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Diversity and inclusion has evaded many industries throughout the world to include events and weddings. I would like to help change that canvas. This guide was not something that I thought I had a need to draft. This is in response to the overwhelming amount of people asking how to identify subconscious racism, racism, and racial bias within their business following the murder of George Floyd. 

I initially thought having conversations with various people and on varying platforms would solve the inquiry regarding the lack of support in the field of diversity and inclusion. Each and every one of those conversations were powerful and meaningful to all watching. 

 However, there are only so many hours in a day and so many virtual calls one person can take on. The best solution, in my mind, was to create a resource that could easily be viewed and shared. 

Before I start, I want to bring to your attention some key words because many people have made them interchangeable when they are not one in the same.

Diversity – the state of being diverse; variety

Inclusion – the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure

Black People – a skin color-based classification. The term “black” is used to describe persons who are perceived as dark-skinned compared to other populations

People of Color – any person who is not considered white

The Breakdown

In my view, this guide provides businesses ideas on how to be more inclusive to the Black Community primarily in the event and wedding industry. Yet, please do not limit such a resource to these two industries. Many of these tips can be applied across the board. 

The world is forever changing. We must adapt to those changes as we continue to see just how diverse the workforce is and will forever be. The excuse of “I didn’t know,” no longer has value. Actionable steps are essential and is why you are viewing this resource.

Dr. Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” I say to you, never forget that support is what action looks like in public. 

If you are interested in my direct support as a Speaker or Advisor, please contact me here.

Categories of change to make in your respective industry.

  1. Branding and what the public sees
  1. Expanding Your Network
  1. Diversity and Inclusion Education

Branding And What The Public Sees

1 -Review Your Social Media Content

One of the easiest ways to show diversity and inclusion is by showcasing it on your social media accounts. When a person visits your social media page a number of things happen:

  1. Visitors can identify what your occupation is
  2. They can identify examples of your product or service
  3. Visitors can identify who your ideal client is or your typical client. Note that your ideal client may be more than white people however, if you only show your typical client, it’s hard to prove who your ideal client is. 
  4. They can determine whether or not you would service them based on their perception

Image is a huge reason why someone will buy a product or service. As it relates to service based businesses like a Wedding Planner, couples visit numerous accounts before initiating an inquiry either via Direct Message (DM) or completing a form on your website. 

Did you know 84% of buyers refer to a least one social media site for recommendations before buying? 

With such a high percentage of people going online, you run the risk of turning away qualified buyers by not showcasing people who look like them. The above images, while beautiful do not show diversity.

So how can you fix this?

Curate your Grid to showcase the diverse world we live in and be willing to attract all people.

2 – Edit Your Publishing Requirements

When an event or wedding professionals prepares to submit content to a publisher, they first evaluate that publisher’s audience. This lets a person know whether or not it would be worth their time to submit to that publisher. While many may say they welcome all submissions, it’s difficult to believe when every submission they have received in the past consists of people who look the same.

In my Style Shoot Training Course, I teach students how to do their research to appeal to a publisher in the market they want their work to be published. This means they review your Instagram page, your website, and other visible locations to get an idea of your aesthetics.

In a world where diversity and inclusion is at the forefront, it should not be difficult to submit to just about any publication. The primary factors for a submission being declined should be solely based on aesthetics and style. Take for example a publication that solely showcases garden weddings. If you are submitting a hotel wedding to them, it doesn’t make sense.

Additionally, publishers should make it a point to call for submissions that showcase diverse clients verses assuming vendors will know you are seeking diverse submissions.

3 – Cross Promote on Social Media

Many publishers who post an image on instagram, for example, don’t necessarily get that submission formally through their website or third party sites like Two Bright Lights.

Publishers may look through Instagram to see what is trending that fits within their aesthetics and then publishes said image on their account. This is another way to support vendors, especially Black Vendors, and showcase diversity and inclusion. Of course this mainly applies to publishers and not vendors.

Publishers can also advertise within magazines that has the audience they want to attract. If I am a publisher and my audience is primarily black and I want more white viewers, I should be able to search out a publication that has the audience I want to attract.

