They have both used their platforms to discuss the state of the influencer industry and how it treats creators that come from minority groups.
Rabya wrote a brilliant blog post, of which you should read here as I won’t be able to say it any better than she has.
Essentially, #influencerinclusivity is of paramount importance and all of us within this industry have a part to play to ensure parity across all groups.
Furthermore, if you’re not an influencer yourself but you follow those who are – this is your call to action to express your displeasure with brands who repeatedly do not feature or collaborate with a wide range of diverse under-represented groups.
Also, full disclaimer, you know how honest I am – I *try* to ask when signing on with campaigns about inclusivity but I know up until this point, I definitely haven’t pushed the point as hard as I could have. So if you’re the same, or it’s never crossed your mind – don’t feel guilty, but we can all start with the strategies I have written about here, from today.
But I follow lots of X influencers – what’s the problem?
That attitude probably. But in all honesty, there are lots of issues.
For every campaign you see that shows a woman in a hijab, a trans man or a dark-skinned, black, plus-size person there will be 547457 more that are more vanilla than an S-Club-7 album.
Many influencers from under-represented groups have reported being paid, approached and treated less than their white, cis-gendered, able-bodied counterparts.
And it’s just not acceptable.
From being spoken to like ‘the help’, at a press event, to having brands approach white influencers for collaborations in the comments of a black influencer’s post about that brand. It is exclusion at it’s finest.
Like with any subject that is even in the tiniest bits, sore, most people like to play the ‘wilful ignorance’ card and stay quiet on this subject.
Well, change doesn’t happen if everyone plays along.
On Rabya and Aja’s advice, white influencers can and should be more forthright in their promotion of inclusivity. And rather than turn a blind eye and pretend we don’t know how to navigate it professionally. I’ve been doing a bit of research so I’ll help you out.
If you’re afraid of putting your head above the parapet and ‘causing trouble’ by asking about inclusion (first, just take that in) then just ask.
It is perfectly acceptable to ask a brand, upon a discussion being raised around a partnership, to ask the question…
‘Can I ask which under-represented groups are being included in this campaign?’
‘How diverse has the outreach and undertaking of this campaign been?’
‘What percentage of the influencers taking part in this campaign are white, straight-sized, cis-gendered and able-bodied?’
What’s the worst that can happen? I mean, other than the brand affirming the homogeneity of the campaign they’ve approached you about.
They may come back and say they’re only working with you, or 2 other influencers and are therefore unable to select someone from each diverse group – but at least you’ve asked and highlighted how important it is.
How You Can Word It
‘Thank you so much for thinking of me! I’d love to take part in this campaign. Before we proceed, I’d like to state how important it is to ensure there is inclusivity in the campaigns I work on. Could you please let me know what proportion of under-represented groups are also being approached to work on this campaign?’
Don’t Be Afraid
I know, as influencers, we often feel we’re a part of a rat race. Where saying no to paid campaigns is counter-intuitive when we’re trying to grow our platforms and assert our influence.
But don’t be afraid to say no.
If you ‘ask the question’ and the brand or their PR team confirm that the campaign isn’t inclusive – you can tell them that you wouldn’t like to take part.
And you know what, it’s highly likely that if you turn down a place on a press strip that is only taking one type of person on a trip, that someone else will just fill that spot without a moment to breath – but that’s OK. Promoting influencer inclusion and sticking by your guns is way more important. But you know that, right?
And guess what, if we ALL did that – they’d have to become inclusive pretty quickly.
How You Can Word It
‘I am disappointed to read that there is a distinct lack of representation for under-represented groups within this campaign. Due to this fact, I am no longer able to take part in this campaign. Please understand how important it is to represent a diverse range of people in public campaigns and I hope to work on something more inclusive with you in the future.’
If you have a sneaking suspicion that a campaign, trip, panel or event you’ve been approached about might be whiter than a Love Islander’s set of gnashers, you could suggest a wider variety of influencers that you know of, who would be great additions or that the brand should be aware of.
And don’t give me any bollocks about not knowing any, ‘trans, Asian, disabled etc’ influencers – there are so many out there, just look.
When a brand answers your question over the inclusivity of their campaign, reply back with some names, handles and blog addresses of the influencers that are missing from their roll-call and see what they say.
Often PRs approach influencers they themselves like and follow – it might just be that their menu to select from doesn’t have a wide variety.
You can fix that.
How To Word It
‘I can see that there is a distinct lack of diversity within the campaign you’d like to collaborate on. Can I recommend x, y, z who are all fantastic influencers, with the audience demographic and engagement level you are looking for who would be excellent, inclusive, additions to this campaign.’
Have An Inclusion Rider
The idea was developed by Stacy L. Smith, professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, in a 2014 op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter and in her 2016 TED talk. Together with the film executive Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni and the employment attorney Kalpana Kotagal, Smith created a template for an inclusion rider.
Inclusion riders became more widely known when at the 2018 Academy Awards actress Frances McDormand said at the end of her acceptance speech, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider!” McDormand had learned about inclusion riders only the week before the awards ceremony.[– Wikipedia – ‘inclusion rider’
An Inclusion rider is a set of conditions you add to your contract to ensure the brand agrees to fair representation across under-represented groups before undertaking the partnership with that brand.
If in 2019 you’re accepting collaborations and brand partnerships WITHOUT contracts in place, we’re going to need to have a word.
But I get it. You’re excited. The dream brand has approached you, they want to pay you and you’re eager to create the content. So you agree and get to work straight away without setting any terms or conditions strictly into place.
During the agreement process, however, there should be a brief or contract that is exchanged so that both parties (influencer and brand) are completely on the same page when it comes to expectations and outcomes.
This is where you send your inclusion rider.
Now the only templates I’ve found online are for movie actors, and our coupla hundred or thousand Instagram followers doesn’t quite give us that status (or scenes with Meryl Streep) just yet.
So I’ve put together a version we can use. It is adapted from the original but made fit for purpose within our industry – however I am no ‘expert’ in these matters, so if someone with more experience/knowledge can suggest any edits/improvements, I’ll love em forever.
How To Word It
‘Thanks for sending the contract/brief through. Before we can proceed, I’ve attached my addendum – an inclusion rider. I strongly believe that all campaigns I work on should be inclusive of other under-represented groups. I will sign and send back the contract once you have added it to the contract, to be referred to.’
What could happen?
Well a brand could say that they cannot agree to your rider – in that case, their practises should be brought into question.
You could get ignored and then passed over for that campaign – but again, if inclusion riders were widely implemented, and everyone sent them, who could they work with?
Or perhaps they agree with your terms and at the end of the campaign, it’s quite clear that they haven’t fulfilled their end. In this case, you speak up.
In any industry, the lack of transparency is what harms us the most. It stops us all from being paid fairly. From having equal access to opportunities. But we can all do our bits to promote #influencerinclusivity.
If only we all wanted to.
You can see the original inclusion rider here
If you could also take 5 seconds to share this as widely as possible, that would be fab – the more of us banding together to speak out about the lack of diversity in the influencer industry, the quicker we can bring about change and equality.