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FEBRUARY 17, 2021 //     

Bringing Diversity and Inclusion Into Your Brainstorms

By Andrew Rogers and Adina James

As creative professionals, we love coming up with new ideas, concepts, and campaigns. It’s probably one of the most fun parts of our jobs. Taking an amazing idea from the page and into the real world can be hugely satisfying for us and our clients.

A challenge that our profession has long wrestled with is creating campaigns that cater to everyone, not just to those in our relatively homogenous bubble. It’s simply not good enough to create campaign concepts that might exclude people or reinforce harmful stereotypes. People want to see themselves represented in marketing in ways that are authentic and empowering, and brands want to make sure they are appealing to everyone, while also crucially doing the right thing. Social justice movements, in particular Black Lives Matter, have reminded us that we still have much work to do.

Diversity and inclusion is far too important to be retrofitted on to existing campaigns. To make them work, diverse perspectives need to be present from the very formation of campaigns. And in most cases, that’s when we run brainstorms. So how can you bring diversity and inclusion into your brainstorms, and ultimately create better, more diverse and more inclusive campaigns?  


Getting started

When faced with a new programme opportunity, it can be tempting to jump ahead with all sorts of creative ideas. Brainstorming (if done right) is fun, and so it’s usually the first thing we put into the diary. Whether it’s in a room or on Zoom, we can’t wait to start bouncing ideas around.

The best brainstorms however require planning and preparation, and that extends to making sure brainstorms are diverse and inclusive. Before you book in the brainstorm, ask yourself some key questions. How can this brief be made accessible? Whose insights during the brainstorm will be most invaluable? What lived experience might be useful in the room?

Then make sure you’re inviting a wide and diverse group to your brainstorm. It’s important to strike the right balance between making sure you have people with relevant lived experiences in the room, while not placing an unfair amount of burden on team members from less well represented backgrounds. Where possible though, make sure you’re widening out your brainstorm to be inclusive.


Look beyond your team

Your immediate team will not always have all the answers and understanding your limits when it comes to brainstorming is important too. Fortunately, there are people out there able to help and share their knowledge. Engaging with advocacy groups is a great way to make sure your campaigns thrive with groups traditionally less well represented by our profession. Make sure you offer to fairly compensate people for their time too – we of all people understand that insights have value.


How to run a brainstorm well

Inviting a diverse group to a brainstorm only delivers great results if people can contribute and are listened to. Make sure there are a range of ways people can contribute, as everyone works differently. Consider appointing a mediator for the session whose responsibility it is to ask tough questions and ensure everyone has a chance to speak. Finally, make sure everyone acknowledges, respects, and values personal first-hand experience.

It can also help to personify the brainstorm. Remind everyone in the room or on the Zoom that this is a people-first brainstorm and that they should think about specific personas that the campaign needs to reach. This helps people to break out of their bubbles and avoid simply designing campaigns that cater to themselves and who and what they know.  


Make sure to keep educating yourself

Remember throughout that no one is perfect. We cannot expect everyone to become experts at everything overnight, and that applies to developing campaigns that better represent all communities. What matters is that everyone is continuously educating themselves and remains openminded and accepting of new experiences and different ideas. It’s our duty to do this, not just as members of society, but as communications professionals providing the best advice and campaigns to our clients.

So, for your next brainstorm remember to:

  • Keep diversity and inclusion front of mind from the get-go
  • Ask yourself the right questions before, during and after the brainstorm
  • Get the right people in the room, or on Zoom, and listen to them
  • Tap external organisations as a solid gut check and fairly compensate them for their time

To find out more about Allison + Partners' approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, click here.

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