News & Insights

28/01/2020

Why diverse voices build better brandsby Amanda Taylor



It is a well-known fact that women hold crucial purchasing power in their households, with research showing women drive 70-80% of all consumer spending decisions, through a combination of their buying power and influence. Globally, female consumer spending is estimated at around US$40 trillion.

In the media, however, women are decidedly under-represented. According to United for News, a multi-stakeholder coalition led by international non-profit Internews, only 19% of experts quoted in the news are women – a figure that has changed very little in the past two decades.

Even in the influencer landscape, the numbers are not much better. Of the most followed YouTube channels, all of the top 10 are fronted by men and only 23 of the top 100 are led by women. This shows that the digital space is currently mirroring trends we see offline.

Both women and men want to identify with the faces being used in media and advertising and it is clear that those businesses that do not adequately represent their customer base risk alienating them and hurting the bottom line. 

Amplifying female voices 

Positively, there are currently a number of initiatives underway to amplify female voices in the media. 

United for News is currently working to increase both demand and supply of female voices in news. On the demand side, it is providing best practices and assistance for newsrooms to source more female subject matter experts, and on the supply side, it is providing women with the support and resources to step forward.

In 2019, United for News ran a pilot program in Canada, Ukraine and Iraq, with a view to rolling out its program more broadly in the coming years.

News outlets are also seizing on the opportunity to broaden the range of voices being heard in the media today. 

One of these is Bloomberg, which is seeking to build a definitive global database of women newsmakers in business and finance through its New Voices initiative. The program includes media training for women and other diverse executives who are under-represented on its broadcast airwaves. 

In the UK, for more than two years journalists and producers across the BBC have been tackling the gender representation issue by targeting a goal of 50:50 representation every month. 

The broadcaster’s nightly prime time news program ‘Outside Source’ started the effort in 2017 and took its representation of on-air contributors from 39% women to 50% within four months. Today more than 500 BBC shows have joined the project, highlighting the difference a sustained effort can make.

Takeouts for businesses

While the efforts of news outlets to increase the representation of women in the media is making some inroads, there is still more work to do on the corporate side.

According to Kantar’s What Women Want research, despite an increased focus on equality driven by movements like #MeToo, major brands are still not effectively acknowledging women’s priorities, or communicating with women in an empowering manner.

However, those that do successfully promote gender-balanced marketing are 4% healthier than male-skewed brands and 6% healthier than strongly male-skewed brands.

The female demographic offers huge opportunity for marketers, and brands that understand what women want are in a better position to capitalise.

Businesses should therefore avoid using stereotypes and instead use data and analytics to tap into the needs of their audiences.

Women are also more likely to respond to media spokespeople they feel are like them. All businesses should therefore take steps to ensure diversity in the voices they are offering to the media. For executives who are still building their media interview skills, Honner offers tailored media training to build confidence and know-how about the process.

There is no one-size-fits-all for connecting with female audiences. However, for businesses that want to truly understand their target market, one of the best places to start is to acknowledge that there are differences between men and women, and shape PR and marketing efforts on that basis.

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