"By making your message inclusive, people feel involved and heard"

An interview with Hanan Challouki — Inclusive communication expert

18 January 2022

Hanan Challouki is a strategic consultant and founder of Inclusified. After graduating in 2015 with a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Antwerp, she realized there was not much diversity in the creative industry she wanted to enter. Driven by a mission to create a more inclusive world, she became an entrepreneur and created her own vision on marketing and communication in a super diverse society.

Hanan has worked with clients such as Brussels Airport, Telenet, KRO-NCRV and BNP Paribas and got listed by Forbes’ 30under30 for her innovative strategies. She wrote the book Inclusieve Communicatie (2019, Pelckmans) that has been nominated for 'marketing book of the year'. Challouki is also the vice-president of the Belgian Association of Marketing.

We asked 5 questions to Hanan Challouki.

“Young entrepreneurs need to take inclusion into consideration from the start. It is necessary to be open-minded towards new target groups, and one must have the courage to take action.”

Hanan Challouki

Why did you choose to focus on inclusive communication after your studies? 

Already during my studies, I noticed that everything to do with communication or marketing was conceived and presented from a very limited viewpoint. It was often approached from very limited perspectives, and I missed recognisability. When I then started working in the sector, I noticed that neither the teams nor the output were diverse, so I decided to delve into the subject and focus specifically on inclusive communication. 

 

Meanwhile, you have founded your (second) own agency, Inclusified, what do you do exactly? 

The work we did with my first communication agency, called Allyens, was very general and all around. I dealt with very broad questions but, as I’ve just mentioned, I wanted to focus more on the inclusive side of communication. Now with Inclusified, I turned inclusive communication into my expertise and I want to try and develop this further. 

I am now mainly engaged as a strategic partner of other agencies, but I also work directly for clients. My clients are companies, organisations or governments who want to work on a more diverse audience. They aim to make their communication more inclusive and to start thinking actively about who they are reaching, or want to reach, and what the potential is of their target groups. 

On the other hand, more and more often, I support companies in their "employer branding". You can be very diverse and inclusive, but it helps if you have a very diverse team yourself and know who to work with. I try to support organisations in this process.

Why is communication so important in a super diverse society?

Communication is not yet fully adapted to our super diverse society, which is why I find it so important to focus on inclusive communication. Although it is a big challenge, I do notice that its importance is becoming more and more clear. Organisations and companies are increasingly aware that something must change, but don't immediately know how to go about it. 

The impact of communication is very significant, I am talking about representation and recognisability. Different target groups are becoming louder and want to feel represented within communication, which is why this is becoming so important. A very strong example is the little boy from New York who went viral early January because he looked exactly like a character in the Disney film Encanto. It was amazing to see how happy he had become.

Communication is about sending out a certain message but also about how you send out this message. By making it inclusive, people feel involved and heard, they have the feeling there are many more possibilities for them than they might realise today. Communication has a huge impact on our society and it broadens our perspectives. 

 

Could you give three tips for starting entrepreneurs in the creative sector who want to communicate inclusively? 

When it comes to starting entrepreneurs, I always advise them to include inclusion in their entrepreneurial story from the beginning and to take it into account.

A second tip is to try to approach their target audience as diversely as possible. People often think they know a certain niche, but this niche is often much more diverse than they think. It is necessary to be open-minded towards new target groups.

Finally, engage in the right partnerships. It does not matter if you do not know where to start or do not have the necessary knowledge, but there are people, organisations or partners who can support you. One must have the courage to take action. 

 

What do you think is still needed to obtain a fully inclusive communication?

There must be more diversity within organisations. Communication services or agencies are still white bastions and we should work on this. This is how to make sure that inclusion becomes a natural feature. Quotas are a good, albeit temporary, tool for this. There are, of course, other ways and other goals you can set for yourself. It is especially important to really work on it and not just put it on paper.

Would you like to buy Hanan's book? Click here!