4 – Create Diverse Content

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Many people, especially those new to the industry, have a hard time creating content that reflects diversity. As much as people look down upon style shoots they are an incredible tool when used effectively. Style shoots allows you to present to your audience concepts they are not use to seeing. Why can’t we showcase a groom from the Philippines and a bride from Nigeria?

Content doesn’t have to just be photos of clients either. It can also be in your branding and the copy you create. A 2019, consumer survey by Google and The Female Quotient revealed that 64% of all respondents took some action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive. This was a bit higher for millennials (77%), blacks (79%), Latinos (85%), and LGBTQ community (85%).

5 – Consider Stock Photos

I know many people will not use stock photos. That is not what I am suggesting. When you go to Google and search for images of a bride, the predominant image is a white person. Why not use this opportunity to work with stock image sites like Eye For Ebony or Nappy Co to create images for those in need?

Adobe Stock is another marketplace for you to create and sell photos of diversity. You can make between 20% – 60%. This could be another stream of income for your business.

6 – Analyze Your Audience

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In this step you may get a little uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the sense that you need to do more work on expanding the makeup of your audience. Let’s use a underwear as an example.

If I am a men’s underwear designer, my audience should be all men. Right? If that is true, my advertisement should reflect all men. Black, white, and people of color. However, let’s go a bit deeper. It should also reflect men of all shapes and sizes, right? So in this case we have a men’s underwear brand that can target specifically men, but not just one type of men; all men.

This very example can apply to everyone in the event and wedding industry. The color of ones skin should not change your aesthetics.

7 – Work with Influencers

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen my share of horrible influencers who have used their platform to fake support. They have been seen running out of a car to ask a worker to borrow his drill to pose for a photo. Influencers have been seen getting dressed, holding a sign, and walking into a crowd of peaceful protestors just to take a photo. These are not the influencers I am talking about.

If you are a baker, a wedding gown boutique, a florist, or even stationer, why not work with an Influencer of color to help show diversity? You can generate a lot of content in working with Influencers and even cross promote via their audience.

8 – Create An Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guides, Best of Lists, and Industry Directories are not as simple as one may believe. These aren’t just nice lists to be on for clout. These are lists that help to generate wealth. When a person or company is listed on the Top 50 Wedding Planners of the World, more than likely that means new clients.

If you want to exercise diversity and inclusion, create these list that focuses on white people, black people, and people of color. No longer should there be any list that is one sided. In the Expanding Your Network section you’ll learn about how to find new vendors.

Note: If your Ultimate Guide or List is solely based on people who are members of your magazine or network, it’s only fair that you state that. Transparency is key and will avoid people feeling slighted by lists that do not represent everyone although you make it seem as if it does.

Expanding Your Network

1 -Get to Know People of Color

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One of the biggest ways to understand what is going on with the issues of diversity and inclusion is to speak to people who do not look like you. Fear keeps people in a position where they continue to do what they normally do.

The best way to remove fear and to even get a different perspective is by moving outside of your normal circle and speaking to people who may very well teach you a few things to better your business. I encourage you to get to know people who have nothing to do with your industry because then you have the ability to speak with someone who is impartial.

If you look at the history of groups and how they mingle, you’ll see some interesting traits. Take a club for example. If a club plays mainly Hip Hop or Country music, most likely you have already thought of the skin color of the people who attend. Black People for Hip Hop and white people for Country as if any race could not like the opposite or both.

2 -Seek Out New Vendors

I’ll use an Event Planner for this example.

Many times the Event Planner has a lot of power when it comes to who participates in an event. The client trusts this person to hire the right vendors to do the job. Take this time to look over the last 10 events and list each of the vendors. Next to each vendor list if they were white, black, or a person of color

The next step is to find Black vendors and vendors of color to vet for future work. This exercise can be used by every vendor in the industry because we have the ability to refer work. However, as you seek out new vendors, establish an objective selection process. Unconscious bias traditionally will cause you to select one candidate over the other and in most cases not because of their talent. When you establish a selection process that is fair to all, you will then focus solely on capabilities. I would also add that you ensure it includes hiring one to two black companies out of every five jobs you have if not more.

3 -Create Referral Partners

Within my business I have a list of referral partners that I have worked with and trust they can deliver. Typically I have at minimum of 3 people in each category. If I don’t, I make it a point to do some research and connect with someone with an introduction request to get to know them better. Your client deserves a diversified vendor team.

