7 Ways to Make Your Content Writing More Inclusive
Blog topics and other content ideas often stem from buyer personas. Buyer personas describe your target audience, or the people most likely to buy your product or service.
Some companies have very narrow buyer personas. But in general, most companies want to appeal to people across a diverse range of races and genders.
Regardless of gender, race, education, or other factors, your ideal audience all have something in common – they have a problem you can help solve. Even companies with narrow buyer personas should focus on inclusiveness and diversity to cast a wider net within their target market.
For instance, if your company creates luxury consumer goods, you want to reach people of all ages, genders, and races in different areas that you serve, which can mean people in rural, urban, and suburban areas.
In short, you want to create content that resonates with all your potential customers, not just a select few that may fit your preconceived notion of who your customers should be.
However, most people tend to surround themselves with others who think, look, and speak as they do. It can be difficult to think outside that box to reach your entire target market, especially if most of your marketing team fits into one category of your various buyer personas.
In addition to creating a more diverse workforce to help create diverse marketing campaigns, here are some steps you can take to make your content marketing more inclusive.
Start with More Diverse Buyer Personas
Buyer personas for content marketing began gaining momentum in the earliest years of the past decade, with the Hubspot CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform popularizing the term.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a brief description that aggregates all the traits of your ideal customer (or customers) into one fictional human being. Brands can (and should) build more than one buyer persona for each market segment interested in their products or services. Most importantly, take care to ensure your buyer personas are as diverse as your real-life audience.
Be sure to recognize that your ideal customers span all genders, races, ages, and (potentially) socio-economic backgrounds. Once that fictional customer is in place, your marketing materials will begin to naturally reflect that diversity.
However, you may not need to create separate buyer personas for every race or gender in your target market. For more effective marketing, segment customers based on their needs, but acknowledge that diverse personas with similar needs exist in your circles of potential customers. Include personalities who are not what would traditionally be considered “mainstream” when you develop buyer personas.
Focus on the similarities, but make sure to acknowledge the differences by creating marketing materials and other content that reflects those differences.
Choose Diverse Images to Reflect the Diversity of Your Customer Base
The images we choose to accompany our content writing often speak more powerfully than our words. After all, website visitors are more likely to focus on images before the text. In a social media ad campaign, the ideal image often drives the click-through rate or the number of people who click the ad’s link.
According to HubSpot statistics, 32% of marketers cite visual images as the most important form of content for their business, and 80% use visual assets in their social media marketing. What’s more, when a relevant image is paired with information, people will retain 65% of that information three days later, compared to only 10% when no imagery is included.
According to conventional wisdom, people may not remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel. Photos help evoke an emotional response in your audience.
By showing your audience photos of people who look like them, you’re more likely to create loyal customers.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever in 2020 to find diverse stock photos from both free and paid stock image websites. When you’re using free sites to find photos, read the licensing carefully to ensure you can use the images for content marketing. Some free sites that focus on providing images of diverse people include:
Mainstream paid photos sites AdobeStock and iStockPhoto also have a broad range of inclusive images available for purchase.
Choose Inclusive Language
For years, grammarians have grappled with the sticky question of whether to use “he” or “she” when writing about a non-specified individual. For instance, if you were writing about the importance of bedside manner, you might want to write, “A doctor should listen carefully to his patients.” In the past, the phrasing “A doctor should listen to their patients,” would be considered grammatically incorrect, because the subject (doctor) is singular while the possessive pronoun (their) is plural.
But to write only “his” neglects doctors who are female or who identify as any other gender (or no gender) on the spectrum recognized today.
The only solution in the past was to convert “a doctor” to the plural “doctors,” use the plural possessive pronoun “their” and call it a day. But that doesn’t work for every sentence.
Today, the Associated Press and many major publishers recognize the use of “their” as a singular possessive pronoun, and “they” as a singular pronoun.
But choosing inclusive language goes far beyond choosing “they” over the gendered “he” or “she.”
Be certain not to assume that every married couple consists of a husband and wife. If you’re writing romance tips, use gender-neutral terms like “spouse,” or “partner,” instead.
This rule of not making an assumption applies to many categories. For example, if you’re writing about parenting, don’t assume the primary caregiver is the mother. Choose the gender-neutral “parent” or “parents,” instead.
Inclusive language also extends to the descriptions we use. Good writing should appeal to all five senses. Keep in mind that, even on the Web, a portion of your audience may be blind or hard-of-hearing. Be sure to employ visual, tactile, and auditory verbs in balanced numbers to ensure you’re reaching your audience no matter how they best process information.
For instance, a collection of phrases that appeal to all the senses might include:
- You can see the difference.
- I know how you feel.
- We’ve all heard it before.
- Get in touch with us.
Write More Accessible Content
The average American reader only comprehends content written at an eighth-grade level or below. In some cases, this points to shortcomings in the education system. But in other cases, it is attributable to the short attention spans of even highly educated readers and the way we all consume content on the Web.
To make your content writing accessible to a broad audience, try to maintain a reading level of 8th to 10th grade. Programs like Grammarly and Hemingway will assess the reading level of your work, giving it a score based on its ease of reading.
What factors contribute to easy-to-read content?
- Shorter words and sentences
- Short paragraphs with subheads between every few paragraphs
- Bullet points
- Active voice
As a bonus, the factors that make content easy to read also make it SEO-friendly, helping to increase search engine rankings.
When you’re writing technical content or using industry-specific long-tail keywords, it may be challenging to reach an 8th-grade reading level in apps like Grammarly. Try to control what you can by keeping other sentences short and readable.
Also, avoid industry jargon. When you do have to use industry-specific words or challenging phrases, be sure to define them for your readers.
Hire a Sensitivity Reader If You Need Help
Creating inclusive content isn’t always easy. Writers and marketers, just like everyone else, may perceive the world through a narrow view. We don’t know what we don’t know. There are elements of inclusiveness we might miss simply because they’re not in our frame of reference.
But when it comes to writing inclusive content, ignorance is no excuse to ignore, offend, or neglect portions of your audience. That’s when hiring a sensitivity reader comes in handy.
A sensitivity reader will review your content for offensive phrasing, sensitive optics, and also to ensure your overall writing and tone, including analogies you use and the language you choose, is inclusive to the audience you want to reach.
For example, a writer may not understand how certain ethnic groups prefer to be described. A sensitivity reader can set you straight with the proper terms.
Additionally, certain cliches and phrases stem from old practices that would be considered unthinkable today. For instance, a myth circulated that said the “rule of thumb,” originated because, in England, a man was permitted to beat his wife as long as the stick he used was no thicker than his thumb.
This myth was later debunked, but enough people believe it that it’s best to avoid the cliché altogether. Therefore, it’s best to avoid distracting your reader with a phrase that may offend some people.
Employ Brand Activism as a Tactic to Reach Your Audience
It’s one thing to ensure the content writing your brand publishes reflects the diversity of your audience. But the rise in brand activism gives your company the chance to show its dedication to diversity and inclusion through actions.
Of course, brand activism must be backed by a true belief in the causes you show support for. Today’s audience values transparency and authenticity above all else. A recent study by Cone Communications showed that 85% of U.S. consumers would switch to a brand that backed a cause they believed in.
By aligning with causes that reflect your values and are inclusive of a broad audience, your content marketing will naturally begin to reflect the diverse audience you want to embrace.
What steps have you taken to create more inclusive content?
Dawn A. is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and social media marketing consultant with close to 20 years of experience writing for print and online. A former magazine editor, Dawn specializes in creating content to help business owners generate leads and enhance brand recognition. She writes about a broad range of topics, from personal finance and parenting to technology, HR, and finance.