“When unchecked and ignored, unconscious bias becomes the root of social injustices.”
So says ITVS’ vice president of marketing and communications, Lisa Tawil, who will make her Promax speaking debut at the 2019 Promax Conference in downtown Los Angeles this June. Her panel discussion, “Unconscious Bias and Consciousness,” will highlight the brands and campaigns that have successfully achieved inclusivity by overcoming their own bias.
“Unconscious bias is a gateway to talking about diversity and inclusion. And once we start unpacking our biases, that’s when we can truly be inclusive,” Tawil said.
Unconscious bias—the preferences, priorities and prejudices we all inherently have—can easily translate into marketing and branding if left unmonitored, Tawil says.
Although diversity and inclusion have become widespread movements in today’s content and campaigns, targeting audiences without implicit messaging is a task on its own—one that requires going beyond stereotypes and understanding the audience at its core.
“As marketers, it’s our responsibility to explore the underlying motivations beyond gender and singular definitions to understand and open the opportunity to a wider audience,” Tawil said. “And ultimately, [it leads] to success if you can understand those underlying motivations.”
Though determining a target audience is vital, it’s important to separate demographic traits—race, gender, age, etc.—to learn the real, underlying reason that people gravitate to a brand.
“That’s where you begin to uncover the unconscious bias,” she said. “If you feel like you have all the answers to a community without exploring that community’s motivation, it’s a trap in itself that we have to be careful of…no community is a monolith.”
And “community” is the key word when determining strategies for target audiences. To fully understand your intended audience, it’s essential to apply two-way communication.
“There’s always a desire to attract a certain demographic,” Tawil said. “But the questions that every marketer should ask themselves is, ‘Have I learned and my listening from that community? Does my product actually match the community that I’m reaching out to?’”
The difficulty with unconscious bias lies within its name—bias is often hard to identify. However, early in the creative process, it’s important to acknowledge that blind spots are inevitable, consider the motivation behind your creative, and adjust accordingly.
“One thing I often ask myself is, ‘Whose perspective am I capturing? Or, whose voice is missing?’ Then ultimately, I think about [the ideologies or personalities] being reinforced within a story that I’m trying to tell,” she said.
But even if an individual recognizes their own bias, pursuing additional perspective from their team is vital. Others will likely provide an unexpected viewpoint that results in better content overall.
It’s a leadership style that requires practice and trust in your team, but is worth the extra effort, Tawil says.
“It’s knowing that you may have arrived at a really great solution, but giving yourself time to explore other perspectives from your team or in the room,” Tawil said. “And ultimately, if you’re really lucky and you really work at it, your team will automatically check your biases for you.”
When left unmonitored, bias may have a substantial effect on how the public views a company or brand. There are countless examples of brands who’ve missed the mark, Tawil says, likely caused by an inability to pause and check in with others.
“Most people have experienced a bias against an aspect of their identity,” Tawil said. “So fostering environments where people can share and learn from their experience, as opposed to fear and hide from it, is a task worth every bit of effort.”
Tawil will be joined by Dixon founder Diana Dixon and TV One’s Lori Hall for the “Unconscious Bias and Consciousness” panel discussion on Wednesday, June 5, during the 2019 Promax Conference at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live.
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