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FIRST STEPS TO INCLUSIVE MARKETING | Amil Reddy, D&I Expert

Tammy

Hi, everyone, my name is Tammy. I’m the co-founder of AndHumanity, an inclusive content agency. My pronouns are she and her. I’m super excited to have Amil Reddy, diversity inclusion expert and advisor to AndHumanity here.

Amil

Hey everyone. So,my name is Amil, my pronouns are they them, and I’m really excited to talk everything D&I and communications this morning.

Tammy

Thank you so much for taking the time. I know it’s a little crazy with everything that’s happening right now everyone’s working from home. So,today we’ll be covering who should be exploring D&I communications and the differences between authentic allyship, co-opting and appropriation and trying to navigate that difference. But before we dive right into it, I’d like to first acknowledge we operate on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish, Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations. So,let’s start off with how have you been doing since COVID?

Amil

Yeah, I mean, it’s a time of like change — like constant change — and I think one is an acknowledgement that it’s a really hard time for a lot of people. There’s a lot of loss that’s happening in the community, but there’s also the positive side of it, or the other side of it, can’t be positive or negative, that we’re being forced to really reconnect with our core people, whoever that is, whether it’s your roommates, your family members, your parents. So,that’s been really interesting. And my partner is an ER doctor. It was interesting in the beginning, she was very active in the hospital and now is more active via tele-health because we’re expecting a baby any week now. So, it’s it’s been like yeah, so you know, expecting a baby. My parents are definitely in the age range of risk, and we have a two year old running around the house. So, I am like, all of the definition of the sandwich generation is like that meat in that sandwich that I’m supposed to be is getting thin. You know what I’m saying?

Tammy Tsang  

oh, yeah, I’m sure that’s having a two year old running at home. And then both of you trying to manage that as well. Like, I’m going through the same thing, so I totally get it.

So, um, can I ask you a little bit about how you got into this line of work? Because it’s quite unique.

Amil Reddy

Yeah. I mean, I think the way that I came by it was pretty honestly is how I described it. When I started doing consulting on organizational development and diversity and inclusion, there wasn’t necessarily a course for it, or education that was associated. I think there’s some really great courses now. I actually am a Canadian Certified Inclusion professional. And so I did do that certification as a recognition of the last decade or so work that I’ve done. But I worked with community and alongside community to get the experience that I have. One would say that I leaned into my own lived experience, which is diverse, I’m a trans person of color. But that necessarily wasn’t necessarily the way that I come through the work. Of course, they bring myself to it. But I mean, I don’t speak for all trans folks of color. I don’t speak for all children of immigrants. I don’t speak for all women because I was socialized to be a woman for the first 30 years of my life. So,I think it was working alongside, you know, folks that are equity seeking, marginalized or at the fringes, whether it was people that were experiencing homelessness or precarious housing, indigenous youth, LGBTQ Two Spirit plus folks, I really did, new immigrants. Get that experience by taking positions where I was working alongside of that community.

Tammy Tsang  

And I guess part It is a bit of passion, right? It’s what you truly care about? Why do you think this work is so important?

Amil Reddy

I mean, I think that there’s been some really great work done recently to showcase the fact that diversity of thought is so important to really keep us going as a society to keep organizations and businesses innovative. And looking at at that growth mindset.  If you by virtue of just like looking at it pretty literally, if you have a homogenous group, regardless of what that homogeny is, you’re going to have very homogenous thinking and ideas. If you have a group that is diverse in the way that they think, diverse in the experience that they bring, whether it’s lived experience or professional, or hopefully both, then you’re going to have that diversity bleed into and come through all of your ideas. You’re going to be surrounded by people that are questioning what your decisions are, what their other teammates decisions are with respect with care. But doing that in order to move you forward, so I’m passionate because I want change to be positive, I want creativity, I want innovation. And the best way to do that is making sure that you have diversity. And so I mean, diversity is just having different perspectives represented. And, you know, my big thing is, why not? Why would you just want the same thing over and over again?

Tammy Tsang

How else do you grow right? By learning and finding different perspectives and challenging yourself? I think that’s so important. And it’s also partly why we have, you know, multiple advisors because it’s not just one perspective, you have to have different lenses, right? So,you know, what’s interesting is that D&I work has primarily been a lot around staffing and employment. And only more so recently it’s coming to the communication side of things. Do you feel that it’s important that all organizations embrace this? Or do you feel like it’s more for a select few?

