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How To Use and Promote It at Your Organization

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How To Use and Promote It at Your Organization

Language has the ability to build relationships and forge connections, but it’s equally liable for creating barriers and impacting someone’s sense of belonging. 

Using inclusive language, and having workplace conversations devoid of exclusive language, means employees are more likely to feel like they belong and can be their authentic selves at work. 

Here we’ll explore what inclusive language is and provide examples to ensure you create an inclusive workplace and inclusive marketing material and 2022 and beyond. 

 

To explore how you might promote inclusive language at your organization, I spoke with some experts at HubSpot who have first-hand knowledge of incorporating inclusive language into their processes, products, and overall team culture.

For instance, Hannah Fleishman, who led the charge on updating HubSpot’s Careers website to be more inclusive, told me, “Language has a big impact on our sense of belonging in the workplace. The challenge is, language is nuanced. The changes we should consider making to how we talk and write are often subtle.”

Melissa Obleada, an Associate User Experience Researcher at HubSpot, echoes this thought, mentioning, “Many of us don’t realize that our language has additional meaning hidden between the lines. Certain words can imply a certain age, gender, educational background, social class, and so much more. We see this a lot in the ways many folks write job descriptions.”

Consider, for instance, the last time you were in a meeting and a leader said, “Okay, guys, let’s get started” — do you think that automatically made female colleagues feel a little less-welcomed than their male peers? Would it have been better if he’d said “ya’ll” or “everyone”?

Alternatively, imagine you’re hiring a new person on your team and your boss tells you, “We’re looking for a good culture fit.” You know most people on your team are extraverted — does that make you unfairly biased during interviews as you seek out a “good culture fit” by looking for candidates that mirror your colleagues’ personality type?

Beth Dunn, Marketing Fellow at HubSpot, wrote a Medium piece on the topic of instilling a human voice in product content, and said, “Try not to present the privileged, tech-savvy, wealthy, able-bodied, white, cisgendered, anglo-centric male experience as ‘standard’ and everything else as ‘other’ or ‘diverse.’ Seek ways to place the ‘other’ in the center of things instead.”

Additionally, Dunn told me, “What’s great is that the English language is such a flexible, expressive language, so there are all sorts of ways to say what you need to say without indicating anything that might be exclusive. It just takes a little imagination, empathy, and practice, that’s all.”

Take job descriptions as an example — you might’ve heard by now that women only apply for jobs when they feel they’ve met 100% of the requirements, while men will apply when they feel they’ve met 60% of them.

Fleishman suggests, “Try to avoid writing job descriptions with unattainable requirements. Using more inclusive language can be like building a new muscle; you need to get in the habit of recognizing nuances and asking yourself if what you’re saying, or writing, is accessible for everyone.”

Obleada adds that it’s not just job descriptions that you should edit for inclusivity — it’s all communication, whether through email, Slack, text, Facebook, or in-person: “When it comes to implementing inclusive language, it takes practice to shift your typical ways of speaking and writing.”

To monitor whether your communication is exclusive to certain groups, you’ll want to look at resources and tools online. For instance, Textio is an augmented writing tool that identifies whether you’re using gendered language in your writing or words with a strong feminine or masculine association. This can be undeniably helpful for both job descriptions and even emails to colleagues.

Additionally, you might consider taking a look at the Conscious Style Guide, a resource on conscious language that breaks down exclusive language into categories, including age and disability.

Finally, to identify your own implicit biases, try taking a Hidden Bias Test, like this one created by Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington, to uncover how your biases might be inhibiting you from expressing yourself more inclusively.

If this all sounds like a lot of work to you, it’s important to note — this isn’t just about creating a more inclusive environment at work. It’s also critical for your company’s bottom line, particularly if you work for a global company or plan to expand your offerings to other regions in the future.

Obleada explains it like this: “For some, writing and speaking inclusively may feel like a restrictive set of rules, hindering instead of helping us. In reality, it’s just the opposite.”

“Inclusive language opens up and amplifies your message to more people, making your blog post, job description, or website copy more accessible than before.”

Next, let’s explore some inclusive language examples in-practice.

1. Avoid company or team acronyms.

Fleishman told me, “Acronyms have become part of most companies’ vocabulary, but they can be alienating for new employees, candidates, or global teams.”

I personally remember how frustrated I felt when I first joined my team at HubSpot and everyone kept saying “TL;DR” in meetings. I was too embarrassed to ask what it meant. I finally Googled the term, but in the interim, the acronym made me feel separate from the larger group.

While this is a small and innocent example, there might be bigger acronyms you use every day within your team that continue to alienate new members or employees from other teams. And if your company does choose to use specific acronyms (like, in HubSpot’s case, H.E.A.R.T.), make sure you explain what it means during the employee onboarding process.

2. Use plain language in your writing rather than expressions or jargon.

Many of us use colloquial expressions every day. For instance, I often say, “It’s just a ballpark figure” or “it should be a piece of cake,” without pausing to consider whether the listener knows or has heard the term before.

Of course, this can be confusing to other parts of the world that aren’t familiar with such expressions. If your company has global offices or works with customers from across the globe, expressions that are common to you can pose a major deterrent to clear communication. 

For instance, in Dunn’s Medium article, she writes, “We also avoid using metaphors (visual and written) that are specific to just one culture or class. So, for instance, we avoid using phrases like ‘knock it out of the park’ or ‘hit a home run,’ even though these phrases are pretty common in North America as they’re just not going to resonate outside of the U.S. Not because people will be offended by a reference to baseball, but because they won’t be as familiar, so the meaning won’t be as clear.”

