Why The Future of PR Must Be Built Not On Tactics, But On Trust
While I’ve enjoyed my time as a corporate communications executive and an agency owner, I admit to...
Recent census data reveals that the United States is more multicultural than ever before, with 43% of the total U.S. population comprised of people of color in 2020, up from 34% in 2010.
But how multicultural is your marketing?
The brands able to have success in cultivating strong and authentic connections with multicultural audiences will be those that commit the time, research, dollars, and learnings necessary to create culturally appropriate campaigns that build trust.
When it comes to brand trust, representation and authenticity are key. If you’re leaving 43% of the population out of the conversation, you’re hindering the success of your campaigns before they’ve even made it over the starting line.
Multicultural marketing recognizes the unique needs and behaviors of different cultures and welcomes them through tailored content that resonates. It provides an opportunity to differentiate your brand, service, product, or cause through inclusive messaging that is custom-made with the specific community in mind.
When you ignore multicultural communications, you’re missing an opportunity to build brand trust with increasingly diverse audiences and the chance to establish long-term loyalty. With this in mind, and in the spirit of marketing for good, here are five tips for building trust through your multicultural marketing.
Examining your own beliefs helps to remove any thoughts, feelings or biases that may be influencing the messaging or strategy of your communications. It is an ongoing commitment to look beyond your own culture and comfort zone and recognize the unique thoughts, feelings, and needs of diverse audiences. If you want your marketing to be effective, then this is a necessary first step to creating a multicultural strategy that is inclusive, respectful, and free from bias.
Start by taking the time to explore your own beliefs and how they could be influencing the language, messaging, or direction of the marketing communication. Sometimes this requires getting out of the way and letting others lead. Once you recognize these factors, it’s easier to set them aside and eliminate them from your work. Having a diverse team is invaluable and ensures a variety of different viewpoints and cultures are represented. But it’s not enough to simply have great team diversity. It’s even more important to create a culture where every individual feels empowered to speak up and contribute ideas. This makes your communications more authentically engaging to multiple audiences as unique perspectives and feedback are captured at the campaign outset.
Finally, make the commitment to think of reaching multicultural audiences year-round, and not just to tick a box on seasonal holidays and calendar events — an approach that will never build trust. Steer clear of short-term opportunities, such as Black History Month or Pride Month, and instead build an ongoing relationship that shows you understand and are thinking of how to reach multicultural audiences 12 months of the year, not only when there’s an easy marketing play.
Interpretation is subjective. How a marketing message is read and understood can vary based on external factors like cultural nuances, beliefs, behaviors, traditions, languages, experiences, assumptions, and more. That’s why the starting point for any successful multicultural communication should be research. The more you understand your audience as people and explore how they think and what they need, the better you can adapt your marketing to work for and appeal to them.
The result? Authentic, empathetic campaigns that draw engagement and build trust.
If you have a specific priority audience in mind, take the time to discover their unique needs and preferences. Connect with individuals within this group to identify relevant perspectives, trends, and themes. Learn from influencers, advisory panels, community organizations, local businesses, multicultural media outlets, or simply through engaging in social listening. Taking the time to do this and examining whether you may be unintentionally alienating a particular subset through stereotypes or word choice is a necessary step for creating trust with different cultures.
Keep in mind also that trends and behaviors change quickly. Don’t assume that research carried out even six months ago is still relevant and applicable today. Maintain brand trust through proactive, continuous research, and evolution of strategy and messaging. Establish a research cadence that is realistic but also ensures you are regularly checking in with your priority audience communities. Doing this will help you to create genuine, trusted connections that drive results.
Ultimately, taking time to do the research helps ensure you avoid offensive mistakes that can be damaging to your brand.
Visuals are a powerful way to convey key details and evoke emotions that further enhance the message of the copy. The colors and imagery of a creative asset are often what first capture attention and draw the audience in. They also help you to hit the right note and build trust with your audience — meaning they shouldn’t be forgotten or added as an afterthought. The most successful multicultural communications marry the copy and visuals at the outset for maximum results.
Remember that certain colors, symbols, or visual elements may have specific meanings in certain cultures. So, take the time to educate yourself on these and ensure they aren’t being applied in a way that comes across as inappropriate and damages the trust you have worked so hard to build.