Amil Reddy

You know, I do think that every organization has the ability to add capability and possibility to take advantage of this is, as I mentioned, it’s a cutting edge, it’s a differentiator in the market is to ensure that you are reaching diverse markets. We all talk about market share, we all talk about growth and market share. So,in order to expand that growth, you are going to need to have diversity represented not only in the clients that you’re trying to reach out to and expand your client base, but also the staff that you have behind the scenes. But I think every organization has the ability to look at one or both of those areas, and take steps now. It doesn’t have to be let’s start from zero and build our teams up from zero. Let’s get rid of everyone and start over. It’s not like that at all. It’s about where do we have some low hanging fruits? I’m really quick wins that we can do right now. And what can we then build in slowly to look at long term change? You know, it’s, it’s not about waiting until you have everything right. I think the agile mindset that has been really popular when it comes to organizational growth has taught us better to fail fast and try different things and tests than to wait till everything is set up perfectly and then put all of your eggs in one basket and go forward. That is the way of the elephant.

Tammy Tsang  

Completely, you mentioned earlier, that it’s important that people just kind of dive into it. So, is there a time when a brand is ready to get into the space when it comes to outward communication, or is it like now and how does that look like? Do I have to have some level of D&I done internally first?

Amil Reddy

I think you know, when you talk about having internal D&I, I always look at organizations and I say things to them, like, “Are you in a place of empathy? Are you in a place where you can have open communication and build relationships?” If you’re in that place? It’s not about D&I. D&I is vocabulary and understanding and comprehension of term. So, you could bring a D&I professional in to teach you what the current words are that people are using, what like whether you know, the right acronym for the rainbow community, the right terminology, so you’re not using, you’re not leaning into your client base to be your Wikipedia. But if you’re in a place of empathy, if you’re in a place of communication, building, relationship and trust, then you’re ready for D&I work. Because what it means is you’re going to reach out to communities and build some of those relationships to help showcase those stories. So,we’re taking this from 30,000 feet to five feet, You’re ready to start looking at diversifying your marketing. It could mean that you start engaging with different talents that actually bring forward a different lived experience in your external marketing, if you’re looking at content, who is writing your content, what stories are being told in your blog, what stories are being told in your social media content and in your marketing? When you’re when you’re executing a campaign? Can you bring in diverse diversity in that? Does it have to say be the same, cast the same voice over and over again. And that stuff that you can do in this quarter, the stuff that you can do right now and plan for your next sprint?

Tammy Tsang  

And if say a brand is now, amped and ready to do this, what would be say the first step. I know you covered a few options there. But how do I how would a brand enter it, respectfully?

Amil Reddy

Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a lot of fear and I’m not saying that this isn’t good, I think it’s good to do things carefully around cultural appropriation or co opting movements. And I think that’s great that you do have that, but don’t let it paralyze you. I think that that is, you know, there’s a strike a balance there to do things carefully, would mean that if you are going to showcase a community story, like let’s say there is a national time where there’s a spotlight on a specific community that you want to actually share that story, national indigenous day, or if there’s a highlight on autism or any any equity seeking group that’s really trying to get a message out, and you want to tell that story, and you’re like, Okay, I want to do it in a way that, you know, I’m not being you know, a jerk about it by just telling someone else story without their permission. I would reach out to an organization that does that work.  If you want to do it the right way, it’s about reaching out to the groups that are working alongside those communities and saying, Are you interested in partnering and working alongside and collaborating on this initiative. And there’s a lot of really great work that I’ve done has come from the roots of being an activist. And there’s a really great saying which is “For. With. By.” right? So, if you want to do something for us, you want to do it with us and ensure that there are some people that are doing it. So,it’s by, us. You know, it’s not about reaching out to that family that has that kid with autism and say, we want to spotlight you, and you’re going to be the family because that’s not necessarily the kindest way to do it. It would be reaching out to the Canucks autism network or another really great BC autism or autism group in your area, and saying, we would love to showcase this to a story on a family or even your organization, is that something you’re interested in? On the other side, there’s reciprocity. Maybe we can showcase and tell the story of an upcoming fundraiser for you so that you can actually have that feedback and also potentially more funders. And then they might say, we’ve got a really great family that is willing to and happy to share their story. And then all of a sudden you’re in collaboration and you’re working alongside the community. So, you’re doing it for them with them, and then by them through that family. That’s a really good example of how you could do that, in a way that is generous shows reciprocity, and really is getting that unique story, which is what we all want.

