Drink Like a Lady Podcast

How to Build a Brand That is Inclusive with Sonia Thompson

February 22, 2022 Joya Dass/Sonia Thompson
Drink Like a Lady Podcast
How to Build a Brand That is Inclusive with Sonia Thompson
Transcript
Joya Dass:

I want to revisit that conversation, but I want to introduce you to Sonia Thompson. Sonia, more people will be joining in a second, but Sonya wears a couple of different hats. Number one, she is a customer experience strategist as well as consultant. And she is also CEO of Thompson media group. And I feel like a lot of us are talking about how to be more inclusive, but don't know where to start. So given that variable, I thought that I have six points here and Sonia could address how we can include each of those communities that I'm talking about. But Sonia your, why don't you just share a little bit about your background.

Sonia Thompson:

Sure. So I'm a marketer by education by trade. I spent a good amount of, I spent nine years in healthcare and working pharma, biotech, medical devices. And then this summer will be 10 years that I left my corporate job to start my own business focused on customer experience and the last three four years or so, I've been focusing more of my conversation to talk more about inclusive marketing customer experience and inclusive marketing are inseparable twins. Right? So the idea is that whenever you're delivering experiences that make people feel like they belong, then you are more likely delivering inclusive experiences. And then whenever experiences are not inclusive, you're actually most instances pushing people away. So we're going to be talking a lot about that today. Because there are many dimensions of diversity that we need to be thinking about as leaders, as business owners. We can cover them all as we're talking about.

Joya Dass:

The very first community that you talk about is communities that have been historically underserved. Who does that? Who does that mean?

Sonia Thompson:

It covers a lot of people, right? So one of the reasons why I started focusing on inclusive marketing is because I have a lot of differences. I'm a black woman. And for me, I was underserved with simple things. Like if I wanted to get a pair of nude stockings, there were years where there was really only one definition of noon and it didn't match my skin tone. Right? So I was underserved in that regard. I'm left-handed right. So not being served as a left-hand or started with scissors and kindergarten. Right now I follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons. So there are, I encounter issues with that on a regular basis. Now I'm in an interracial marriage, a multicultural marriage. My husband doesn't speak English yet. So navigating the, what that's like for him here. My daughter is biracial. So with all those differences, bring different challenges and it's not always the easiest thing for us to figure out how to engage with brands who are acknowledging the different ways, the ways in which we're different or the ways in which the people that they serve could be different. And as a result, they end up pushing them away. So depending upon what brand it is or what it is that you serve. Are a number of differences for some people it's age. As the older they get people feel like they're being excluded and invisible for some people it's body type, for some people it's skin tone and complexion, or your hair curly versus straight versus textured, there are a number of dimensions of diversity, and it's just a matter of as leaders figuring out how, what are the dimensions that are most important for us to make sure that we're serving and that we're intentionally choosing to make those people who are part of those communities, particularly ones that are underserved feel like they belong.

Joya Dass:

Sonia, I think it might be helpful for me to share the lens with which all of my ladies that are here, view the world Yolanda, as an artist and an educator, Alison is often in a place of educating and coaching c level leaders in the surrounding area and Soloua comes from the financial services world. She was very up until very recently in the banking world at Royal bank of Canada, but now she's starting a fund to change the way women invest in women. So maybe as we talk about these communities, how can each of these ladies maybe reach the underserved, given the lens with which they view the world? So the next one is how to better engage women and certain cultural minorities.

Sonia Thompson:

