According to the 2020 Census, the U.S. has its most diverse population ever in the nation’s history. The report also marks the first time the number of people who identify as White alone has shrunk since the census began in 1790.
These shifts in demographics are creating changes in what a new generation expects to see in marketing. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte, an international management consulting company, found out of 11,500 global consumers, the respondents from 18 to 25 years old took greater notice of inclusive advertising when making purchase decisions.
With this information in mind, it’s important for campus rec departments to showcase equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the public sphere. But there are a few key factors which should be top of mind before committing to this kind of marketing.
In a recent interview with Campus Rec Magazine, Darryl Lovett, the associate director of Campus Recreation at Florida State University, said showcasing diversity should be as honest as possible.
“First and foremost, when it comes to EDI, marketing strategies must be carefully thought-out and crafted so as not to leverage EDI in a performative manner,” said Lovett. “Collegiate recreation is typically one of the largest student employers on campus and often engages upwards of 75% of the student population. Because of its exponential reach within the campus community, campus rec has a unique opportunity to be a force of impact for EDI on campus.”
Here are a few ways to consider for your department:
Hire a Diverse Team
There is perhaps no better way to ensure your department has genuine, impactful inclusion in marketing then by hiring voices from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Doing so will give your team a deeper knowledge of other worldviews and cultures.
Some of the biggest possible pitfalls of showcasing diversity are stereotypes, superficiality, tone deafness and cultural insensitivity. Forbes’ Sonia Thompson said these missteps all lead back to a core competency teams who produced problematic marketing lacked: customer intimacy.
A college campus is a unique melting pot of students from different walks of life. If your department does not reflect that environment, then you run a greater risk of not relating to — or possibly even offending — part of your audience. Make a concentrated effort to employ diverse voices.
Track Inclusion Efforts
Simply stating your department is showcasing diversity by providing a few, isolated examples is not enough evidence to back your claim. In today’s world, there is an endless supply of marketing technology to pick from to accurately track your EDI efforts.
Ensure you are displaying diversity in a meaningful way. Diverse marketing should not be completed to simply check boxes or boost your tracking numbers. As Lovett said, it can’t be performative, and it needs to truly represent your university.
Gartner’s Kate Muhl said organizations will most likely be tasked with ensuring outputs of marketing reflect EDI goals. This means tracking how well emails, commercials, print ads, sales collateral, social posts and more measure up to organization’s objectives. Campus rec leaders should get ahead of this curve and use metrics to guarantee accountability in their practices.
Use the Voice of Your Campus
If you are trying to showcase diversity honestly and honorably, then go right to your source which is your students and faculty. Consult with them and listen to their stories and points of views. Purposefully talk with individuals from different backgrounds and ask if you can share their perspectives in your marketing.
Sharing those points of view in your marketing can help make your department relatable for all students. Going to a gym or rec center can be intimidating for many. Relate with your specific populations and break down those walls of nervousness and anxiety.
Also, if you have hired a diverse team, then task your workers and campus interns to develop content they believe resonates well with your audience. Use your most valuable resource as much as possible.