Tammy Tsang  

No, that’s fantastic. It makes it so much more tangible for individuals who are just entering the space now. And to your point earlier about how organizations may have some fear getting into the space because there’s so many mistakes that can be made, and there’s no hard fast rule around. This is the way to do it. This is not the way to do it. There’s so much gray area. So, you see even very large brands making mistakes where they’re co opting or appropriating. Do you think we can dive into? You know, what’s the difference between that and authentic allyship? And how do we make sure we’re following the authentic ally ship relationship? More so and I know you touched a little bit on that, but can you expand?

Amil Reddy

Yeah, I think the difference is relationship. Right? The difference is having relationship and having trust. And if there isn’t a relationship with a group and you’re telling that group story, then that red flag is warranted. You know, that red flag of either co opting or appropriation would be a warranted red flag. Because if it’s not, again, with us, for us by us, then there is that moment where the community could look back at you and say, This isn’t our story. Or if it’s someone’s story from our community, that person can say, This is my story, but I don’t speak for everyone. Right? So, I think it’s important that the moment that you try to go out on your own and tell someone else’s story. I mean, I think even from a human level, we would know that that’s not right. I wouldn’t all of a sudden be like, I’m going to tell Tammy story by knowing you and the way that we know each other, I wouldn’t do it justice. And I think people would notice right off the bat that it’s not you writing it? And it’s my interpretation of you. I mean, obviously, I could write a story on you by just doing an interview and still have me write it, but we’re doing it collaboratively. Right? So,I think a lot of time brands are worried that relationships take time and trust takes time. And I and I will tell you, yeah, absolutely. With some communities, with some specific topics, it will take time. And if you are in a place where that is not an option, then I encourage you to find stories where it won’t take that much time or communities where it won’t. There are a lot of really amazing cultural communities and diverse communities from lived experience, with ability to background where they have professionals that have put their hand up and said, I want to be the person that is one of the spokespeople for this community and for this story. So, just reach out to them, slide into their DMs, check out their website, there’s talent pools everywhere, I’m sure AndHumanity will start putting together a list of folks that people can reach out to, that are happy to already pass on ready baked content for you, or to be talent that you can freelance. If you’re looking for a very authentic story about a particular community and really building that story out, just like a journalist does, they go and they’re with the community, they get stories from that community and then pull that story together in a matter of a bit more than, you know, 24 hours I’m thinking like, weeks or potentially months, then that is about building relationship and trust. So, I think there’s that balance. If you aren’t ready big content that may not be as like super unique and fresh as maybe content where you actually are in the community and showcasing their story, then absolutely, there’s people that are out there that are ready to work with you. And I’m not saying it’s not great content, I mean, why wouldn’t it be their professionals. But if you’re looking for the authentic story for the community, with the community by the community, then that will take time. It’s just a matter of setting up your expectations. So, you set yourself up for success. And you set your story up for success or the campaign, and you set the community up for success, right? So, set those expectations and then the path will follow.

Tammy Tsang  

That’s fantastic. In terms of reaching out to the community and these experts that have raised their hands, I’ve also heard of stories around fatigue. You know, where an individual is constantly sharing their story, and they’re fatigued by it. How do we as brands and organizations reaching out to these communities ensure that we’re being respectful and not causing too much fatigue?