So in terms of engaging women, and anybody who is underserved, so cultural minorities, and if we think about it from the workplace, sometimes it's figuring out. It's harder to add a blanket and more apt to develop a deep degree of intimacy for the people that you're serving and understanding what are the challenges that they specifically have as it relates to the problem that you solve for them. For cultural minority, There might not be some people. If we're thinking about it from an art perspective, they might not have even thought about certain aspects of engaging in art, creating art, making that something that they can do from a business perspective. Representation goes far and helping people see themselves or who they aspire to be reflected in a particular area. But it's just a matter of understanding who it is that you're serving and what are the unique challenge that they have for women, but representation is applicable as well. Whenever Kamala Harris was inaugurated as vice-president of the country, there were posts, there were all kinds of people talking about how, oh my goodness. Okay. Now I know this is possible. Whether representation is an issue, whether it is, working moms, being an issue. We were talking about that before, whether it's equal pay, there's a number of things and we don't know necessarily. Which ones we need to tackle until we actually talk to the people who we're serving the people who are part of our teams to understand what are the unique issues in our organization, within our port purview, that we can then start working. Because if you tackle a broader issue such as women in the workplace who are returning back to work, but the most of your team they don't, that's not the stage of life that they find themselves in. That's not the thing that's going to move the needle to make them feel like, okay. She sees me, she gets me and she understands what it is that I'm going through.

Joya Dass:

The next community is customers with different dietary restrictions, religions, and here's a big ones, different sexual orientation now. That's becoming a Tonya. Who's not on the call yet, but she just styled her first LGBTQ client. And she's now really thinking, how does she go to market saying that this is a demographic that she styles?

Sonia Thompson:

It goes really to understanding, what is the going to be? The issues that are most important to them, to that demographic or that community that, We'll make them take the next step forward with you. So going back to what I just explained about, we were talking before we went to the call, I went on a trip, earlier this month for a speaking engagement, I have a dietary restriction. The people who were organizing it took care to make sure that there would be things available for me. But the whole hotel that we were staying at didn't necessarily have very many options for me. And I think as a person who has a dietary restriction, We already go into situations, skeptical that people will know how to accommodate us. So if there are people who have dietary restrictions that you want to serve, who are on your team, it is better to proactively send the signals that make them feel. Normal without always having to raise their hands and be the person that says, Hey, I have followed gluten-free diet. Hi, I'm vegan. Hi, I've got this problem. Can you make sure that you accommodate me that doesn't deliver an ideal customer experience? Because people often don't like to have to raise their hand and explain that they're different and get those particular accommodations. Leaders, there are different signals that you can send that make people understand that. Okay this person, this organization is for me. So going back to the question that you brought up about the LGBTQ plus community. Sometimes it's simple things like using gender pronouns and public facing communications that lets people know. Okay. They're thinking about. Sometimes it's the language that you're using on your website or your communications. Are you using gender language? Are you taking into account, asking people the things that are necessary for them to know that you want to know how you can best take care of them? Sometimes it can be as simple celebrating causes events, observances celebrations that are important to those communities. For instance, if you want to reach the LGBTQ plus community, are you celebrating pride month in some way? Of course, the big thing to remember, it's never about. Celebrating one month when everybody is celebrating, it's being present all year long. So how do you engage the community? Build relationships with the community, support the community, possibly share, or elevate people who are part of the community on your platform on an ongoing basis. That is one way to demonstrate that, Hey, this is a space where this community can feel like they.

Joya Dass:

Now, how do you start to set goals to ensure that your marketing and your team actually reflects the population that you're serving? You gave an example about Salesforce has a 20, 23 goal to make sure that 50% of their hirees come from an underrepresented group now, SLU, for example, who's starting a fund and is thinking about how she can extend that to maybe underrepresented groups. How do you build a marketing plan around that?

Sonia Thompson:

