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Becoming Culturally Fluent

We’re in the communications business, so you better know how to do it


We must be culturally fluent

Cultural fluency is the ability to understand, appreciate and effectively communicate and interact with people from cultures different from your own. Sometimes this is called cultural competence.

As advertisers, we all need this skill to do our jobs well.

And like becoming fluent in a language, it takes time and practice—and it’s easy to get rusty.

So keep learning and asking questions—even stupid ones.

But please, ask Google first

Try to educate yourself before you turn to your Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ+, etc. coworker as it can be exhausting to be the person always explaining thorny issues to people.


Knowledge is power—and we all need it

It’s not just on:

  • Our Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Indigenous coworkers to make sure our ads aren’t racist or xenophobic.
  • LGBTQ+ folks to show us how we can be more inclusive.
  • Women to point out stereotypes.
  • People with disabilities to educate us on accessibility.

This is part of all of our jobs.

Learning more about the experiences, challenges, wants, needs and joys of groups outside our own makes our work better and helps us tell authentic stories that different people can relate to.

It’s also really interesting.


Start with your own brain

To up your game and create better work that’s relevant for people who aren’t just like you, you can:

  • Seek out shows and movies made by and about people who don’t look like you or who aren’t in your same age or socioeconomic group.
  • Watch something in Spanish or Mandarin or Arabic. (Subtitles are your friend.)
  • Go to the events our affinity groups host.
  • Listen to your coworkers with different experiences and perspectives.
  • Follow diverse people and platforms on social media.
  • Read books, news and commentary by Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ writers as well as writers with disabilities and body positivity advocates.
  • Advocate for hiring people who don’t remind you of yourself.

Another way to break out of your bubble?

Go where the brand’s customers are—visit the store, restaurant, recruitment center,
theme park or wherever. Get to know people.


Group Identities


Cultural Appropriation