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Meet Hanan Challouki founder of Inclusified – Why and how to start working with inclusive communication?
20 April 2021 | All locations
In February, we had the honour of welcoming Hanan Challouki as a guest speaker during one of our webinars, where in addition to Greenhouse members we also welcomed many other interested participants (including Intervest colleagues).
Hanan is an inspiring entrepreneur, who at the age of 28 can already be called an expert in inclusive communication. Driven by her mission to create a more inclusive world, she founded (among others) her own strategic communication agency ‘Inclusified‘ to support companies to integrate inclusiveness in their communication and marketing plans.
This topic is more relevant than ever and you clearly noticed: the registrations for the webinar were massive and we also received many questions afterwards.
Especially for those who couldn’t attend, but also for everyone who likes to re-read Hanan’s tips, we took the time to interview Hanan about diversity and inclusiveness.
Hi Hanan, let’s get straight to the point, what exactly is the difference between inclusion and diversity?
Good question and right on cue: diversity and inclusion are two terms that are often mixed up. Diversity can be seen as the objective differences between people: 1 in 3 people have a different ethnic origin, there are people with and without a physical disability,… In short: there are many different people, and that is diversity.
The other side is inclusion, the involvement of diversity. Let me illustrate it with an example: a company can be very diverse by recruiting employees from different origins. But if only white employees dare to give their opinion or ask questions, then you have diversity but not inclusiveness. Inclusion therefore means involvement and getting the right tools to be able to be yourself and be accepted.
This also applies to communication, the sector where inclusiveness is still underexposed. We focus too often on certain stereotypes: how often do we see the image of a standard family consisting of a husband and wife with two children? This no longer corresponds to reality: there are so many other target groups that also want to and need to be able to recognise themselves in advertising and communication.
Did you personally feel the need for inclusiveness? How did you get involved professionally?
For sure, during my Communication Sciences education, I was one of the few people with a migration background. This can be extended to the entire communication sector, which is actually not diverse, and this always has consequences for the output of advertising and communication. The content that is created, the advertising strategy that is developed… often it is made from a certain point of view for a certain target group, but not for everyone. This led me to look into inclusive communication.
During my studies, I started the platform MVSLIM.com, because I noticed that when it came to Muslim minorities, the same stories were often covered. I missed the positive side and anecdotes, so I gave them a place on the platform.
After the platform, I founded the communication agency Allyens, which was my first step into the creative industry. In the end, I chose to focus entirely on inclusive communication, which I now do full time at Inclusified.Discover more information about Inclusified
Do you think our business landscape is ready to move towards more inclusive communication?
Let’s face it: not all companies are ready yet, but they do feel the need more and more. They are starting to realise that something has to change, or else in a few years’ time they will be seriously behind the companies that have already committed to inclusive communication. The stumbling block is that companies often do not realise that they will have to make major changes. A concrete example: if a company wants to invest in inclusiveness, it must also do so in its recruitment process.
Still, I notice that there is some progress: in the past six years, more and more companies have set up initiatives that are more inclusive and diverse and they certainly start to feel the need.
How do companies notice this increasing necessity?
Their growth figures stagnate after a while: if you always reach out to the same target group and continue to do so, you will notice that the growth of your company will also slow down at some point.
If these companies look into the reasons for their slow growth and realise that there are more opportunities, they will be able to develop an appropriate strategy and continue to grow.
In addition, the need can also be felt by simply looking around: who they are as a company and how they communicate simply does not fit in with today’s diverse society.
You have worked for many big companies. Greenhouse’s co-working spaces mainly accommodate small and medium-sized enterprises. How can they integrate inclusiveness into their communications?
Inclusive communication is a story for everyone, and certainly not just for big brands. For SMEs in the middle of a growth phase, inclusion in general can overcome many of the growing pains that come with it. You realise that your market and target group are much larger than you first thought, and you look at the composition of your team in a different way. A diverse team with different skills and backgrounds ensures much more creativity and innovation!
Of course, what I often hear is that the budget of SMEs is too limited so they cannot tackle things on a large scale. But even without a budget, you can do it. You just have to think more creatively. Call up a few people from different sectors, have a chat with them and gain some insights. You don’t need a lot of budget & 1000 people to do it, but you can get 1000 important insights out of it.
What are some important do’s and don’ts you would like to share?
The most important do is without doubt to step out of your comfort zone. Gain new insights about different target groups, learn to look at products and services from different perspectives and communicate in a much more accessible way.
What you certainly shouldn’t’ do is thinking you already know it all. There is a greater chance that you don’t know things than that you do.
There are enough examples in the market of brands making mistakes because they do not start from the knowledge of the target group. Talking to people, that is one of the most important things I will continue to emphasise.
Another don’t: rushing! Inclusion is a process, so take your time for research and getting to know your target group, and with these insights, you can align your product and communication. We, from Inclusified, can support your business or company along this process.Meet and chat with other co-workers in our co-working space!
Assume that I want to start with inclusive communication. How long would it take for me to achieve this?
That depends entirely on the company and its challenges. For some companies, a one-off campaign is enough, while others want to work on their inclusiveness in the long term.
I prefer a longer collaboration, because then I can really see the change and the effect of the efforts.
How does a company experience these effects and impact?
A good example are the reactions I received from employees after realising an internal communication campaign for a client: the messages I got from enthusiastic employees, who were so relieved because they felt they were finally seen for who they are.
To be able to make such a difference is incredible! The fact that I was able to put an end to the us-versus-them relationship and contribute to a sense of belonging is so satisfying! Furthermore, the impact is also noticeable in the hard figures: engagement, conversion rates, sales… That all proves one thing: if done right, inclusive communication can have a huge impact!
Do you think, anno 2021, we are doing well?
That’s a difficult question… Some companies are further in the process than others, of course. I can give several examples of companies taking inclusive initiatives, there is still a long way to go. there are still so many companies that haven’t taken the right steps yet. And they are the one’s I like to focus on!
Are companies afraid to take that step?
Absolutely! There is still a fear that something might go wrong: what if we lose our current audience? Which is a strange thought, by the way, because your audience that doesn’t stick around is so much smaller than the audience you can gain.
In any case, our society will look completely different in two or three years, and we must be prepared.
What else can we expect from you?
We continue to make interesting steps with Inclusified, which you can find out more about in our newsletter. Last year, during the first lockdown, I started my podcast ‘Wat zij wil‘: a series of conversations with other entrepreneurs and ambitious women. Both men and women find these very inspiring.
Another great news is that today, 19 April, my own book about inclusive communication will be released, in which I combine my knowledge, expertise and various cases. With this book, companies can get started or take further steps in inclusive communication. For an order or more information, please contact my publisher Pelckmans.Interested? Order your book here!
Need inspiration for your business?
Discover more interesting articles through our blogs and stay up-to-date about upcoming webinars through our social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Our next webinar is scheduled for Thursday 29 April with guest speaker Olivier Van Horenbeeck of Growth Inc. Don’t want to miss that? Order your ticket now!
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