Amil Reddy

Absolutely, I mean, I think AndHumanity, you’ve actually just had it in the intro, you recognize that you needed multiple advisors, right? We weren’t just going to lean in on one advisor to be the advisor for the organization, you realize that there is diversity within diversity, that there has to be many voices represented. I don’t represent all trans folks of color or children of immigrants, or, or, or all of my identities, all parents and, and so on. I would love for you to reach out to others as well. So,don’t always draw from the same well, right? I think that would be a detriment to that well that you’re drawing from and the well being a person or an a lived experience or an identity. And it would be a detriment to yourself and your brand, and to your audience or your community that you’re communicating to. We want to have stories that really touch us and make us feel something. And it would be lovely if those stories are multiple and varied in the scope that they have. Even within one community, if you look at my community as a trans community, I can showcase one perspective of being a parent. And then someone else could showcase the perspective of maybe being a grandparent or another perspective of not wanting to have kids or another perspective of having being like a parent to many fur babies. Right? So,even that one niche trans parent is so different depending on the perspective that you’re trying to reach. And so if you’re looking at a campaign that focuses on families, and you’re like, we really want to focus on queer families, you’re going to find as many types of families under that rainbow as colors. So,I encourage people to seek out many stories and then you’ll find that those resources don’t have fatigue and for the those of us that have put our hands up, myself obviously included, we need to ensure that we’ve got a really great support network and understand the power of ‘no’ or the positive no. A positive no to me is, you know what, I can’t make that time for that interview, or I don’t have the capacity, but I’ve have a really great recommendation for you. I know someone who can really like, really get what you’re what you’re trying to achieve here. I know them all introduce you to them. They’re fantastic. And they’re actually just starting to do this work themselves or they’re professional like myself, we have a network that we can actually refer people to and provide recommendations. So, if you’re that well being drawn out, or expanding and sharing some of these really great opportunities with your colleagues.

Tammy Tsang  

In terms of reaching out to these different communities. There’s obviously a lot of information now around return on investment, when broadening your market and being more inclusive of them. So, do you feel like that it should be the only reason why a brand or an organization should move into these spaces?

Amil Reddy

You know when I work with an organization and meet with the executive team or the C suite team, I do start with those staff to do start with that the data and the numbers because I do think that you know, when someone sees me, there’s an assumption, and a good one, that I would care about this work. Because it is self serving in that the more open and inclusive the world is, the safer it is for me to be in it. And, that’s like a pretty serious thing for a lot of us. This is pretty personal, but it’s also extremely professional and it is extremely beneficial to an organization. So, there is a business imperative for sure. There’s a lot of research that has been shown that, you know, organizations can increase their profit margins by 30%, that their level of innovation grows by upwards of 60% if they’ve got diversity of thought on their team, and that they’re able to reduce their marketing costs by a huge margin, because people are interested in the content when it’s done organically and done well. And so all the data and the data of the diversifying of the world, whether it’s North America or overseas, is also evident that, you know, children of immigrants like myself, are going to be over represented as far as when you look at what the majority minority of populations are. Major cities are between 60 to 80%, folks of color, and many of them over the next 10 to 20 years and many of them will be children of immigrants. So, all of your marketing needs to showcase that or else you’re not speaking to your audience. And that is any audience and then like if you want any client. But the other side of that is the moral side, I think there’s a moral imperative to do this work. Because inclusion is it means that you want everyone to feel like they can see themselves. And a lot of times when I’ve had this conversation, and we have seen organizations make a really amazing move of diversifying their marketing, their content, there is a group that comes back the the group that would be the traditional group that the organization would be marketing to, and say, well, what about, you know, what happened? Why their shift, I see shifts and they feel uncertainty around it. And the way that I’ve really coached organizations, is to say, rather than casting a shadow on anyone, we’re broadening that scope of light, that we can include everyone and everyone feels that they can see themselves in our brand. There’s nothing wrong with that, you know, I think that there’s a moral imperative. And I think you know, your organization’s name is perfect for that. Because you do it for business AndHumanity, right? We’re doing it because we want to make sure that everyone feels like they’re part of a part of the story.

Tammy Tsang  

Completely, and that’s why we named our organization AndHumanity because, you know, as much as it is a fantastic business opportunity. I think we do it because of, you know, humanity and what, good timing, the now when we have an opportunity to shape our future, after COVID. Speaking of forward thinking, of what will happen, post COVID I can’t wait for that to happen but post COVID like, how do you feel that the the the D&I world will be impacted and how will that change for even communications?

