What We Can All Do to Ensure Diversity on Brand-Blogger Campaigns and Press Trips

Catherine Summers (Not Dressed As Lamb) and JD Williams Model Andrea

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working on a photo shoot with three gorgeous ladies.

The shoot was organised to produce content for a brand’s social media platforms. Pretty straightforward (and exciting) stuff that I love doing as part of my job.

What made this shoot great was that the final content will feature a wide variety of women. Different sizes, different ethnicities, different personalities. One of the reasons why I agreed to be a part of this campaign was exactly that reason – that it would be inclusive. Not a group of Instagram clones or girls who might as well be catwalk models.

 

Disclosure: This post was not sponsored in any way and had no involvement from any brands mentioned (click here for my full disclosure).

 

The brand was one I’d worked with many times before: JD Williams, a brand I know fully supports diversity. I have also worked with other brands that actively showcase people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities and abilities – Avon, Nivea and Revolution Makeup are three that come to mind.

(The beautiful lady with me in the selfie above is Andrea Marie @life_according_to_andreamarie – Brits may recognise her as she’s a regular in JD William’s advertising campaigns and TV adverts. On the day I was there we also had plus-size blogger Emily of Fashion Foie Gras and curve model Ruth… all absolute beauties and LOVELY people to work with!)

Unfortunately, not all brands are so great at pushing diversity, and it’s something that has been brought into the spotlight more and more lately following the rise of The Influencer.

I refer to an article written by black blogger Stephanie Yeboah (whom I featured in my plus size fashion bloggers you should know post recently): “By only using white influencers, brands are telling black women we don’t belong“. As sad and as cross as it made me to read that Stephanie had found that black influencers had largely been sidelined when it came to press trips and visibility, it didn’t surprise me.

I myself have attended events where I’ve been in the minority as an older blogger – and that’s before we’ve even touched on the subject of colour or size. One I was invited to last year shocked me at the lack of diversity present; apart from myself and two other bloggers (both white and in their 40s), every other blogger of the roughly two dozen present were 20-something, white and slim. They even sported The Influencer Look of ruffles, heels and long, perfectly waved hair. To think that I was the “diverse” one – even though I’m white, able-bodied and not plus-sized – was shocking.

 

What I’m doing to ensure diversity on brand-blogger campaigns and press trips

– and what you can do too

I have a request to make of EVERYONE reading this. It applies whether you are a blogger, an influencer, an Instagrammer – or none of the above, considering yourself a consumer only. In order to promote diversity, it shouldn’t JUST be the bloggers of colour (or the older bloggers or the plus-sized bloggers or the disabled bloggers) who are the ones insisting on brands promoting diversity and showing us a wide variety of faces and bodies. As Stephanie says in her article,

“[A] solution would be for white influencers to hold brands accountable for their lack of diversity and challenge them on it. In an ideal world, the latter wouldn’t be required, but as we’ve witnessed with most issues surrounding race, media and marketing, the powers that be generally don’t tend to listen or take queries seriously unless it is addressed by someone who benefits from white privilege.”

Reading that helped me make up my mind about what I needed to do going forward.

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When I was first contacted by the PR agency about the JD Williams photo shoot, I included this in my email back to them:

“The question I have mainly (which I now ask of all brands/agencies when it’s a group campaign or a press event) is about the diversity of any other bloggers who might be involved? I know from previous experience that JD Williams is really good about this sort of thing, but part of my strive to be a better and more conscious blogger is to ensure I’m working with brands who promote diversity and have eco-credentials (sending out press samples in recyclable packaging for instance).”

(I’ll get onto the eco-credentials part in a minute.)

The reply from the PR agency was very encouraging:

“Hi Catherine,

What a lovely email to receive, as an agency we strive to push all our clients to have diversity and social responsibility at the forefront of all activity so it’s great to hear other people are working towards this too!

As always with JDW we want to represent REAL wonderful women and their fabulous stories – this is always something we consider during planning. We try to work with a wide range of faces who are different sizes, races and have an amazing personality as this is what the JD Williams customer wants to see… Not a younger model who has been airbrushed!”

That was the perfect answer – who DOESN’T want to work for/buy from a brand that has that attitude?

Therefore if you’re a blogger/influencer/content creator yourself and you’ve been invited to a press trip, or asked to appear in a group campaign or similar (video shoot, photo shoot, promotional event), I’d like to encourage you to ask in advance whether the brand or agency are planning an inclusive, diverse campaign.

Obviously be tactful in your questioning – don’t be confrontational before anything’s even been agreed – so just politely ask, e.g. May I ask about the diversity of the others who may be involved? This isn’t the time to say “If it isn’t inclusive then forget it”, but a carefully-worded statement about your expectations will go a long way.

