Conversation with Aleia Walker
Looking to ensure that you have diversity and inclusion in your marketing?
As a white person and business owner, building a diverse and inclusive yoga business is something that’s been top of mind since last year.
While I wish I could tell you that diverse and inclusive were words I used to describe my business before summer 2020, I don’t think I would have. And it’s not for lack of caring or a massive change in my beliefs since then, it’s simply because it wasn’t top of mind for me. That’s because I am a white person and the fact that it wasn’t top of mind for me is one of the privileges that I am now aware of. I know I’m not alone in this. Many white people have come to this realization and want to do better and that brings us to the conversation about diversity and inclusion in your marketing.
For this topic, I’ve brought on my friend Aleia Walker. Aleia is a marketing expert and has also been helping others navigate showing diversity and inclusion in their marketing and she’s here to help you.
In this conversation, we cover words, images and all the other things that need to happen in order for you to show up and showcase a safe space as a yoga teacher. Get ready for a great conversation on diversity and inclusion in your marketing because Aleia has a true gift for speaking on this topic and I know you’re going to learn so much from her!
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #101). Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
Diversity and niching down in your yoga business
How can we be intentionally diverse in our marketing?
First off, let me say: Diversity marketing is great but creating safe spaces based on your niche is even better.
Niching down is speaking to the pain point that someone is experiencing and identifying how you can help. Nine times out of ten, the pain point is not related to gender, age, or the color of your skin. It’s about how we are alike, not different. Once you know this, you can then market your yoga offerings in a way that addresses a problem and then show that you are welcoming in all types of people.
It all comes down to: What is the struggle your student is dealing with and how can you help them?
Yoga is for everyone, but not every yoga teacher is perfect for every person. Sometimes you’re not the answer. However, you have to do the work to find out that you’re not the answer. "If you aren’t the safe space, then don’t put it into your marketing because you’re going to attract those people." - Aleia Walker
Go back to why you got started doing yoga and/or teaching in the first place, and have a lot of those conversations.
"I think we have to talk more about why we're here, and that's how you're going to actually resonate with other people, versus centering on you being in this moment, because you've done the things. You've gotten started. But you still need to connect with the people who haven't done the things." - Aleia Walker
"It's staying connected to your beginning, middle, end, and where you are right now." - Aleia Walker
Inclusivity and diversity in your marketing
When considering your marketing content, start with your why. What is that you stand for? What is it that’s really important to you? Once you answer these questions, you’re better able to put things into place.
Words: How to show diversity and inclusion in our marketing copy
If you wouldn’t say it, don’t put it in your copy. Make sure the words you use are words YOU use. You want to come off as authentic. Appropriating language is something that’s problematic and really easy to avoid.
"When we’re trying to diversify, we sometimes think we need to be another version of ourselves. No, I just really want you to be very much you, and not this pretty photoshopped version where everything is perfect and nothing in your world is wrong." - Aleia Walker
Don’t feel like you have to dress it up. Be who you are. That authenticity is how you’re going to attract people. As a yoga teacher, I'm sure you realize the importance of this.
Be yourself. It sounds really simple, a lot of it is mind blocks, feeling like we have to be perfect. Style of teacher is something that people need to connect with in order to want to come to your class. You’ll find that by being yourself, you’re going to attract more of the people you want anyway. - Aleia Walker
Quick tips for writing authentic copy:
Write to your best friend. Connect on that level. Take the academia out of it completely. Don't be afraid to use slang and contractions. Just be yourself on the page!
Try just talking it out. How do you actually speak to people you're comfortable with? Use that language. You can even try recording yourself speaking and then write from the recording.
Consume less. We consume so much more content than we create, and we often compare our words to other people's words. When you're writing, try writing without looking at what everyone else is doing.
"Just be yourself on the page. If you need to talk it out, that’s great. If you need to move your hands and write words until they form sentences and make sense, then do that. Find a way you’re comfortable in sharing yourself." - Aleia Walker
Images: How to show diversity and inclusion in our marketing images
Make sure you’re getting your photos from different sources, especially if you’re incorporating images of other people besides just yourself. Look for those great stock photo places that are inclusive.
But know that you have to do work beyond this. Again, start from that place of “why.” Why am I doing this? Why am I bringing this in? Then when you start bringing in new content, then it all just fits and makes sense. "The problem is when you just slap something on there to check a box. Do the work first." - Aleia Walker
How to create safe spaces for your yoga students, starting with your marketing
“We’re not calling people out. We’re trying to call you IN first.” - Aleia Walker
If you are interested in this conversation, then you are interested in making their business more inclusive and diverse. You’re already on the right path. You’re already doing the work.