Next, consider the photos and imagery your marketing will include. Research shows that 75% of consumers are more likely to take the action and make the purchase if they see themselves represented by authentic people who look similar to them in ads. This statistic alone demonstrates the value of ensuring all imagery clearly and authentically highlights the audience you are trying to reach.
If a campaign is accompanied by a photo that is so far removed from a specific individual or culture that it’s aiming to speak to, then it has already failed in its mission. Avoid this and use your visuals to build trust by including carefully curated imagery that authentically represents the multicultural audience you are serving.
Authentic multicultural marketing should make the audience feel as though it has been made first and foremost with them in mind. This is critical in establishing a trusted relationship.
When communicating with groups whose first language is not English, one of the worst things to do is to simply translate the words in a campaign from English to Spanish or another language, with no thought given to the impact of the words in the new language. Direct translations are obvious and come across as careless, giving the impression that this audience segment is not worth the investment.
It’s important to ensure you’re capturing the true meaning and intent of the message, not just the words, when translating into new languages. The reason for this is that certain words may have specific connotations in one culture and be perceived completely differently in another.
Picture this: you’ve spent hours coming up with a playful pun to feature in your campaign which immediately loses its meaning (and appeal) when directly translated into another language. Not only is this wasted effort, but it’s also likely that the campaign won’t achieve the results intended and resonate with a multicultural audience.
When it comes to building trust, putting the priority audience first and committing to investing in meticulous transcreations, vs quick translations, makes all the difference. So, choose a team you can trust to take the time and care to select words that truly convey the intended meaning. This team should be highly specialized in the language nuances and able to remove any barriers and prevent any possibility of miscommunication.
If you can go a step further and connect with local language professionals who are part of the target community, then even better. They will have localized insights into phrases that can be woven into the messaging for an added touch of personalization.
This is a great trust signal as it shows the customer you have gone the extra mile to understand them and have invested the time to find out and incorporate content that's relevant and meaningful to them. Once they recognize this, you’re in with a much higher chance of being their first choice when they need your particular products or services.
When you build a connection and have established trust, individuals inherently are much more likely to listen and respond to what you have to say. But relationships can’t be rushed.
Multicultural communications have to be consistently inclusive to maintain loyalty and trust. It is not enough to simply release one campaign and think you’ve won over that customer base. Entering a new market and positioning yourself as a trusted ally takes time and needs to be a long-term effort.
So, before starting on the journey, consider your bandwidth and capacity. It is better to start small and be able to consistently deliver and maintain customer trust than go in with a bang only for resources to become tight and for your multicultural campaigns to fizzle and fade.
Keep in mind that the approach also needs to be reflected across all your brand touchpoints. It’s confusing and careless to spend time crafting a campaign in multiple languages if they all drive back to your website or a particular landing page that is only available in English. If you’ve drawn the audience in with an upfront promise of multilingual content, then build upon this trust by providing website copy in the customer’s language too.
The same applies to an advertisement with diverse visuals designed to resonate with a particular target group. If this customer sees the ad they may decide to visit your social channels to learn more. However, if they arrive and fail to find any other related imagery, then they’re bound to leave feeling disappointed.
Finally, to be consistent externally, your brand also needs to be unified and consistent internally. Ensure the vision for your marketing strategy and goals is effectively communicated to and understood by all stakeholders from managers to copywriters, and designers. If the entire team is on the same page, it’s much easier to ensure that everything that’s being produced meets the intended criteria of your target audience.
To stay relevant and accessible, there’s no better time to make the move to a multicultural marketing approach. But remember, the brands that succeed will be the ones who invest the time and preparation needed to build trusted relationships that keep their customers loyal for the long term.
Amalia Martino is founder and president of The Vida Agency, based in Seattle. When Amalia started The Vida Agency in 2017, it was clear she was breaking the mold. Rather than conforming to the traditional PR model, she assembled an agile, multilingual team of leaders representing the core disciplines and expertise necessary to transform the way Seattle communicates. With nearly two decades of leading communications and public relations, Amalia conceptualizes and executes culturally relevant initiatives that transform behavior. Amalia works hand-in-hand with clients spanning major market segments including health, transportation, retail, consumer, education, and the arts.
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