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 Ita – 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.
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:
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?
Image above: JD Williams
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.
And secondly, be aware of the diversity of the models that brands are using in their standard marketing campaigns and product shots. Challenge those that are using all-white models (or, for example, all 20-somethings models to advertise mature skin creams or clothing lines with an older target market). Ask if this is something they are immediately addressing and putting right.
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.
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!