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International Women’s Day: Make It More than a Marketing Opportunity

International Women’s Day: Make It More than a Marketing Opportunity

Rather than risk being viewed as using International Women’s Day (IWD) to get attention, the brands that thrive will be those who commit real time, effort and other resources toward making a difference.

There was a time when companies tried to avoid weighing in on matters of public debate, but today, consumers want brands to take a stand on issues that matter. International Women’s Day is a perfect example.

International Women’s Day (March 8, 2019) this year is based on a theme of “Balance Is Better,” which the organizers describe as follows:

The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage …Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

Companies could still choose to ignore International Women’s Day, but their silence risks being deafening, particularly among those who have purchasing decisions to make and plenty of other firms to choose from. When companies join conversations like the ones being sparked by International Women’s Day, they demonstrate an empathy towards their target audience and position themselves as not only relevant but aligned with the values of the communities they serve.

For many businesses, the first and most obvious way to approach International Women’s Day is from a marketing perspective. This can include social media posts, content on their website or even ads that are designed especially for the occasion. To some extent, consumers might expect brands to support causes like gender balance in 2019. Action, however, may speak even louder than words.

Rather than risk being viewed as using International Women’s Day (IWD) to get attention, in other words, the brands that thrive will be those who commit real time, effort and other resources toward making a difference. This isn’t something just large companies can do, however. All it takes is some planning, creativity, and an authentic desire to contribute value — not just on March 8, but all year round:

1. Begin a #BalanceIsBetter audit

We all like to think we work in or run businesses where everyone is treated fairly and equally, but in the rush to meet customer demands and grow, sometimes things slip. Employees might not get the opportunities or recognition they deserve. Mentorship activities might get sidelined by other priorities.

International Women’s Day could be the ideal trigger for some internal self-analysis within a company about its culture. Think about conducting an employee survey to see how other members of the team view the organization’s approach to diversity. Look back at hiring and compensation decisions over the last three years — what does it tell you? What would customers say if you asked them?

This kind of audit can give an organization real credibility when they start to talk about what they’ve learned, and how they’re constantly aiming to change for the better.

2. Encourage team members to make peer connections

Some companies may not have a formal mentorship program in place, or lack some of the resources necessary to really make an effective one on their own. That doesn’t mean their employees should miss out, however.

Look around and you’ll see plenty of conferences, events and industry associations where ideas around diversity and inclusion are being brainstormed as we speak. (This includes FemaleForce, which was launched in Canada by Salesforce last year).

Staff should not only be given the go-ahead to take part in these kinds of events and initiatives. Give them opportunities to share what they’ve learned afterwards, whether it’s an internal lunch n’ learn for senior management or perhaps even content they can develop for external-facing channels such as your blog or newsletter.

3. Champion the customers who champion diversity

Just as employers can opt to strengthen diversity and inclusion in their ranks, marketers always have a choice of customers on which they want to shine a spotlight. When it comes time to develop a case study, publish a testimonial or feature a customer in an event or webinar, however, what’s your rationale?

Do you always go for the customers who have spent the most, for example? Does it tend to be the customers with the most recognizable logos? Or do you ever intentionally amplify the voices of those working in organizations that have a #BalanceIsBetter mentality?

Customers will sometimes describe their best vendors as partners, or even extended members of their team. IWD is a chance to prove you feel the same way, and are ready to show some team spirit.

4. Pull it all together with an IWD influencer statement

Consumers are looking for brands to take a stand because they often have considerable reach in terms of spreading a message. They can be role models for their peers in other organizations, and of course they provide jobs and contribute to societal growth. In this sense, all businesses are influencers — or at least, they can be.

If you’ve tried out any of the tactics listed above, there is a simple and direct way to place your brand at the heart of this conversation. The International Women’s Day website has put out a call for “Influencer Statements,” where companies can talk about what they’re doing to achieve #BalanceForBetter, whether within their own walls, the community around them, or both.

5. Start planning for IWD 2020

This might be the first year your organization has gotten involved in IWD, but you could make next year’s efforts even stronger. Document the results of your efforts in March, and continue recording any milestones you achieve between now and 2020.

Then, build upon any marketing you do with some tangible results that you’ve captured. This could be the most powerful way to make a real impact, rather than just execute a successful marketing campaign.

If this works for IWD, the same might be true for other events that tie back to the vision and value of your company — and of your customers. When you put real weight behind these efforts, the people buying from you will remember, and it can create a relationship you’ll both value for a long time to come.

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