5 Ways Brands Can Earn, and Keep, Business From People of Color

You'll have to think more broadly to connect with diverse consumers. Here's how to do it

The Black Lives Matter movement has reignited calls for more socially responsible business culture, holding brands more accountable than ever to speak up and show support for important causes. As a result, many brands have made a commitment to becoming more diverse and inclusive, both in their hiring practices and marketing campaigns. However, these efforts will not be effective if brands aren't being authentic in their approach.

As a business that is 100 percent owned and operated by a Black and Indian-American founding team and is run primarily by people of color, if there's one thing we're experts on, it's how to make genuine, productive connections with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Here's how we do it, and how other brands can follow suit.

Know our history.

Many brands are posting almost copy-and-paste messages to their social media about their commitment to diversity and inclusion. But it's not enough to offer blanket statements of alliance with your impacted audience; you need to dig deeper and not simply follow the crowd for a pat on the back.

Instead of looking to impress communities with your pledge to "do better," seek to actually understand your customer's history and how it has impacted the way they view brands today. Learn key dates, issues and causes that are relevant and important to them, and build touchpoints specifically around them to express your support. If you don't know or fully understand a BIPOC cultural issue, research it and share voices from diverse audience members before speaking about it on a public platform yourself.

Meet us where we are.

Black and brown people shouldn't have to look far to find support. As a brand attempting to connect authentically with people of color, know where they spend their time so you can come to them. Consider the channels we over-index on, the websites we visit, the shows we watch, and more.

If you understand who your audience trusts for information, you'll not only be ahead of the game but you'll also be able to reach them better by meeting them there. In turn, they will feel a more authentic connection with your brand.

Use the right language.

Speaking the same language with your audience is key to gaining their trust and respect. Without intending to, you might say something offensive simply out of ignorance. This is why doing your research and thinking before you speak, post or launch a new campaign is crucial. Make sure you understand the language most commonly used by the community you're trying to reach, so you can ensure a productive dialogue.

Hire more people of color. 

As hard as you might try to understand BIPOC and the obstacles they face in society, you can't fully relate unless you have been in their shoes. Instead of forcing a connection through empathy, hire people who actually understand and are reflective of the consumers you're trying to reach. Ideally, these employees or freelancers will identify with the community you're trying to build and know the problems they need to solve, so you'll have firsthand insight.

Don't try too hard.

Don't rush into strong marketing campaigns without being intentional; BIPOC can sense when you're not authentic. Speaking just to speak, or posting just to post, is often more damaging than not. Remember that you aren't in it for recognition or praise; you're looking to build genuine relationships with your audience.

Instead, recognize your bias and how it impacts your views and assumptions. Admit to being at fault if you had a slip-up, and own up to your lack of knowledge or unawareness about an issue rather than assuming you should get a pass. It's much more admirable to express awareness of your shortcomings and how you plan to be and do better and offer help and support going forward. 

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Obi Omile Jr.
Obi Omile Jr. is co-founder and CEO of theCut, a D.C.-based mobile app modernizing the barbershop experience with 1.8 million users.

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