So one of the big components of building an inclusive brand is your culture and a big component of your culture is your team, right? So ideally your team will be representative of the people that you want to serve. So if you want to serve women, It would be great. If you had women on your team or a representative percentage of women on your team. If you want to serve women of color, it would be ideal for you to have women of color on your team, because there's a lot of times people say they value a particular community, but until you are investing on your own, with paying people, whether it's people who are in your team, whether it's contractors. That's whenever people know that you really mean what it is that you're saying. One way that people can set goals around that sometimes people will choose to mirror it to the population of where they live, depending upon you, where you live those percentages as popular. Those numbers might look different. New York might look different than San Francisco that might look different from Delaware, but might look different from Connecticut, right? So look at where you are, but of course, where your customers are, they want them to be reflective. But sometimes let's say you are starting from, you don't have a team that's diverse, but you want to make sure that you're serving a more diverse population. You've got a specific group in mind. You can set targets to say by this date, we will achieve this goal. It could be, we will get to 10%, of our team makeup by. Two years from now because we don't want to rush the process. Right? But set some goals that show the direction that you are going. Oftentimes what people get hung up on as well is struggling to find the first. Diverse hire or the first person I'm on their team whenever they're starting out, because how can we say they're diverse, people don't want to come on and be the only right. They don't want to be the only, they don't want to be one of a few. Having those goals in place to showcase where you're going to say, all right, this is where we are right now. We want to increase this. 10% by 30%, by 50% by whatever date and then communicating, these are the specific tasks or these are the changes in our policies and our approach that we are going to take that will help us get from where we are to where we want to be. Because a lot of people will set goals, but they don't change how they're recruiting. They don't change how they're engaging, and their policies and their practices. And so they ended up getting the same result over and over again.

Joya Dass:

How do you identify what success means to the community that you serve? So, Alison for example, has her own team, but then she's servicing other teams that belong to other companies. So for example, if the, if it was like, I'm going to offer communications in Spanish, or that's a suggestion that she makes to a client because the Hispanic population is growing at a rapid fire clip in the United States. How do you introduce that and make that a metric that a company wants to adopt?

Sonia Thompson:

So people have been doing business cases for a long time. Right? And you don't, we don't always like the fact that we have to put business cases together around inclusion, but sometimes it's necessary. And I think it's just a matter of highlighting. Spending time intentionally focusing on a community, pays dividends. Because most often people who are underrepresented whenever they find a brand that caters to them, or they find something that cater specifically to their unique needs, they are loyal. I use example, I can mention I'm gluten-free. I found out about a new gluten-free bakery that was 45 minutes away. My sister is also gluten-free and we're like, you want to go to this bakery? And we packed my baby up and we went and we made the Trek. We will travel for people who are intentional about serving us. And that's what is helpful to remember. We're not talking about an audience that views the world in the same way as everyone. They have specific needs. They're accustomed to being ignored. So they're a bit jaded, but whenever people demonstrate that they are there for the long haul that they are committed to the community. They do reward them with their loyalty, tell their friends. They tell people who were like them, so it becomes more of a snowball effect. So as you're working on figuring out what the business cases, looking at the numbers, but also recognizing that it's not just about the numbers of the people you are serving. So for instance, if you are want to serve women of color, There are women who are not women of color, who will see that you are being inclusive of the people that they care about, people that they love and they will give you their attention, their loyalty as a result. So it's not just the people who are part of these communities. It's the people who share the values and want to see people that they care about. Included as well that you win by being inclusive there. So that is another thing that you should be considering in these business cases for why you should be thinking about reaching out, specifically investing resources and in particular community. So one other thing on that, you mentioned Spanish as an example. Again, my husband doesn't speak English yet. I speak English, but I make decisions based upon him, the niche consumer is often the lead consumer. So whenever I'm looking for a doctor, I'm looking for a doctor that speaks Spanish, that has Spanish staff. When we are looking for a Salesforce and we bought a car whenever we came here, who did we work with? There was a guy who I had a relationship with previously, but the car sales process is involved. So we didn't go to him. We went with a woman who spoke Spanish because we were all able to communicate. So it's not just about looking at this one particular community. It's about all the people that the niche consumer or that diverse consumers or communities bring along with them because they want to make sure that they are included and they feel like they belong.

Joya Dass:

The last point before I turn it over to questions is how do you make your business about belonging? You heard Yolanda say that in two years, she's going to put on an art show that is going to be reflective of all the different ethnicities that make up who Yolanda is. But how does she make sure that she doesn't exclude anybody? Like how does she make sure that anybody who's coming to that show in her marketing feels like they can belong in that room?