As a blogger I have certain standards and principles. I have never featured any fur products, and have turned down brands that I know sell fur products, for example. Working on campaigns that are inclusive is something I’m also going to insist on from now on. I never, ever want to walk into a room full of bloggers again and think My god, everyone here is a clone…

I don’t want to work with those brands. I hope you don’t either.

And as briefly mentioned already, I want to work with brands and PR agencies that have good eco-credentials where wastage is concerned.

 

Asking brands to become more environmentally-conscious

My other request this year is with regards to gifted items and samples, i.e. anything that’s being sent to me. For a long time now I’ve been often disgusted by the wasteful or unrecyclable packaging used to send me samples and gifts, and I finally realised there’s a way I can make it stop. Whenever I’m offered something – whether as part of a paid partnership or as a no-obligation gift – I ask that it’s sent to me in minimal, recyclable packaging – or not at all.

This is how I phrase it (get yourself canned responses set up in Gmail if you haven’t already!) – you’re welcome to use your own version of my wording:

“Please could I ask that it is sent in recyclable packaging (or, unfortunately, not at all)? Part of my strive to be a greener consumer this year is to cut down on wasteful packaging and things like unrecyclable plastic Jiffy bags and bubble wrap which I receive so much of as a blogger. If there’s no way of avoiding this sort of packaging I would kindly ask that it’s not sent at all to me if that’s okay, I do hope you understand.”

Of course I don’t accept everything that’s offered to me (I only ever accept a tiny proportion of offers), and saying no thank you is even better than receiving it in recyclable packaging. If it’s something you really don’t need or isn’t useful to you – be a conscious consumer and don’t accept it. I was approached by a sustainable eco-fashion brand last year who (very kindly) practically INSISTED that I choose some items from their collection, despite not having any budget to pay me for guaranteed coverage and accepting my product gifting policy.

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I explained out that as much as I loved their clothes, I really didn’t need any more because I had clothes coming out of my ears. To accept them just for the sake of it would go against their whole philosophy of promoting slow fashion… the contact was very understanding and said that she really appreciated my attitude – it made perfect sense.

Both as bloggers AND as consumers, we should be calling out brands (and the agencies if they’re the ones sending out samples) and insisting they take more responsibility for the waste they produce. Ask for waste to be minimised. Support brands that do. Politely call out the ones that don’t.

 

Don’t be afraid of offending people

Just as a final note…

Something I hear A LOT from other bloggers who ask for advice when it comes to brands campaigns is that they’re afraid of “offending” people. Afraid of offending when it comes to asking for fair pay. Afraid of offending when they should be asking for expenses to be covered, or any other number of reasonable requests.

Please don’t be afraid to ask for a guarantee that a campaign will be a diverse one (I have, and the agency was overwhelmingly supportive and pleased to know I was asking).

Please don’t be afraid to insist on recyclable, minimal packaging.

Please don’t be afraid to turn down offers of gifts if they can’t guarantee great eco-credentials (do you REALLY need that free lipstick and the huge, shiny, non-recyclable bubble bag it came in?).

Please don’t be afraid to (politely) challenge brands on their social media feeds about the lack of diversity in their campaigns.

If they’re truly offended, you REALLY don’t want to be working for them/buying from them anyway…!

 

What’s been your experience – as a blogger or as a consumer – when it comes to diversity in blogger campaigns and press trips? Or the whole excess packaging issue? Tell me in the comments!

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So all that’s left to say is – I’ve shared my thoughts/stories/tuppence-worth this week, now it’s time to share yours… LET’S GET THIS [LINK UP] PARTY STARTED!

 

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30 Comments

  1. July 30, 2019 / 10:39 pm

    You are a true blogger’s champion, Catherine. One of the many things I love about you.

    I’ve lost my way a bit with my blog due to work constraints but whenever I read your posts they always help reel me back in and remind me why I started. It seems like a life time ago now but is actually only just over 2 years.

    You are such an inspiration to me and so many others xo

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 31, 2019 / 12:08 pm

      Wow Sharon, thank you for those incredibly kind words!! We’re all smarter and stronger together, aren’t we 😀

  2. July 28, 2019 / 12:19 pm

    Brilliant post Catherine. i agree about the amount of waste, non-recyclable packaging. And yaay to JDW for continuing their efforts to support diversity. I can’t wait to see the photos from the shoot xxxx

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 2:17 pm

      The packaging thing is a real problem, isn’t it Liz?!! Makes me so cross, especially when the gift is unexpected 🙁

      And yes, I’m so proud of working with JDW and their commitment to diversity. Thank you my lovely x

  3. July 26, 2019 / 11:05 pm

    Wow mate you never cease to amaze and inspire me! Brava brava mille! In these situations I always ask myself, am I part of the problem by not speaking up? Of course the answer is yes and I really don’t want to be that person who says nothing, do I?

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 2:19 pm

      Lack of diversity at events is something that’s always bugged me MT – don’t know why I didn’t think to question it in advance rather than moaning afterwards!!

