We create video content for a wide variety of businesses, academic institutions and nonprofits, and sometimes we need to remind our clients of how important it is to include in their videos people who are not white and not male. No, we don’t make this recommendation because we’re a Boston video production company, and so we must be flaming liberals. We recommend that all our clients consider diversity as an important element in their videos because ignoring diversity can harm their brand and impede the achievement of their goals.
Wait! Doesn’t everybody already know diversity is important?
While there is a greater awareness around diversity in general, people often don’t think of diversity as a goal for their videos. Instead they think of the people who should be included. That can be senior management, which very often is a group of white males. Or it can be the company’s experts, who can also be white males.
Or implicit bias may be a factor.
Implicit bias means attitudes and preferences we’re not aware of. Without being aware of their biases, people can associate authority with males, not females. Or whites, not people of color. So when they’re deciding who to represent in their video content, they can - without thinking - decide on white males, because of their implicit bias.
But isn’t the scripted message the important part of video content?
Yes. Absolutely. But all videos convey multiple messages.
The message communicated through your narrated script or your interviews is the overt message. This is your marketing message, and it has to do with your product or service, and your identity as a company. This message conveys what you want your viewers to understand and believe about your company.
But there are also implicit messages – which may convey perceptions you don’t want your viewers to believe.
Like quality, for example. If the marketing video you create to show the world your company’s identity is poor quality, or looks homemade, you’re sending a powerful implicit message about what your company can and cannot afford. An amateur-looking marketing video tells viewers that your company is too small, or your cash flow is too limited, to afford professional video production.
Similarly, a video that features only white males talking about your company carries a very clear implicit message. Even if those speakers are talking about how much the company values its entire workforce, and respects each and every staff member, that’s not the only message your video conveys. It’s also communicating a very different message – that your company only values white males.
Even if the subject of your video is not company culture, showing only white males will communicate the same message: this company might not be a good fit for those who are not white and not male.
Why should your company care if viewers see that diversity isn’t one of your values?
There are many good internal reasons to build a diverse workforce, including employee motivation, retention, and profit.
There’s also a very good external reason: because the perception that your company only hires or values white males can hurt your business by alienating your customers, many of whom are surely not white and / or not male.
What do you do if your experts and management are all white males?
If the only people with speaking roles in your video are necessarily white males, you can look to your b-roll. Make sure you feature all kinds of people in the visuals you show in your video alongside your interviews. If you’re talking about your company, your b-roll will be shots of staff interacting with each other, and doing their jobs. Here is where you can represent diversity.
One very important caveat:
Be aware of how powerful video images are, and make sure you don’t only show white males in positions of authority over those who are not white and / or not male.
What if the video you’re making features professional talent?
If you’re creating a video that uses actors, the answer is simple. Remember that you may have implicit biases, and don’t automatically cast white males. Instead, think about the roles and the audience.
If you’re filming a scene in a doctor’s office, does the doctor have to be a white male? Does the power dynamic have to be male doctor and female nurse?
If you’re showing a business reception area, does the receptionist have to be a young female, while the business people walking by are all male?
Maybe the answer to these two questions is yes.
The point I’m making is not to tell you how to cast your video. It’s to get you to think about how to align the roles you visually portray in your video with the values of your company, and of your customers.
Because the bottom line for your video content is that it should support your business through its explicit messages AND its implicit messages.
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