Core Exchange: Empathy Opens Perspective

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You don’t know everything. Nurture a more empathetic perspective by including and listening to diverse voices to meet diverse needs. Listen using the player embedded below or read the full transcript. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.


  • Core Exchange | Empathy opens perspective

Episode Transcript:

Stephanie B: Hello and welcome to The Core Exchange, a podcast for healthcare marketers. I'm Stephanie Burton, director of healthcare marketing for Core Creative. And I am joined by David Bowles, Chief Strategy Officer for Creative Marketing Resources based right here in Milwaukee. Welcome, David.

David Bowles: Hey Stephanie, thanks for having me on.

Stephanie B: It is a pleasure. So, some people who listen to this podcast may say why are you bringing another agency leader into your podcast studio? Aren't you competitors? And I think we would say no. We actually complement each other in our services. So, one of the things that we say here is we can't do everything. And so, when we can't do everything, we bring in experts like yourself to help fill in those gaps. Tell us a little bit about Creative Marketing Resources and what you do.

David Bowles: Absolutely. Well, first I couldn't agree more with what you said about collaboration and working together. Creative Marketing Resources is a full-service marketing communications agency as you mentioned here in Milwaukee. We specialize primarily in cross-cultural and multi-cultural communications, so we work with our clients to help them understand how to reach emerging markets as well as how to leverage some of their current marketing strategies that maybe more general market focused into reaching those multi-cultural audiences.

Stephanie B: Awesome. So, you talk about emerging markets. Give me an example of some emerging markets.

David Bowles: Yeah, yeah. That would include audiences of color, African-American and Hispanic/Latino. Oftentimes, I think people are confused by the phrase emerging markets, but I think what that really is referring to is their emerging buying power in the marketplace and so those are two examples of ethnic diversity, but there's also gender diversity, the female market. There's sexuality, the LGBTQ market. And there's also socioeconomic status, lower-income audiences as well. There's a broad need that's not being met with those audiences.

Stephanie B: Yeah, yeah. So, you describe yourself as a true cross-cultural marketing agency. What does that mean? Are you only working with one specific culture at one time or are you working across many and how do you know? How are you able to cater to all of these many different audiences?

David Bowles: Absolutely. That's a great question. I think part of the cross-cultural definitions explaining the history of the word cross-cultural and so, we didn't think that up. It was actually devised by some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Northwestern Mutual, some others came together some years ago, about 10 years ago and said how do we really improve the ROI of our marketing? How do we understand how to reach the entire market without leaving anyone out?

David Bowles: So, they looked at the traditional marketing model, which essentially looks at having folks in the room and then developing a strategy that's tuned to the general market and then is adapted to the multicultural market after and they say well, that model isn't always effective, so how do we really change that? And they came up with a model, which is hard to implement, because people are still segments and cultures do matter in people's outlooks. But what we try to do to adapt that model was really figure out how do we bring different perspectives from different audiences? We have all sorts of people at our agency, white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight.

David Bowles: So, we said how do we bring those different perspectives together and then leverage them to help our clients to create strategy and messaging that reaches a larger portion of the market.

Stephanie B: Right, right. So, speaking specifically about healthcare, hospitals, health systems, the big buzz terminology right now is diversity and inclusion. What does that mean?

David Bowles: That word has really given me some thought. I think traditionally, it has meant non-white audiences and I'm going to be honest with you, I think that that's what it's meant traditionally. I think in reality what it means is understanding the perspectives and life experiences of everyone and then creating a strategy that can speak to everyone. So, I don't think that the white majority should be excluded from a diversity approach.

David Bowles: And I think unfortunately, because it's a buzz word, people don't actually think about what it means, so they just think traditionally what it's been and diversity means showing a brown or black face, but in my opinion, diversity can be showing a non-traditional couple or it can be showing a single-parent household in healthcare. And different engagements with that topic, if that makes sense.

Stephanie B: Yeah, yeah. It absolutely makes sense. I will tell you personally, and I'm speaking as a white female, I've heard diversity for my entire career and it's interesting, because I remember creating or looking at brochures, advertising, there would be one individual on the front cover and we would hear things like we need to add some diversity to this. And I strongly believe that not one individual can represent diversity.

David Bowles: Yes, could not agree more.