  4. Linda J Thomas
    July 25, 2019 / 8:23 pm

    Great post. I have been actively looking at brands sustainablity in all areas. A few months ago I started returning unsolicited brochures with a ” Return to Sender” label and at their cost. I now get hardly any!!!
    This is only a small thing but I know that it helps the environment in lots of different ways, from paper to petrol.
    I want to buy from brands with more diversity in ALL areas so I hope this article helps.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 2:20 pm

      I hope all bloggers start to question both problem areas as well as us, Linda! #StrongerTogether

  5. Nicole of High Latitude Style
    July 25, 2019 / 7:45 pm

    Diversity makes a society, group, team, neighborhood, you name it, stronger as it provides insight and ideas from different backgrounds. We are stronger together.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 2:21 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Nicole!!

  6. July 25, 2019 / 6:55 pm

    It’s great that you’re bringing this to people’s attention. I think one of the things people originally really loved about style bloggers was that were real people. It would be a shame for that to get lost and for the diversity of bloggers to get lost now that it’s become big business.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 2:23 pm

      Thank you Julie! Yes the beauty of blogging in the beginning was seeing something other than what was in magazines and advertising… ironic that we now have to fight see diversity again, isn’t it?!!

  7. July 25, 2019 / 6:46 pm

    What a brilliant post, Catherine, and how fabulous are JDW for showing diversity in their campaigns. Unfortunately, they seem to be in the minority. It’s so good that you are raising awareness, but some brands still think we want to see the stereotypical faces in their adverts. They are getting it so wrong. I would be more likely to buy if I thought the brand were promoting diversity. I would believe and want it more.
    Alison xx

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:35 pm

      Thanks so much, Alison! I agree that many brands are getting it wrong, but I’ve definitely noticed a shift lately so I hope it’s going the right way in terms of diversity becoming the norm 😀

  8. jodie filogomo
    July 25, 2019 / 6:37 pm

    It’s so helpful when you give an example of how to say these things, Catherine. What a great way to handle these issues, and it’s beneficial for all of us!!
    XOOX
    Jodie

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:36 pm

      I’m so glad Jodie – thank you!

  9. July 25, 2019 / 6:35 pm

    Absolutely 100% agree with this, so crucial that representation is diverse (as an ethnic minority and creative, thank you for writing this and championing diversity). My first job directing after mat leave was for JD Williams and they’ve consistently been great at that as you say. Agree too about being environmentally friendly. Fab fab post Catherine x

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:36 pm

      Aww thanks Vicki! I think JDW are leading the way – that’s good to know that they have been for a while x

  10. Mary Katherine
    July 25, 2019 / 6:21 pm

    Wow – all hail Catherine – you truly ARE our queen! What a fabulous post about really important things that matter – and that EVERYONE (I’m not even a blogger. Yet….) can play a part in. Your perspective from many years in this business, cool logic and looking at it from every point of view provide actionable suggestions that empower us all. Thanks for being a much-needed voice of principle and integrity.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:37 pm

      Bless you Mary Katherine – thank you!! So glad you’re on board with this… and exciting that you’re considering starting a blog too!

  11. July 25, 2019 / 5:48 pm

    Great post! Things that we may not always think about but as I think of the bloggers that I follow and enjoy reading it makes sense. Different ages, body types, carreer or stay at home women… We are all different but the same too and brands/clothing should appeal to all of us not just one group.
    http://www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:37 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Mireille! Thank you x

  12. July 25, 2019 / 5:33 pm

    Lots of food for thought, thank you so much!

    I’m linking a post from one of my other blogs this week. Because the story must be told!!

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:38 pm

      My pleasure, Anne – thanks for linking up!

  13. July 25, 2019 / 5:26 pm

    Great initiative. I will be delighted to ask brands/agencies about their diversity policies. And I’ve been writing a lot lately about beauty brands being slow to reduce plastic packaging. I for one would be prepared to pay more for glass packaging if it was offered.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:39 pm

      I’m so glad you’ll be asking the same question, Gail! And yes to beauty brands being very slow to reduce plastic packaging… it’s made worse by the packaging for posting that the PRs send it in, isn’t it 🙁

  14. July 25, 2019 / 5:24 pm

    There have been many a time that I feel like the dinosaur in the room at some press events! I’m so with you on this Catherine xx

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:39 pm

      Good to hear, Laurie!! x #StrongerTogether

  15. July 25, 2019 / 4:42 pm

    What a bloody brilliant post, Catherine! You are such an inspiration to us all!
    Hugs
    Suzy xx
    P.S LOVE the photo of you and Andrea x

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 29, 2019 / 7:40 pm

      Oh Suzy thank you SO MUCH!! And I love the photo too, Andrea’s even more beautiful IRL 🙂 x

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