If someone wants to hire you on a day you are already booked, this is where you can refer business. You should be able to quickly send that client a list of ideal people to select from. Very similar to how venues have a preferred vendor list. This list should be diverse with people you have properly vetted focusing on their quality of work.

4 -Join A Diversity Committee

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A diversity committee is a great way to step outside of your comfort zone. Even if you cannot find one, start one. Perhaps a weekly dinner or happy hour with a group of people to talk about diversity and inclusion. This allows you to learn a lot from people in various industries about the issues they are facing. It gives you a chance to contribute and aid where you can.

A diversity committee could meet once a month or once a quarter, you make up the rules. The goal simply has to be grounded in listening, learning, and creating change.

5 -Mentor A Black Person or Person of Color

The barrier to enter into the event and wedding industry is sadly low. Even with the technical aspects of planning and execution, we still have many who enter without the proper training to reach the level you are at. Internships and mentoring is a great way to aid the future of the event and wedding industry into what it deserves to be.

Announce that you are taking on interns and mentees that range in color. Remember, different backgrounds bring about different perspectives that could ultimately benefit your business.

6 -Don’t Work On Events That Aren’t Diverse

If you are being asked to participate in an event, you have every right to know who else is working that event. This is a great time for you to recommend a more diverse vendor team. Because you have followed the previous steps above, you should have a list of recommended vendors to offer.

Yes I realize that you may not get the job if the person hiring doesn’t care. However, it’s your duty as an Ambassador of change to stand up for diversity and inclusion. Failing to stand up and call this out is how we got here in the first place. Microaggressions plagues the workplace and is why it’s key for white people to raise the alarm when this happens.

7 – Hire Black Writers and People of Color

Many organizations, not just magazines, create content for their followers to read. One easy way to diversify that content is by hiring Writers to find the news that aligns with their community. When you do this it is not a struggle for you to speak about Black Lives, because you have someone on your team that is black.

On average a blog post Writer can make between $15 – $30 per hour. However, this can increase based on the experience of the Writer.

Diversity and Inclusion Education

1 – Read Diversity and Inclusion Books

Here are a few books that will completely change your mind illustrated by Jane Mount.

2 – Participate in Organizations

Seek to financially support and learn more about organizations that are fighting to end white supremacy and racism. Join your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACPSouthern Poverty Law CenterUnited Negro College FundBlack Youth Project 100Color of ChangeThe Sentencing ProjectFamilies against Mandatory MinimumsA New Way of LifeEqual Justice Initiative, and Dream Defenders

If you do nothing, at least join their newsletters to get information on what’s going on.

3 – Follow The Voices of Black People

Some of the most prominent voices in the Black Community are Writers. Read BlavityMadame NoirThe Root, and The Grio articles which are focused on back people.

4 – Seek Out Black And People of Color for Speaking Gigs

As a Speaker myself I know how hard it is to get in front of a predominately white audience. In many cases, Speakers have to go through ridiculous requirements beyond submitting topics just to speak. If you organize an event that allows Speakers, then ensure you have a diverse group of speakers. No event should have primarily Black, white, or people of color on the Speaker line up. It should be mix of all.

Speakers should also not just be women. They should be men, trans, and gender nonconforming.

5 – Enroll in Online Courses

In connecting with Sue McLeary on our Instagram account, she made me aware of The Conversation Workshop. “If you have found yourself asking, “What can I do about racism in America?” we have clear action points to share with you through this online course.

If you prefer something in person, why not consider the multicultural firm Bold Culture to come and teach a workshop at a conference. If you wanted to go a step further, Cornell University as a more in-depth course.

In Conclusion

There is a long road ahead of us if we are to believe that diversity and inclusion will be fixed. With years of systemic practices one cannot believe a conversation, a few posts, or saying “I will change” will actually fix this. We all must practice this type of change on a daily basis until it becomes habit. That means black people, white people, and people of color understanding the intersections and interconnections that bring us together as a people.

It’s not enough to say that you are not racist. You must be anti-racist to remove anyone operating in the event and wedding industry that does not align with this very movement. I hope you’ll stand with us and make this movement successful.