Sometimes an initial reaction is “I need to fix this problem.” Instead, first examine why it’s a problem. After examining and doing the work, then that's when you can come forward.
“What we do as business owners is we try to problem solve, but systemic racism is not a problem-solving thing. You’re not allowed to take it up and fix everything for people if you’re not the one being oppressed. That’s not how it works." - Aleia Walker
Listen to learn
"If someone is saying, 'Hey, there’s something going on here. I don’t like how you said this.' Your first instinct should be to listen to them. It’s not that they are always right, but your reaction should be to listen first, as opposed to problem solving. That’s where we’re finding a lot of the issues. People are trying to problem solve things that they don’t understand." - Aleia Walker
We need to listen to what is going on. There are things that some of us can’t have context for, because that’s not our life.
"When you are called out for doing something, and your reaction is to be defensive, and to tell people “no, you’re making this up” or “I didn’t mean to” or “My team did it” - that’s the problem we’re having. That’s when we know you’re not listening or paying attention." - Aleia Walker
Teaching yoga and listening
Most of the time, yoga teachers instinctually want to listen. If you’re actually following yoga practices, then you’re not putting yourself as the center of these conversations. You’re listening, observing, and letting people explain to you what’s going on with their bodies.
Take this skill and apply it the other parts of your life and your business, You don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable in class, but you also can’t tell people how to be comfortable if you don’t know what their problem is.
For example, If someone can’t do a pose, you go and figure out why they can’t do a pose. You don’t say “Just do this pose this way now!” You wait and see what’s going on. You listen and see what’s going on.
Move past the guilt
People don’t like to be uncomfortable. But ask yourself: Who am I centering in this? If you’re staying comfortable and not dealing with this because there are a lot of ways to mess up, then: "Move through the discomfort, move past the guilt, move past the shame, and know that there is something else on the other side of it. It’s so important to connect to that and understand that for yourself.” - Aleia Walker
Get out there and have more conversations. "Something that you may think that is it bad or problematic, it actually might not be. You might be on the right track. It’s a life skill, it’s a marketing skill, it’s a business skill, but really, having conversations with people is how you get to connect with people and understand them. If you want to be a place that’s safe, that’s what you’re going to have to do. - Aleia Walker
"Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Because in 3 months or 6 months, it’s going to be a different space for you.” - Aleia Walker
Your next step
Now it’s time to show up as you and welcome your students into the safe space that you’ve created for them.
Your next step is to identify the PROBLEM that you’re helping to solve with your yoga teaching.
Yes, this is niche work and I hope that listening to this episode really had it sink in. Niching down is identifying the problem that you help solve. It’s not about the age, gender or color of someone’s skin. It’s about how we are alike, not different. Once you know this, you can then market your yoga offerings in a way that addresses a problem and then show that you are welcoming in all types of people.
And keep in mind that you aren’t the answer for everyone and that’s okay. If you aren’t feeling called to work with a specific group of people, or aren’t the best for some one, you can always refer out to others and still give time, energy or finances to support that group of people.
Until next time, give yourself permission to build a diverse and inclusive yoga business and grace along the way.
"Move through the discomfort, move past the guilt, move past the shame, and know that there is something else on the other side of it. It’s so important to connect to that and understand that for yourself.” --Aleia Walker
Aleia is the founder of Mojito Marketing Agency, an evergreen marketing agency where she helps business owners and consultants scale and live in their zones of genius. Five years ago, she left her corporate job to start a career as a freelance web developer. Pretty soon she rediscovered her love of writing by crafting single emails that resulted in four and five figures in revenue for freelance clients and startups. She relies on her Creative Writing degree and love of metrics to develop data-backed marketing strategies that result in higher profits without the stress of an on/off, always hustling launch cycle. In June of 2020 she launched The Hill Creatives, a directory for Black Creatives when the world, already on fire from a pandemic, turned their gaze to pay attention to what centuries of systemic racism had done to the Black experience. Since inception, she’s helped 45 creatives find new projects and speak engagements while raising over 17K in donations for organizations like The Loveland Foundation, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and DigitalUndivided. When she’s not knee deep in spreadsheets, Airtable, or campaigning for social justice, she’s probably talking herself out of buying plant number 38.
Website - https://www.mojitomarketing.agency/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/msaleia/
The Hill Creatives Directory - https://www.thehillcreatives.com/
The Hill Roundtables Replays - https://www.thehillcreatives.com/roundtables-bundle
Episode #62 with Aleia on Email Marketing - https://www.amandamckinney.com/post/episode62
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