The U.S. has been a melting pot of people from different backgrounds since its inception, but for the first time, communicators’ audiences are a truly diverse mix of races and cultures, according to Michael Cole, VP of influencer marketing at BCW.
"For the first time in this country's history, we're becoming a majority-minority country, and that has huge implications across what communicators do," Cole said at the PRDecoded session Moving a Diverse America: The Importance of a Polycultural Mindset on Thursday.
The marketing world needs to understand culture on a deeper level than superficial qualities like skin color and gender, he told colleague Kristin Hooper, SVP and polycultural consulting unit lead at BCW, during the discussion.
Polyculturalism describes anything that involves well-integrated cultural or ethnic groups and reflects or embodies influences across those areas, Hooper explained.
Establishing an emotional connection with audiences remains central to successful campaigns, and the newest generation of stakeholders demands a polycultural approach, said Cole.
"It's not a hope-to-see; it's a must-see themselves reflected in the content they're consuming, and brands that are not paying attention or being inclusive to this younger generation are paying the price," Cole said. "It's beyond cancel culture. It's consequence culture."
BCW launched a polycultural consulting unit last month to address cultural and diversity issues. The group is led by Hooper and staffed by more than 20 employees. Its services include research and strategy, internal comms and external marketing and communications campaigns. The research portion will conduct primary culture and audience studies; diverse audience immersions; cultural trend spotting; message testing and optimization; and creative and cultural risk assessments.
For PR professionals who want to integrate polyculturalism into their company's purpose, Hooper said ability to capture supporting data has always been there, but it needs to be made more inclusive.
"We've been doing focus groups and polling forever, but we haven't always done it in a way where we are being inclusive," she said, adding that there are people and ideologies who have been left out of targeting. "Communicators need to take the time to truly understand and unpack what different segments might mean by different statements."
That dedication must weave through every aspect of a company or brand, including hiring culturally diverse individuals.
"If you say you're committed to DE&I internally and saying you support racial justice, you have to come to the table with campaigns that reflect that you hold these beliefs," Hooper said. "Culturally competent teams are needed to execute these campaigns to help identify bias and blind spots."