Is the Language of Your Marketing Inclusive and Stigma-Free?
Before you roll your eyes and accuse me of drinking the politically correct Kool-Aid, hear me out.
Here at Ramp, we specialize in work that champions social profit. Traditionally called “not-for-profit”, the majority of our clients are dedicated to social good. As one of the writers here at the agency, I am faced with the daily dilemma of negotiating the ever-changing landscape of acceptable and correct language, particularly (but not exclusively) when we are talking about the subject of mental health.
So why does language evolve and why should we embrace this evolution?
We can easily think of words that most of us would no longer use to describe any selected group of people. Those words become unacceptable because we become aware that they are hurtful.
But it actually runs deeper than just not wanting to hurt the feelings of others. Striving to use the most correct possible language also brings clarity, which provides a better understanding between people. This in turn allows for advancements, particularly for those who face challenges in their daily lives.
Here’s a good example: “1 in 5 Canadians is suffering from mental illness right now!” is a powerful and perhaps even compelling statement. While the statistic is true, the use of the word “suffering” implies that the people being discussed are defined solely on the fact that they suffer. Instead of saying they are “suffering”, look how much clearer and more accurate the description is when we say “1 in 5 Canadians has a diagnosis of mental illness”.
Is it getting better?
Donna Hardaker, Director of the Wellness Works Program at Mental Health America of California, is a leading speaker on the subject. I asked her if she sees things improving.
“Yes, but too slowly,” she says. “It’s getting better though. There’s often backlash from people who see this only as political correctness, but their response is part of the journey towards societal change”.
“It’s about inclusion, and allows the non-dominant group a chance to not be marginalized or defined by inaccurate language perpetuated by the dominant group. By using more accurate language, we sometimes have to use more words, and that can be a challenge in today’s fast-paced world, but when you think about it, accurate language informs policy, it colours public interaction, and it effects the way we think.”
We strive to create marketing communications that move people. Every single day we examine the best way to effectively tell our clients’ stories and at Ramp we’re always open to learning more about the best way to do it.
Make sure your marketing material is current, dynamic, and coveys your message in the most effective way possible. Call us.
And for more information on ways to ensure your language is on point, visit these articles co authored by Donna Hardaker.