Creating an Inclusive Marketing Organization
Published: March 26, 2018
Author: David Rodnitzky
Creating a more diverse, inclusive culture has been one of 3Q Digital’s biggest initiatives since 2017, and it’s not just about becoming a better business; it’s about being better people. As part of this initiative, we present a week-long diversity and inclusion blog series dedicated to issues we’re trying to address, how we’re trying to address them, and the challenges we’re encountering as we go.
In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving, a married couple, were sentenced to 25 years in prison for violating a Virginia law. What law, you ask? The law that banned interracial marriage. As the Virginia Circuit Court Judge noted in pronouncing the sentence:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
This decision was reversed by the US Supreme Court in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia. But isn’t it amazing that just 50 years ago, The Court had to intervene to specifically allow interracial marriage?
As a country, we’ve come a long way from Loving v. Virginia, but we have a long way to go. We are still divided over issues like the #metoo movement calling out sexual harassment; Black Lives Matter; transgender bathrooms and military service; and immigration restrictions based on nationality and religion.
What, you ask, does this have to do with marketing? A lot, actually. I believe diversity and inclusiveness are core to what makes America great, and I also believe it is just good business to promote inclusiveness internally and externally. And yes, your marketing will be better too.
The Case for Diversity
Let’s start with the easy points – that is, why diversity just makes good business and marketing sense.
Being racist or sexist or (insert any other form of discrimination here) inherently means that you are choosing people or vendors based on something other than their merits. This dilutes the quality of your team and your results since, by definition, you are passing over better people for people who align with your biases.
Moreover, exclusively hiring “people like you” is likely to lead to group-think, which leads to less creativity and innovation. So not only are you hiring inferior talent, you are creating conditions that reduce the chances that your team excels.
The inverse of the previous point is that diverse organizations are more likely to come up with innovative solutions, simply because the organization can draw from the different experiences of the team members to solve problems creatively.
Specifically to marketing, diversity helps companies market better to more audiences. While I don’t believe that great marketing can only be accomplished by establishing an exact demographic match between the target audience and the marketing team, there’s no doubt that a marketing team will benefit from having team members who “get” the target audience, whether that means age, gender, or anything else.
Saying that diversity is beneficial to business and marketing is much easier than actually making your workplace diverse. To explain why, let’s return to the Loving v. Virginia case. I often ask people how they would have behaved had they grown up as a white person in the South in the 1950s. Most people tell me that they would have marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. as fierce advocates of civil rights.
I call BS. Most white Americans raised in the South were probably taught from a young age that blacks and whites should be separated (based on the belief that whites were superior). Loving v. Virginia didn’t just magically appear on the books of Virginia – it was drafted on and voted for by representatives of the people. Put another way, it’s more likely than not that a white Southern American in the 1950s and 1960s would have actually been racist, simply because that was how he or she was brought up. For us to imagine ourselves as freedom fighters is probably the exact opposite of how most of us would have actually acted. We are shaped by our environment.
In the formative years of my youth, it was OK to call someone a “fag” as a derogatory term, or to say that something we thought was stupid was “gay.” We also used works like “sped” (special education) to tease someone. And my grandparents talked negatively about “colored people” or “Schvartze” when referring to African-Americans.
While I don’t consider myself to be I’m homophobic or racist today, I can’t ignore the fact that I grew up in a time where commonplace behaviors then would now be considered abhorrent, discriminatory, and possibly illegal. As a result, I can’t rule out the fact that I am unconsciously discriminatory toward certain groups of people.
Overcoming Unconscious Bias
To solve for this potential bias, I’m doing what I can at 3Q Digital to counterbalance any unconscious bias that I or anyone on my team harbors. This is not a one-time process, but rather an ongoing evolution of how we hire, train, and treat people at 3Q.
For starters, we created a diversity mission statement that we include on all job postings. Here’s what we wrote – feel free to steal this for your own hiring page if you like:
Best-in-class digital marketing results require the best-in-class workforce, and we believe that comes from a diverse mix of backgrounds and experiences. 3Q Digital is proud to be an equal opportunity employer, committed to evaluating all qualified candidates regardless of gender, gender identity, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status. Furthermore, we believe optimal results come from operating a meritocracy built upon diversity of thought and background and absolutely devoid of discrimination and hate speech. We do everything in our power, including strict adherence to an anti-harassment policy, to make 3Q a welcoming and inclusive organization whose employees feel comfortable respectfully sharing their thoughts with each other and our leaders, and our training and mentorship programs help ensure all employees have an equal opportunity to grow and excel. With nine offices around the country, we hope that we have the right home for you and that you have what it takes to be a 3Qer.
We have also created a diversity committee, made up of 3Q team members who volunteered to lead initiatives around diversity and inclusion. The team is working on a number on initiatives, from bringing in experts to train our staff, to surveying our team, to participating in national diversity initiatives and job forums.
Have we solved bias at 3Q? Absolutely not. But we are making progress – both at 3Q and across the US. Even though dramatic news stories makes it feel like we are moving backwards, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that 50 years from now, we will look back at some of the cultural conflicts we are witnessing and have the same disbelief that we have today when we remember Loving v. Virginia.
The key is to progress is to admit our biases – even if we don’t necessarily see them – and to proactively find solutions to overcome them. Along the way we can make our marketing organizations better too. That seems like a win-win for everyone involved!
Listen to our 3Q digital marketing agency podcast discussion about ways to improve diversity in the workplace.