Amil Reddy

I think that my hope, like I’m an optimist,and my hope is that we are going to achieve a new normal. You know, I think before COVID, I think a lot of a lot of issues, were really fighting to have room at the table, whether it was climate change, whether it was diversity and inclusion or really elevating equity seeking groups. And my hope is that having seen the fact that the people that are really on the front lines right now, and the people that are really enabling our economy and keeping us safe and keeping our family safe, a lot of them are these people that would be under the diversity inclusion, umbrella, and equity seeking groups, right? When you think about taxi drivers, when you think about bus drivers, and you think about grocery store clerks and you think about hospital workers, not just the doctors and nurses and but yes, definitely some of the doctors and nurses obviously, but I mean, like cleaners of the hospitals, the workers that are keeping our society going, are coasties. You know, our Canada Post or our post office folks and delivery folks, many of them come from diverse backgrounds, like many of them. If you just visually are just looking around. And obviously many aren’t, I think it’s the idea is that it’s diverse. And I think if we really look at how we want our world to be in the future, we want to make sure that we honor everyone’s story and tell those stories and have a space for everyone at the table. Because if you’re sitting back and you thought that diversity inclusion wasn’t important, but you’re also benefiting from having your groceries and you’re benefiting from your family being safe because you have a hospital go to if you need to, and the nurses are all people that have come from other countries, and the grocery clerks or folks from have come from other countries, the taxes that you ride in to get to the hospital to a person from another country, I would encourage you and invite you to sit back and think about that, and think about what the new normal will be. And I really hope that means that you tell everyone’s story, because it’s the fabric of our society, and it’s what connects us is our unique contribution. And I think that that would be really important to share. And I’m hopeful that the new normal means that we do that I really prioritize ensuring that everyone’s stories are told.

Tammy Tsang

I’m totally in line with that. I really do hope that the future is a new norm where it is much more inclusive than it is right now. I just feel like it’s the natural way we’ll be like, what 2036 we’ll be a minority majority country so it’s the right way to go besides the numbers.  So, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. We have one more closing question that we do, which is what are you grateful for?

Amil Reddy

You know, I could keep this really light and say I’m grateful for sunshine, I’m looking outside at sunny day. But I think I’m really grateful for family. And, and I don’t say that lightly because of my background because I am trans. There’s a lot of my community members that don’t have family, or have chosen family. And I’m really grateful that I have my parents in my life. I’m grateful for my partner. I’m grateful that I have a child. It’s something that I ever thought I would ever have. And so that gratitude has really come to bear and really come to light for me during this time when I can’t see my mom, and I can’t see my dad. And I just am so grateful and grateful for their relationship with my kid. They do puzzles over FaceTime. And, and I’m really, I know that that’s a privilege. And it’s really something that I hold to be very precious to me. Yeah, thanks for asking that. Maybe, maybe think a little.

Tammy Tsang  

No, totally. And I think it’s such a reflective time right now have time to reflect on their life and what it means to them. You know, same for me I’m eternally grateful for being cooped up in a safe space with people I love and who care about me and who I care about and I don’t think everybody gets that. So,I am really, really grateful for that.

Thank you so much for being here today. Your insights are extremely valuable, as you know. So, where can people find you if they want to reach out and you know, collaborate with you?

Amil Reddy

Well, I’m on LinkedIn, I can check me out, Amil Reddy. And I also have a website, which is www.amilreddy.com. And so I don’t know if you’re going to link to it on the video, but I won’t have to spell it. Yeah, feel free to reach out anytime. I’m a consultant in this space. But you know, I think we all it’s nice to start off with just a conversation like this. And that’s not something that I’ll charge people for. And then it’s just cuz a lot of organizations have really great internal strength. And it’s just a matter of showcasing that and reminding them that they can start to do this work and sometimes having oppression work alongside of them enables that work. But I don’t, my job is to really work alongside an organization and build the bridge to either a community or to a strategy, and then take a step back that they know that that that sustainability of growth is within their own team.

Tammy Tsang  

Amil, if anybody gets to work with you, they’re extremely lucky. So,I please do encourage you to reach out.

Thank you so much everyone for listening. If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please let us know. If you’d like to collaborate in any way if you have a story you want to share, please do reach out. You can find us at www.andhumanity.ca

Thank you.

AndHumanity
Amil Reddy, Tammy Tsang

Amil Reddy, Diversity and Inclusion Expert (www.amilreddy.com)

Tammy Tsang, Co-Founder of AndHumanity and Amil Reddy, D&I Expert discuss who should be exploring D&I communications and how to navigate the differences between authentic allyship, co-opting and appropriation.

Do you have a story you’d like to tell? Want to collaborate? More information at www.andhumanity.ca

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