Stephanie B: And so typically, when I would hear that phrase "we need to add some diversity" to this, that typically meant we need someone who was not white or someone of color to be on the cover of that brochure. I think that there's a great sensitivity and there should be, but I remember being in a meeting once when we literally had stick figures as artwork. You know where I'm going with this, because I can see your face.

Stephanie B: We had stick figures as artwork and it was an important part of what we were doing and someone asked us to add diversity to the stick figures. So, there's such great sensitivity and you've got to appreciate where that's coming from, but then there's also got to be a hey, folks. Let's talk about, let's have an open conversation about what diversity means and it's not just non-white. There's a lot of conversation right now about transgender and how health systems are responding to that, because that creates another opportunity for us to serve a different audience.

David Bowles: Absolutely.

Stephanie B: Yeah.

David Bowles: I think healthcare systems need to understand that they have to engage diversity like they would engage any other brand alignment, right? It's got to be genuine. And I think that what I've seen in my career is that a lot of people are engaging diversity from a disingenuous stance and so, a consumer can tell that and that's more offensive to the consumer than if you were just not to engage it at all, because now you look like you're pandering. You look like you can paint them all with one brush. That's offensive. And so, what we try to show with our clients is let's do diversity in a genuine way like you said.

David Bowles: It may just not be sticking a black face in a brochure, it may be really engaging with people on the true level of who your consumer is and understanding the multi-faceted elements of diversity. And so, for us, I think that we'd hopefully like to see the world re-think how it defines diversity and how it engages on that topic.

Stephanie B: Yes, yes. Amen to that. What does or what do disingenuous diverse initiatives look like?

David Bowles: I think they fail to capture the true cultural aspects of the audience that you're speaking to and by that I mean in the healthcare space, if we're talking about the decision-making process and those types of things, understanding the different elements that go into how in this case maybe a person of color would engage with your healthcare organization and understanding their cultural realities and then incorporating that.

David Bowles: If you don't do that, we can see right through it and then, again it results in that disingenuous feel from a consumer saying whoa, these people don't get me. They don't want to get me. They haven't even probably talked to me.

Stephanie B: Right, right. So, you've as a cross-cultural marketing agency, you have developed marketing campaigns for audiences far and wide. What are some of the things that you've learned through that process?

David Bowles: I've learned that bringing cross cultural to life isn't as easy as it's said. And I think that when the Fortune 500 companies came up with this idea, it sounded great on paper. But I don't think anyone really understood how to execute it, because you had a lot of general-market agencies who tried to change, but it just was too difficult to steer the ship for some of these.

David Bowles: I'm talking big New York agencies with thousands of people. And so, they made the effort and I commend them for that, but I think what I've learned is that actually enacting a cross-cultural model successfully is difficult, but it can be done. I think you have to really always consciously think about the cultural nuances of your audiences. It's not again just to clarify, it's not that you paint everyone with one brush. You still segment your audiences and target them by those psychological factors or whatever it may be, but in your overall strategy, now you're really tying in each of those different cultural nuances to touch on that.

David Bowles: So, that can get messy if you have a big audience, right? It's like how do you make sure that you speak to people in a genuine way? So, we're growing and I'll be honest with you, we haven't mastered it completely yet. I think we're still ...

Stephanie B: I don't think anyone has, right?

David Bowles: I don't think anyone can, it's hard. I think we're still in a spot where we're always trying to make it better. We've been lucky to partner with some amazing national clients both in and out of the healthcare space, but for us, it's like a work in progress.

Stephanie B: Yeah, yeah.

David Bowles: That's pretty much what I've learned is that it's difficult, but you keep chugging along.

Stephanie B: Right. So, personas, we talk a lot about personas in marketing in general, not just healthcare. In healthcare and for that healthcare market, we tend to depending on where you're at in the country, there tends to be a very common persona that we see. It's a female, she's usually Caucasian, she's in her mid-40s, she's making decisions for her parents and for her children. And that kind of corners the market. How do we get health systems, healthcare marketers, and I think many are doing this well already, but for those who may not be thinking about other audiences, how do you get them to understand that there are other audiences that don't necessarily fit that mold and that they're just as important?

