Back in 2010, our college had organised an AIDS Awareness Program. The chief guests were a couple diagnosed with AIDS who were running an AIDS awareness centre in the city. I remember they gave a speech on the basics of the syndrome that included the fact that it wasn’t contagious. That it was okay to touch, hug and shake hands with HIV positive population.
As soon as the event was over, I saw a huge section of the crowd huddling around them to shake hands with them in an attempt to prove that they were better than the rest of the world. That they were magnanimous enough to not be afraid of touching HIV patients. Well, TBH, it was embarrassing!
Problem – It felt ‘not real’.
I. The first rule of ‘inclusive content marketing’ is ‘Narrative Coherence’.
To what degree does our story seem real, to what extent does our story and our characters appear consistent.
Everything that we say, we write and we reflect in our behaviour and attitude is content. In the wake of recent anti-racism protests fuelled by George Floyd killing, a lot of luxury fashion brands sponsored the ‘#blacklivesmatter’ sentiment on their social media posts. To which many of them received a lot of backlash for their hypocrisy. One of the instances include transgender model and actress Munroe Bergdorf accusing a popular brand – L’Oreal, for having fired her 3 years ago, when she complained of rampant racism in the organisation.
For inclusive content marketing, develop ‘inclusive mindsets’ within yourself, your team and your organisation. If the company’s culture doesn’t resonate with its content, its audience will be the first to witness and call out the hypocrisy.
For this, you need to conduct conversations with your people and your audience to further translate it into your brand.
II. The second rule of ‘inclusive content marketing’ is ‘Narrative Justice’.
To what extent does our story recognise differences and seek to impact cultures and revolutionise social structures.
I remember one of the very popular beauty cream ads, wherein a girl daringly breaks her marriage on the wedding day itself, when she sees her would be in-laws harassing her parents for dowry. The message was good but unfortunately, the emotion that it drove was – ‘Fairness and beauty instill confidence in you’. The brand leveraged an unfair societal stereotype to address another.
It’s possible to overlook one strong sentiment when trying to manage another. It’s possible to get carried away by one strong sentiment to overlook at another. That’s why, as content writers and storytellers, it’s our responsibility to do detailed analysis of our target theme and audience.
What is our intent? What message(s) do we want to communicate?
Who will tell the story (who is the protagonist)?
Who do we intend to impact or influence via our story?
What social movement do we intend to bring/address in the society?
We need to be sensitive to the lines creating differences between people, until these lines fade some day.
And that’s why we need to be aware of the heritage and the aspirations of the section(s) we include in our content.
With these points said, it’s imperative to be responsible towards voices that have not been heard or have been struggling to be heard. ‘Include’ topics that people need to hear about. Be responsible. Do your research. Most importantly, listen to others and their thoughts.
Elif Shafak, in one her books said, “Ideas must be challenged with ideas. Books with better books.” Every idea should be heard and reasoned with. That’s the way to democratise writing.