Diversify Your Organizational Outreach
by: Ryan O'Gara

 

Whether recruiting new staff members or trying to reach out to under-represented communities as consumers, how should spas and resource partners break out of their bubble and incorporate diversity into those efforts?

Diversity and inclusion have long been topcs of discussion in businesses around the world, and in 2020, those discussions are occurring ith greater frequency and urgency than ever before. The many spas and vendors who have negaged in these conversations have done so with the best of intentions, but the path from words to action isn't always clear. After all, it's one thing to post a supportive message on social media about a topic like diversity, but it's another thing to incorporate that message into who you are as a company.

For years, many spas and vendors, whether filling open positions or inviting in new guests, marketed themselves—even if unintentionally—to a fairly limited, often homogenous audience. How can spas and vendors step outside of their bubble, break that cycle and reach a more diverse, representative audience?

 

To help answer that question, Pulse spoke with two people leading the way on this topic: Tracey Slavonia, the chief marketing officer at Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Pip Pullen, the president of ad agency Mightily. Slavonia has worked closely with Sheila Johnson, who is the CEO and founder of Salamander and also the co-founder of BET and co-owner of the Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards.

Here are four takeaways that spas and resource partners can immediately incorporate to their day-to-day business practices, whether they are looking to expand their customer base or make their staff more diverse.

1. Make Inclusivity Part of Your Brand

According to Slavonia, inclusivity is not a switch that can be flipped; it must be who your organization is from the top-down. If you want to become a diverse organization that attracts an inclusive clientele, Slavonia says, you have to be that organization first before it can translate in your marketing.

And if it’s not authentic, your audience will be able to tell.

“Leading with authenticity is the key to inclusive marketing,” Slavonia says. “At our company, practicing diversity isn’t something that we just do, it’s who we are; it’s at the core of our ethos. Our messaging is always clear—we welcome you like family at Salamander, and we back it up with our guest experience. Our guests always sense an unmistakable sense of belonging on our properties.

“And our marketing is successful because it’s honest. It’s equal parts comfortable, kind, respectful and welcoming. And it’s not just about visual representation, it’s about an authentic and honest approach to being inclusive.”

There isn’t a timetable for reaching this goal as an organization. Rather, it’s an ongoing commitment to reflect it in your values.

“It has to be genuine and authentic,” Pullen says. “You can’t just do it and walk away from it in six months. It has to be a commitment you make to yourself and the community that this isn’t just for now. We are going to embed this in our culture as a company. This is something we’re committed to, diversity and inclusion. We’re going to put it in our mission statement, we’re going to tell our staff about it. I think it’s more than temporary targeting. It has to come from your heart and be something you believe in.”

2. Utilize User-Generated Content

Social media is a great way for organizations to do two things. For one, they can gather immediate feedback about the type of people that are frequenting their properties. Secondly, they can use the shared images (with permission, of course) as marketing materials to highlight the organization’s inclusivity, rather than using stock photos or staged photoshoots (Note: If you are going to use social media images, make sure to ask permission and be up front about how and where it will be used).

“In social media, we’ve been particularly successful at all our resorts and spas utilizing and repurposing user- generated content,” Slavonia says. “Like many, we’re encouraging our guests to share their stories on social media. But then we have another proactive effort to seek out the images that best tell the Salamander story. Just one daily feed of guest images is as inclusive as any photoshoot could ever be. And we ultimately utilize these images across multiple platforms and channels, not just social media.

“So, if your vendor members and spa members really pay attention to user generated content, that can provide them an inexpensive way to tell their story and ultimately, it can serve as a mirror to the organization, so they can ac-tually see who they’re serving, and how they’re doing in terms of being an inclusive organization.”

Utilizing user-generated content is a cost-effective way for spas to be authentic in their marketing and naturally identify themselves as a place where everyone is welcome. Your audience will know the difference.

3. Monitor Feedback

As with any business or marketing plan, the best way to tell if you’re doing an adequate job is through some sort of metric.

Pullen pointed out, though, that creating a more inclusive environment in terms of staffing isn’t about getting a great return on investment. Rather, it’s just the right thing to do.

In terms of engaging minority communities as consumers, what should you pay attention to? While it’s tricky to measure, the best way to gauge effectiveness is by monitoring feedback.

“You need to pay close attention to reviews and other consumer-sentiment surveys,” Slavonia says. “And when it comes to diversity, it’s pretty evident you reach your benchmark by speaking to and understanding your guests and clients. There’s no substitute for a top-class customer service. A personal recommendation by one person is worth so much in any business, especially now in these hard times.

“We believe at Salamander that if you’re making promises through marketing and you keep that promise when the guest experiences your resort, revenue—which is the key metric in any business—will come.”

4. Pay Attention to Your 'Little House'

Johnson feels that the hospitality industry has a head start in terms of diversity. She recently told Travel Weekly, “Because the hospitality industry already employs such a diverse cross-section of people, people of all different colors, cultures, languages, backgrounds and religions, we have a gigantic head start in learning how to fix this country’s single most burning social issue today, namely race, or racism, in America.”

At the end of the day, you must control what you can control—that means doing the best you can.

“We’re going to fix it by demanding more of ourselves,” Johnson said. “We do it by providing promotions and professional opportunities to people who don’t always look or talk like we do. Look, we cannot fix the world, at least not all at once, but we can get our house in order, and that would be a start—because what is the world if nothing more than a collection of millions of little houses?”