or lodging option that is more inclusive to all types of travelers, according to a recent study by Expedia. In addition, even more (78%) have made a travel choice based on advertisements they felt represented them through its messaging or visuals. 
Meanwhile, in economic development and talent attraction, both business decisionmakers and talent are looking to a community’s diversity in their location decision. According to our recent State of Site Selection Report, conducted by DCI in partnership with the Site Selectors Guild, community diversity and a commitment to DEI through local initiatives play a critical role in attracting talent and competing against other locations. 

2. Focus on Diverse Content and Imagery

Once you have identified the target audience, it is time to find the right imagery to support your diverse marketing efforts. As digital marketing continues to evolve to be increasingly visual, the images we choose to communicate our message are crucial, not only in paid efforts but in our organic strategies for websites and social media, too. When looking for imagery be sure to: 

  • Seek authentic representation: Look for imagery that feels genuine to your diverse audience. Move past stereotypical images based on age, ethnicity, gender or ability. Stock photos can be a helpful resource for diverse representation but prioritize photos that capture real-life experiences and emotions. Consider partnering with diverse photographers or creators to ensure authenticity. 
  • Accessibility matters: Visuals should not only be representative of everyone but also accessible to everyone.  Include alt text descriptions for images on websites and social media posts for better accessibility with the bonus of better SEO as well. Consider using high-contrast colors for those with visual impairments. 
  • Use local talent: Stock photography is always a valuable asset, but nothing helps accurately and authentically represent our destination more than working with people who are part of our community.  

By prioritizing diverse and inclusive imagery to support your marketing materials, you’ll not only resonate with a wider audience but also project a welcoming and forward-thinking brand identity. 

A person with blindness uses a computer with a braille terminal. Using alt tags is important for diversity in digital marketing efforts.

3. Incorporate Inclusive Language 

It’s important to remember the power that words have when writing website, ad or social content. In copywriting, we’re marketing more than merely a message. We’re marketing the brand and identity of our destination. To make sure the message resonates with the right audience, remember the importance of inclusive language:

  • Be careful with jargon and slang: Acronyms and trendy slang can be a fun way to stay relevant and up to date. However, it’s important to really understand the meaning behind these trends and how they can be misinterpreted. While people enjoy trends, clear and concise language that everyone understands is always a good choice.   
  • Be mindful of cultural references: Using idioms, metaphors and humor is a natural way of communicating in English. While we might not think anything about it, keep in mind they don’t always translate to other cultures. It’s possible for even common sayings to have non-inclusive roots. The term “grandfathered in” is commonplace today, but originally came from Jim Crow laws intended to suppress African American voting rights.  
  • Use people-first language: Focus on the person, not their abilities or other characteristics.  For example, instead of “a wheelchair user,” say “a person using a wheelchair.” 
  • Move Away from Gendered Defaults: Instead of defaulting to common gendered phrases like “businessman” or “salesman,” consider terms like “business professional.”  

By being mindful and weaving inclusive language throughout all written marketing content, you’ll ensure the message is clear, respectful, and resonates with a broader audience.

4. Expand Expertise with Diverse Partnerships

As place marketers we often find ourselves wearing many hats, which can make it difficult to be an expert in everything. Fortunately, we can enhance our expertise by partnering with organizations and individuals who align with our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. These partnerships bring new perspectives and fresh viewpoints to the table. Not only can this help identify content gaps or demographics that might be missing, but it can also help speak authentically.   

Partnering with other organizations, influencers and individuals can also extend your reach and enhance your credibility. By allowing others to partner in a curated story, they get to share it with their audience as well which might include people you wouldn’t have reached otherwise. These efforts also show that your destination takes DEI seriously and wants to embrace diversity and inclusion. 

5. Promote DE&I Within Your Organization

Building a culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion internally is essential for effective external representation. Both the organization and the people who work there must wholeheartedly take on this effort. Here are a few ideas to consider when starting to build a culture of DEI: 

  • Unconscious bias training: This is important for everyone, but especially for marketers who write copy or work with creative for search engine marketing or organic marketing efforts. Make sure your team has the resources needed to research and identify unconscious biases that might be hiding under jargon, slang or common phrases.  
  • Diverse hiring practices: Review your recruitment process to ensure it attracts a wider pool of qualified candidates. Partner with diverse professional organizations and leverage inclusive job boards. Similarly, to partnering with other organizations, having marketing team members with diverse perspectives can bring fresh ideas and insights to the table.  
  • Mentorship programs: Create opportunities for knowledge sharing and career development across a diverse team with different backgrounds. 

By fostering a culture of DE&I within your organization, you’ll cultivate a more creative, innovative, and engaged team. This internal commitment will naturally translate into more authentic and inclusive digital marketing efforts. 

A digital marketing strategy is critical to compete in today’s quickly evolving landscape. Get in touch with Carly Steele Johnson, Senior Director, SEM & Media at [email protected] to learn how your economic development, talent attraction or tourism site can gain better visibility. 

Written by

Carly Steele Johnson

Senior Director, SEM & Media