How to create actionable, relevant and culturally authentic campaigns

Organizations frequently aim to engage culturally diverse audiences and non-native English speakers by translating their original English content word-for-word and including a “diverse” stock photo. Although well-intentioned, translating content developed through a “white lens” is far from authentic to all audiences; they can tell when materials were not originally intended for them, which can leave them feeling unvalued or simply an afterthought. 

To build sustainable trust and action with diverse audiences, organizations must learn from and then play back the experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of all their intended audiences

We frequently create campaigns for our clients who need to reach diverse audiences. And because building authentic relationships and trust is at the core of what we do, we’ve developed a process that incorporates touchpoints strategically throughout a project to ensure our clients communicate with accuracy, respect and relevancy.

Step 1: Start with your primary goal

Great communications start by defining the goal. When seeking to be more culturally relevant and authentic, take time to assess how your goal may shift based on perceptions or experiences from your intended audiences.

Asking these questions will help you better frame your goals:

  • What does success look like for the goal within the context of being culturally relevant and authentic to our audiences? 
  • Do all our intended audiences have the ability to participate in reaching this goal?
  • What challenges and opportunities might we face in reaching this goal with more diverse audiences?
  • Are there different engagement tactics and metrics we should consider for our various audiences? 

Step 2: Know your audiences beyond demographics

This is critical to building authentic marketing and communications. Sure, you can find demographic data that can point you in a general direction, but a high-quality, tailored strategy is about more than just race, age, and gender. 

Ask the questions that dig deeper to understand the unique perspectives of your audiences. What is really at the heart of what motivates and influences them? How do they really feel about you? Do they really understand who you are and what you do? What have their experiences been with your organization or what have their friends/family experienced? What are the basic cultural nuances related to your goal or organization that a “white lens” may not be aware of? 

Research with your audience can help answer these questions. A recent article of ours outlines the process. While written with a focus on the value of research around audience changes due to COVID-19, the principles are timeless.

By digging deeper to understand your audiences, you can ensure your resources are used efficiently while increasing effectiveness. For example, rather than simply using a photo of a generic Hispanic family to reach your Hispanic audience, ask yourself if your target audience represents Mexican, Central American, or South American heritage. This difference is important. If you miss the mark, it will cost relationships, money and time.

Here’s how to dig deeper to understand your audiences in more authentic ways. 

Identify all audiences  

Meeting communications objectives starts with solid strategic planning that includes accurately defining all relevant audiences. 

Involve and engage with your audiences

Even on a tight timeline, this important step should not be skipped. At KW2, we’ve involved our intended audiences in many ways over the years in listening sessions and focus groups by participating as partners in the creation process, and reviewing strategies and work before they’re released. Consider forming a cultural diversity committee for reviews, like we did.  

Message testing and translations

All communities speak to one another in ways that lean more formal or informal or via slang. The voice of your translations and messaging should reflect appropriate and authentic language nuances and be purposeful in tone. When timing and budget allow, testing a few different messages (and translations if necessary) via quantitative or qualitative research with your audiences will provide feedback and insights to determine which messages will have the best chance at success. 

Final creative testing

After revising and reviewing completed campaign messaging, graphics and images will further ensure cultural relevance, inclusivity, and accuracy.  

Step 3: Identify how your audiences receive trusted information

It doesn’t matter if you’re creating authentic and culturally relevant messages if you push them through the same channels you always have. It may evolve, or change within the local paper, Facebook group, faith leaders, community organizations, streaming digital content or local tv news. Here are a few ways to identify whether your current channels are reaching all of your audience groups; each should be reviewed and adjusted quarterly: 

  • Review the demographic data and engagement trends in your social media channels. 
  • Inventory your media distribution list and review relevant diverse or hyper-local media channels. 
  • Audit your email distribution list to identify where you may have gaps in contacts that represent relevant and appropriate cultural associations or organizations. 
  • Review where and how you deploy your digital and traditional media content. 

Formalizing your efforts

Committing to building trust and authentically engaging your diverse audiences is not a one-time effort. Try to develop and operationalize a consistent process to ensure your organization utilizes the most current decision drivers, perceptions, and behaviors. 

One way we have formally institutionalized ensuring diverse perspectives and voices are accurately represented and respected is through the creation of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee. The committee is made up of eight communication and

marketing professionals from a wide array of backgrounds and geographies, paid by KW2 to provide their unique perspectives to client projects and KW2 internal initiatives. Depending on the assignment, the committee reviews our strategies, creative executions, and media recommendations to ensure that our work is as respectful, culturally relevant and actionable as possible no matter the audience we’re communicating with. Every project they touch has informed us and improved the work. From helping to depict families accurately to recommending more insightful copy, to pointing out dialect nuances, this committee helps KW2 make a bigger and better impact.

For more about how we connect with diverse audiences, contact Jen.