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Collage-19Over the past decade, diversity campaigns have become an integral part of major corporations’ marketing and public relations strategies. Often times, these diversity strategies come across as nothing more than a monthly checklist in the minds of consumers. Black History Month posters? Check. Hispanic Heritage Month commercial? Got It. Hot pink, reusable Breast Cancer Awareness bags? Done and done. Creating an authentic connection with minority consumers? Well, not exactly.

Often times, despite their best efforts, many companies continue to struggle with creating authentic connections with their minority audiences, resulting in missed opportunities and profits. CEOs and top Marketing/PR executives are left scratching their heads as they watch their profits shrink and the gap between their company and its minority consumers widen.

The Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, estimates that in 2013, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and Native Americans will pump over three trillion dollars into the U.S. economy. Despite data that supports the economic value of embracing minority consumers, some companies continue to view diversity campaigns as more of a PR hype strategy than a legitimate vehicle for significantly increasing profits. There are also those who are simply at a loss for how to engage their minority audience in addition to a handful of companies who have damaged their reputations with minorities following negative experiences that their consumers have had.

Most recently, Barney’s New York has been accused of racial profiling of two African-American shoppers who were detained by store security and police after they purchased items from the luxury department store. Chik-fil-A offers a similar cautionary tale, after their CEO, Dan Cathy, publicly shared his anti-gay marriage views last year and again this summer. Despite both companies them issuing a public statement in an attempt to smooth things over, the damage may be difficult to overcome.

While many corporations and small businesses struggle to integrate diversity into their marketing efforts, there are quite a few companies that are leading the charge. Coca-Cola, American Express, and Home Depot were fairly early adopters of the diversity movement in corporate America. These companies realized that diversity, both in the workplace and in the marketplace, added value both from a societal and an economic standpoint.  Not only have these companies reached out to minorities from a consumer’s vantage point, they have also actively recruited, hired, and promoted minority employees. In addition to this, these companies and other notable pro-diversity corporations like them, have also made efforts to reach out to minorities in their surrounding communities by sponsoring local schools, charities, and events.

Hitting a home run with minority consumers isn’t rocket science, at the end of the day everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated. Here’s a few simple ways to get started.

  Get Rid of Your Calendar Minorities shop 365 days a year not 28-30, though this phrase is pretty much  Marketing 101, many companies still choose to ignore this, finding it more convenient to acknowledge the cultural or gender-based month du jour and move on. Simply put, as consumers, we’re on to you. We, as minorities, know that you’re throwing up a poster of MLK Jr., Cesar Chavez, or Rosie the Riveter in an attempt to get loyalty points and while to some degree we appreciate the gesture, it can also come across as another item checked off on your monthly to-do list. You can do better; ditch the calendar.

  Get a Reality Check  O.K., you’ve shredded your checklist and trashed your monthly cultural calendar, now what? Have a conversation, in fact, have several. Talk to your employees and customers about what your brand is doing well and what it can do better with regards to diversity. You may discover that one group feels slighted, under-represented, or in some cases, not represented at all. Be prepared to address these concerns in a timely, thoughtful way. Avoid becoming defensive or responding with a knee-jerk reaction or decision. Ask for possible solutions to the concerns that are being expressed or if you’re doing everything right, ask what you can do to become even better.

It should be noted that timing, organization, and a plan for executing a “round-table discussion” are important when soliciting feedback. Although feedback can be quickly generated using social media channels it could lead to a backlash that could quickly become a PR nightmare. Even if your brand seems to be doing everything right, the control factor is relinquished when you opt to use social media for feedback. More structured methods like focus groups, brief surveys, and even having your employees simply ask customers questions can help gain insight in a more structured way.

  Get Help Creating a Game Plan  Should you use a targeted or non-targeted communications approach?How can your brand leverage digital media in in attempts to reach out to minorities? Should you use a focus group to gain feedback? Whether you have a team of marketing experts or if you are running a one man or woman show, gaining insight by consulting a PR or brand strategy firm can help. Sometimes the people who work in a company’s marketing department can become myopic over time, overlooking new opportunities to reach out to minorities. Conversely, if you are a small business owner, you may have fewer resources to work as well as time constraints. An agency can act as an extension of your brand. They can provide valuable research, assemble focus groups, and create strategies that will help you strengthen your brand in the mind of minority consumers.

How do you incorporate diversity into your brand? Share your tips and insights in the comments section below.

Photo: freedigitalphoto.com