Sonia Thompson:

The key is deciding in advance. Who do you want to ensure feels included. It's very hard to include everybody. It's a noble desire. It's very hard to make something work for everybody and have everybody to feel that sense of belonging. Some brands are able to do it, but they often have a lot of resources. So the idea is that you will be very specific about who are the types of communities or what are the specific types of identities or along the different degrees of dimension that you want to ensure feel included whenever it comes to your event, your products, the services, the experience that you deliver. And then once you are clear about who those people are, then it's about, of course developing a deep degree of intimacy with them. And not forsaking cultural intelligence, especially if you are not a part of that community. So understanding what are the nuances that will be helpful for them to know that, oh, she was thinking of me specifically. One example of that, david's bridal here in the UK. So it was one out of every three wedding dresses. They outfit one out of every three brides in the. If you were to go to David bridal David's bridals website or social media, you can see, they make very intentional effort to include as many people as possible. They have black couples, white couples, couples in wheelchairs. They have LGBTQ plus couples. They've got older ones. They've got them all covered, but they couldn't do that without first thinking about. Who are all the different people who have this problem. Then if you were to go and look at their website, when they're talking about their mission, they're talking about, it's not just about weddings. It's about special occasions, special events, and it, they mentioned different types of special events. And they specifically said quinceaneras. Quinceaneras is meaningful to people in the Latino culture. And there are people who know about that, but just writing that word, that's a very intentional word. It allowed people who came to me, airs as meaningful to them to know that David's bridal. They see me. They see me and they don't have to do anything else or change anything else in the experience. But that just one little word sends a signal that okay. They care about me and my community because they said something that is relevant to me. Sometimes it's just words and phrases. Sometimes it's imagery. I saw an ad one time. Last year, the Superbowl time period, Amazon, Alexa did a commercial. The reason why the commercial spoke so much to me is because they had a dark skin, black woman with natural hair in the ad. You don't see that often, most times when they're showing black women or women of color, they're racially ambiguous, they're light skinned. They're definitely not dark skin. And they're definitely not dark skin with natural hair. And that was something she didn't, they didn't comment on it. They didn't say anything, but the imagery. Spoke to people who know that we're not accustomed to seeing that on a regular basis. So it all starts of course, with making those decisions about who do you specifically want to make sure feel included and then going through developing a deep degree of intimacy with them to know what it is that they need to see and hear from you. And then of course executing that using cultural intelligence as well, to help make sure that you're delivering it in a way that will make them feel that you see it, that you've got it. And you did it in a respectful way because sometimes people try, but they miss the details and the nuances of it. So it doesn't have the impact that they wanted to have, which is unfortunate.

Joya Dass:

The last question before you go, when you go to market and companies bring you in, what is the pain point that they're wanting you to solve for them?

Sonia Thompson:

In most instances, I don't know if they would describe it that way, but in most instances it is that. They want to reach more diverse consumers. Their teams are not equipped to know how to do it. They don't know where to start. They don't have the their agencies, for instance, don't have this capability. They know how to market to the masses. They don't quite know how to get the nuance or they don't have the intelligence or the customer intimacy to know how to go back to a deeper level to understand. There was one client that I worked with in healthcare. They had a community, the black community for them had a very high attrition rate. And it should have been the community that stuck with them the most because they had the highest incidents of this particular disease state. They knew this was a problem. This, these customers aren't sticking around, but they had no idea why. So it was more about, bringing me in to figure out, okay, what is the particular problem? Why aren't we resonating with this particular audience and then figuring out what is it we need to do on an ongoing basis that allows us to do it. So it's more of getting their teams. Trained and thinking about inclusion, understanding the customer at a deeper level. And then lastly, putting the policies in place that changes the way they operate. Cause it's not inclusion and making people like they belong. Isn't something that you can do at the end. It's something that you have to think about from the beginning. And fuse it through all areas of your marketing mix, which often means you have to infuse it and adjust ways that you are thinking about how you would go to market, how you would engage consumers, how you recruit even people to come on your team. It requires a bit of re-imagining, so that you can have the policies and practices in place that help you be inclusive on a consistent basis.

Joya Dass:

Thank you Sonia. We appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you so much, Sonya. Thank you. I learned a lot having an evening.