David Bowles: I think part of that is one making economic case around engaging other audiences. And so, I think that the ... in your case, the white female model actually is very applicable to a lot of other cultures. So black women especially make a lot of the household decisions especially around healthcare and other big purchasing decisions. Same with the Latinx environment. And so, I know that that's steady across it, but to your question about how do we engage and how do we show that value. I think it's sharing the message to clients that it's not about fighting for different slices of the pie, it's about growing the pie, right?

David Bowles: So, you can maintain the audience basically that you have with the people that you're reaching, but you can now grow it to get some of your competitors. And so, if you can really make the case that this is about market share and it's not about making people feel better, it's really a business decision, I think that's in my opinion the most viable route to really realizing some of the gains that can come from that.

Stephanie B: Yeah, yeah. How about internally at health systems? We've got ... and I will say it continues in the healthcare world. It continues to be predominantly female depending on where you are. Predominantly female, predominantly Caucasian. Why does diversity and inclusion matter in that respect?

David Bowles: I think diversity and inclusion, it's similar to the model that we built our company on. It's the idea that it brings different perspectives and with different perspectives, you can create added business value. You can have people who let's use the example of the c-suite. If your c-suite is all Caucasian males, you're going to get a perspective that may be different and nuanced in certain ways. I'm not going to ignore that, but you're also going to get a lot of shared lifestyle and a lot of shared experiences.

David Bowles: And so, when you add diversity to something at that level, what you're able to now get is different perspectives, different ways of thinking that allow the company to really excel. And so ... and I know that that's an extreme example, but I think part of the diversity question is how do you really truly diversify a company? And in my opinion, it would be putting diverse individuals in positions of power. One of the things that I see a lot of organizations is that the people of color or the diverse individuals are relegated to chief diversity roles or HR roles, which are wonderful and important, but I think it's got to be beyond that.

David Bowles: I think it's got to be marketing roles and it's got to be finance roles and it's got to be management roles and other places where you can get that perspective. And I think that a lot of people are starting to understand that and embrace that and for me, I think healthcare systems will get a lot of value if they intentionally place people in positions. Now, I'm not advocating for taking someone who's less qualified, not by any means, but I think my thought is there's a lot of qualified folks out there and if you really put the effort in, you can find where they are and bring them in.

Stephanie B: That's right, that's right. One of the questions I asked you before we started talking about this was is there anything I shouldn't talk about? And I loved your response. And I feel like we run into these questions and we'll get to your response in just a moment.

David Bowles: No please, go ahead.

Stephanie B: But we run into these questions a lot or there's a general fear of talking about race or culture or diversity and your response was great. What did you say in response to that?

David Bowles: Everyone needs to have a voice in this. I think the problem we've had in America, especially now, is that the diversity discussion has largely, in my opinion, excluded white individuals and not to place all the blame on those who have positively engaged on it, but I think more needs to be done to engage all voices, because the solutions are going to come from a macro comprehensive level. It's not just going to come from 20 or 30 percent of the population.

David Bowles: So, my desire is that instead of everyone shouting over each other, we just listen and the people who need to learn, they have to be open minded to learn, but then, people have to be willing to teach them. Learning's a two-way street. You've got to be willing to learn, but someone has to be willing to teach you. So, my perspective of all this is that you being white shouldn't have any bearing on your ability to have a role in this conversation. We just have to define what your role is and help you grow in this topic like anything else.

David Bowles: And I think that will in my opinion resolve a lot of the discomfort around this subject matter, because people don't know how to engage. And so now, they're uncomfortable and it's like let's change that. Let's get to the root of the problem.

Stephanie B: Yeah. Yeah, I like that. Embrace being uncomfortable, because there's almost a responsibility, I would argue as well. You can't just say well, that doesn't impact me. I'm not part of the problem. Someone else can figure it out. We all have to contribute and participate in this conversation, so I like that.

David Bowles: Absolutely.

Stephanie B: Thank you David Bowles for joining us. You are with Creative Marketing Resources. How can people learn more about you and your company?

David Bowles: Yeah, well they can visit us on our website, cmredge.com or they can find me on LinkedIn, David Bowles, creative marketing resources. Thank you for having me on Stephanie and it's been an amazing talk and talking with someone who's so open minded is always great.

Stephanie B: Aw, thank you, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

David Bowles: Thank you.

Stephanie B: All right, David Bowles, Creative Marketing Resources.

author

Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Creative.

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