Five ways to make marketing that’s more inclusive

As a marketer, ensuring that your material is accessible to your audience is becoming more important.

While media types and trends constantly change, the need to deliver a clear message to a wide range of people does not. The deeper I dive into the realm of Web accessibility the more I realize that there are simple shifts and process changes we can make that will better reach audiences and ensure that their needs are included in our messaging.

Inclusive marketing means that your product, service and digital media are presented so that everyoneincluding those with permanent, temporary, or situational disabilitiescan fully experience them.

As the person behind the keyboard of a large brand, being conscious of when and how my work impacts the audiences I serve has been a serious focus over the past year. Here are five ways to make marketing that’s more inclusive and accessible.

1. Hashtags

Have you ever looked at a hashtag on a social media post and had a hard time making sense of all the words jammed together?

You’re not alone.

A simple way to include long hashtags in your post is by capitalizing each word. This change, sometimes referred to as camel case, is helping people on a few levels.

Adding the extra step of capitalizing individual words in hashtags helps with the following:

  • People who are blind or have low vision will sometimes use screen readers to help them hear information otherwise available on a screen. When you don’t capitalize the letter of every word the reader has no context to provide to the person listening and it ends up sounding incoherent.
  • People who have dyslexia often have a hard time identifying patterns in written words and the relationship between those words. Using camel case is a huge benefit to those users.

Changing the formatting of your hashtags is an easy step that anyone on a marketing team can make. I’d also argue that it makes for a better user experience for almost any reader. Win-win.

2. Colours

Is it possible that you’re leaving people out by using certain colours?

Colour contrast in marketing material may be hard for some people to see if they are colour blind. As a marketer, we need to think about how this impacts our brand standards, web design, user experience (UI/UX), and all print material. If people can’t read what you’re creating then it’s failing the people we’ve created it for.

Blue graphic with example of strong colour contrast and bad colour contrast
(This graphic was created by HeyNova)

Accessible colour schemes should provide maximum contrast, including enough contrast between content and the background, so that everything is legible for everyone.

Colour accessibility tips

  • Colour blindness: Colour blindness is common, especially in certain combinations such as red and green. Red and green are also often used to tell you if something is good or bad. It’s important to consider how colours are used to convey messaging and what kind of alternatives you can provide if people aren’t able to distinguish between them.
  • Colour as an indicator: Colour should not be the only indicator that tells someone about an interactive element on your website. For example, if you’ve added a link somewhere and want people to know to click it, you should add underlined text in addition to any coloured text.
  • Colour ratio: Text and interactive elements should have a colour contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. As a non-designer, I don’t fully understand what this means, so I rely on tools to help guide me. Accessible-colours.com is a great resource to help you scan all of your web material.

Colour accessibility helps people with visual impairments or limited colour vision to interact with digital media in the same way as anyone else. Once you know to start checking for colour accessibility you can build processes to make this a priority. It’s an easy checkpoint that helps ensure your marketing material is inclusive.

3. Images

Have you ever come across something online and you couldn’t copy and paste the words?

The reason why you weren’t able to copy and paste the text that you wanted was likely because it was actually an image file was made using flattened copy. This means that it was designed with the words and image together in one file.

When flattened copy is used in graphics that are shared on social media, in emails, PDFs, or anywhere online, it excludes people who rely on screen readers. Screen readers, the apps that read web content out loud, have no way of knowing what they say because of the way that the image is formatted.

A simple way to help ensure that your marketing graphics are more accessible is by limiting the amount of text and including alternative (alt) text.

Marketers are often faced with the challenge of limited space, time, and characters to get your message across. To ensure images are inclusive and accessible you should avoid adding more than a few words of copy.

If you have more to say, include a link somewhere in your post or on the page. Don’t cram it all into a graphic!

4. Text formatting

There are many apps that help people add a bit of extra style to their posts with specific formatting. While this might add a bit of flair to your brand, doing so could accidentally set it up so that you’re excluding those using screen readers.

An easy way to make your marketing more accessible and inclusive is to avoid text formatting beyond what’s available in a specific platform.

5. Alternative text

Robots can’t see images. So, how do they show us a relevant image when we Google something?

Alternative text, otherwise known as alt text, is a small piece of metadata that tells algorithms and screen readers what an image is all about. It’s a very small piece of copy, usually just 1-2 lines, that help describe what’s going on in the image.

Often people forget to include this small piece of information throughout their marketing material. As a result people and robots who can’t see the image are left out.

You can add alt text in the following areas:

  • In images uploaded to your blog
  • In social media graphics such as Instagram or Twitter

It can take a bit of practice to do them well. The key is to try and be concise and descriptive.

You won’t need to include any lead-in text because a screen reader will already know to include that based on how it’s coded.

What are the benefits of including alt text?

  • Adding alt text is primarily for people. As marketers, we add it to help ensure images are more accessible. Those who are visually impaired will be able to better understand an on-page image.
  • Alt text helps with SEO by providing better context to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly (this is how Google knows to show you a relevant image when you look something up).
  • Alt text is what’s shown when an image doesn’t load. This helps users get a clearer understanding of what they were supposed to be shown.

Adding alt text is an extra step that has both SEO and accessibility benefits. It’s fairly easy for anyone to get started!

Marketing that’s more inclusive

While accessibility has become more commonplace in the last few years, it’s still largely overlooked by marketers. Inclusive marketing means that you’re creating material that everyone can access and experience. By making accessibility part of your marketing strategy, you’ll connect with a larger audience, earn advocates, and establish more trust.

By Christine

Hi, I'm Christine. I'm a public speaker & marketing professional with a specialization in digital strategy. I live and breathe all things content & marketing. In my previous positions, I've done everything from rebranding companies, launching new SaaS products, writing sales copy, and developing long-term SEO & social strategies. I believe that quality communication and measurable results are the key to every digital marketing strategy.