If you’re an activist, ally, or advocate, you probably understand and practice inclusivity at every opportunity you find. Maybe you use gender-neutral terms to refer to people before you learn their preferred pronouns. Maybe, if you’re in a position of privilege, you allow other folks to voice opinions before your voice your own. Maybe you actively work to remove ableist language from your vocabulary. And, if that’s the case, maybe it has leaked into your work as well.
But if you work with clients, it can be difficult to sell them on the importance of using inclusive language. They hired you to help them increase conversions, not hear you preach from your soapbox, right? Well…
Enter: the benefits of inclusivity. Clients are humans. Not heartless, emotionless, empty vessels (for the most part), but when we are driven by goals, numbers and profits in our day-to-day work, sometimes we need little convincing to get in touch with our human side. If you run into clients that need a bit more justification than “it’s just the right thing to do,” here are a few tips to get their gears turning.
Keep It User-Focused
Your clients are probably used to user experience as rationale for website, design, or marketing campaign strategies. As digital experts, we’re always pushing to keep the user centered in all of our strategy. Language use should be no different.
Get your clients to consider their target audience. Maybe their target audience is 20-something professionals. Maybe their target audience is new mothers. Whatever it is, do some research on that audience’s values. Better yet, hold focus groups or interviews to understand their stance on language use! (This could even get tacked onto focus groups you already have as a part of your strategy.)
Keeping it user-focused helps shift clients’ minds to the importance of inclusive language. Sure, it might not mean much to them, but it could make or break a sale for their target audience. In company messaging, it’s important to reach as many people as possible, providing a positive experience to them.
Conduct Keyword Research
Let’s say you’re working with a client whose website hasn’t been updated in a couple years, and their brand hasn’t been updated since their founding. With how quickly language evolves, odds are their key messages and content are pretty outdated.
To help freshen it up, do some keyword research for their industry to see what language is used in everyday searches. Don’t forget to check the search engine results to see which websites are ranking for each keyword. Often, if the wording is outdated, the keyword might be highly searched, but the search engine results won’t be pages you want your brand to be associated with.
In the event that a less-inclusive keyword (i.e., learning disabilities) has a higher search volume than the inclusive keyword you want to target (i.e., learning differences), try to harness the keyword with a higher search volume while still being inclusive! Include a page on their website that discusses why they use the inclusive language (i.e., a blog post titled “Why We Don’t Call Them ‘Learning Disabilities’”). This would still capture some of the traffic from the less-inclusive keyword while promoting inclusive language.
Speak Their Language
A business can’t run well without some kind of profit, so if you can prove inclusivity would be a profitable initiative, it will become difficult for your clients to turn a blind eye. Drum up some statistics showcasing profitability of inclusivity, or if you can’t find any that apply, try running some simple A/B tests using inclusive language to see what it does for your business.
Speaking to profitability will allow you the opportunity to try out inclusive language with their messaging first, then show them the rest of the benefits as more inclusivity is implemented.
Taking the Next Step
Inclusive language is always evolving, and no one—no one—is perfectly inclusive with their language, but we need to start somewhere. Clients have an opportunity to be thought leaders when it comes to inclusivity, and being on the cutting edge of something so widely important can give clients a positive return (and good karma) for years to come.
/written by Nora Allen