The Importance of Representation
by Natalie Chambers
by Natalie Chambers
In August 2020, Nielsen reported that American adults spend more than half of their day consuming media. Media shapes perceptions of the world, including assumptions about race, gender, disability, and sexuality. When we are consistently presented with homogenized content, the vision it presents becomes the norm—not just in the media, but in consumers’ minds. As a result, we become subconsciously trained to view anything “different” as either exotic, brave, or terrifying.
As it currently stands, the American media primarily portrays straight, white people in a generally positive light. According to a study from non-profit civil rights group Color of Change, the American news and opinion media are 1.5 times more likely to represent Black families as unstable, over-represent Black families as being poor and/or welfare recipients by 32%, and 1.32 times more likely to equate criminality with Black people than white people.
Portrayals of the Hispanic population are not much better. A report by the Opportunity Agenda states that 25% of storylines that feature immigrant characters, especially Hispanic immigrants, focused on unlawful activities.
In 2020, consumers are far less tolerant of racially biased content—audiences are far more attuned to possible biases and far more willing to call out communicators for their mistakes. Beyond those negative repercussions, there are positive reasons why communicators of all stripes should invest in representation, from higher brand affinity among communities of color (who account for almost $4 trillion worth of spending a year) to internal support among employees.
For brands looking to improve their representation, the first step is making diversity and representation in the workforce and in the boardroom a priority. Allow people from diverse backgrounds to tell their stories, and make those stories easy for us to access and enjoy.
Inclusion and representation are becoming the rule within media, marketing, and communications rather than the exception. Adapting your strategy to prioritize these values will help you and your brand get ahead in the long run.
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