The graphic below displays examples of colloquial words and phrases and plain language alternatives to ensure everyone understands you.

inclusive language examples: plain language

3. Refer to a theoretical person as “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

As marketers, we’re exceptional storytellers. Sometimes, however, whether you’re talking offhandedly with a colleague or delivering a pitch, you might get caught up in using pronouns that unintentionally support stereotypes.

For instance, let’s say you’re giving a pitch and you say, “We’ve found through analysis that our readers are typically in a VP position or higher, which is why we believe we should lean into LinkedIn as a strategy in 2020. For instance, let’s say our reader needs to deliver a presentation. He might turn to our blog ahead of time, but more likely, he’ll turn to LinkedIn first.”

Your fictitious VP-level reader doesn’t need to be “male” or “female” — why not call them by the non-gendered pronoun “they,” “them,” or “their”? You can still make your point, and you won’t alienate people on your team who feel hurt that you’ve assumed that leaders are likely male.

This also relates to gendered terms that add nouns to the end of them, like salesman. Opting for a more inclusive term could be saying salesperson or sales rep. The image below shows additional examples of gendered terms and alternative phrases to use. 

inclusive language examples: gendered terms and phrases

4. Ensure your company’s designs or images reflect a diverse group of people.

When potential customers take a look at your website, you want them to see people (or figures) that look like them. Simultaneously, you want potential new hires to see themselves reflected.

Otherwise, you’re likely missing out on both potential customers, and future employees for your company.

Image Source

In her Medium post, Dunn writes, “Our product illustrators try to ensure that the people we represent in illustrations are diverse in appearance, and that these different types of people are represented doing many different things (for instance, a person of color doing the talking while others listen, a woman in a wheelchair at an executive desk, etc.).”

As you scale as a company, you want to ensure your marketing materials reflect as many groups of people as possible. Otherwise, you’re unintentionally sending messages to people who don’t see themselves in your content that your brand “isn’t quite right for them.”

5. Be mindful of terms related to race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture. 

Many terms used daily have roots in racism and discrimination, so using them can make people feel unsafe, whether in your marketing materials or day-to-day correspondence with team members. 

Some regularly used terms have roots in racism and discrimination or are taken from celebrations and sacred practices of marginalized communities. Using them in your marketing materials or day-to-day correspondence with team members can make people feel unsafe and unwelcome. 

For example, pow wow is often used informally to describe a meeting or get-together. Using it in such a way disregards pow wows as indigenous cultures’ sacred rituals and social gatherings — ceremonial events that have nothing to do with work. A simple alternative is saying stand-up, meeting, or hang-out. 

The image below displays other examples of words commonly used that are related to ethnicity, race, nationality, and culture that you can easily swap out for more inclusive terms. 

inclusive language examples: race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture terms

6. When speaking to colleagues about family, use gender-neutral labels for family members.

Obleada told me, “Inclusive language has a real impact on how ‘themselves’ folks feel they can be in a given space. As a queer woman, it makes me cringe when folks ask me about a boyfriend. Intentionally using gender neutral titles — parent, spouse, partner, child, etc. — when speaking about your or others’ families can make a big difference in how comfortable someone may feel.”

Rather than making assumptions, approach conversations with colleagues using gender neutral titles. For instance, it’s better to use “parent” or “guardian” when making conversation with a colleague since “mom” or “dad” excludes family structures such as grandparents as caregivers, same-sex parents, etc.

7. Be mindful of medical conditions and ability terms. 

Common phrases like “turning a blind eye” are ableist and insensitive to people whose lives are impacted by medical conditions.

While likely used innocently, someone who hears such a phrase in the workplace or sees it in your marketing materials may feel unsafe and like you don’t represent them or what they care about. 

It’s best practice not to use such terms unless they’re relevant to your topic of conversation. The image below displays commonly used phrases that can be harmful that you might not have realized before and alternatives to implement.

inclusive language examples: mental conditions and ability terms

8. When in doubt, ask individuals which pronouns they prefer (but make it clear they can choose not to identify, as well).

It’s critical to note — there’s no one-size-fits-all “right” and “wrong” when it comes to language. Many people have personal preferences, especially when it comes to identity.

For instance, person-first language (i.e., “people with autism”) was introduced because many feel it’s dehumanizing to put the disability or gender orientation first, as it seems to define the individual.

However, some prefer identity-first language (i.e., “autistic people”) since they accept autism as an inherent part of their identity — identity-first language can even help evoke a sense of pride among individuals.

(For more information on person-first or identity-first, take a look at this article by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.)

Over To You

It’s critical you avoid applying hard-and-fast rules to all individuals, since these preferences are incredibly personal. You might consider asking them what they prefer, or offering up your own preferred pronouns to create a safe space for them to do the same — but only if they feel comfortable doing so. (To learn more about etiquette when it comes to asking pronoun preference, take a look at Gender Neutral Pronouns: What They Are & How to Use Them.)

Ultimately, it’s important to remember none of us will get it “perfect” 100% of the time, but admitting when you’ve made mistakes and consistently working to communicate more inclusively are two major steps towards creating a more unified workforce, and creating deeper connections with your customers.

Remember — inclusive language is about widening your message and allowing it to resonate with as many people as possible, so it’s critical for your business’s bottom-line that you do everything you can to communicate more inclusively every day.

company culture template

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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