5 ways to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities during NAIDOC Week

MultiConnexions Group would like to wish everyone a Happy NAIDOC Week. In this blog, we explore five ways marketers can engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the year as we mark NAIDOC Week from Sunday 4 July to Sunday 11 July. Always was, always will be!

NAIDOC Week is an important annual celebration in Australia that seeks to showcase, honour, and celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC has its origins during the 1920s, when various Aboriginal rights groups protested the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

Growing awareness and recognition of Indigenous cultures, history, peoples and their contributions eventually led to the establishment of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) during the 1990s.

Each year, a theme is selected to reflect the important issues and events for NAIDOC Week. The 2021 NAIDOC theme is ‘Heal Country!’

Heal Country! seeks to shed light upon the importance of country and land to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.

It calls for greater reform and protection of Indigenous lands, waters, cultural sites, and cultural heritage, and for Australia to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country.

With greater social responsibility, ‘woke’ culture, the Black Lives Matter movement, brand activism, and other social and political factors, recent years have seen heightened emphasis on these audiences and a greater willingness and curiosity for brands and organisations to do more to engage.

There are numerous ways that organisations and brands can engage with the Indigenous population and participate in NAIDOC celebrations beyond just a simple social media post or red/ black/ yellow filter on their corporate logo.

From a marketing perspective, here are a few suggestions to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:

1. Segment and avoid pan-Aboriginal campaigns

It is a common yet mistaken tactic for marketers to think of Aboriginal cultures and communities as a monolithic group.

The reality is that there were once 500 different clan groups or ‘nations’ living on the continent and around 145 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are still spoken in Australia today, according to the National Indigenous Languages Survey.

Like any campaign, marketers must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach by researching, segmenting, and targeting specific Indigenous cultures.

This will create a highly tailored campaign that references the distinct and individual cultures, values, and histories of Indigenous communities.

2. Use a multi-channel approach

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse in their media habits and research from European Journal of Marketing has shown that a multi-channel media approach works best to target these audiences living in remote and urban areas. This can range from targeting both mainstream and Aboriginal media outlets and using a combination of both digital and print media to get the message across.

Indigenous media can include newspapers and magazines such as Koori MailNational Indigenous Times (NIT) and First Nations Telegraph, as well as Indigenous radio stations like CAAMAKoori RadioDeadly Vibe, and National Indigenous Radio Service.

Aboriginal peoples are also avid users of social media, especially among young people, as it allows them to give voice to their identities, share their experiences, educate themselves and others, connect with people, and maintain Aboriginal stories and cultural heritage,

Separate to media, below the line community engagement is critical.

3. Facilitate community engagement initiatives

The importance of PR and community engagement cannot be overstated for any organisation wanting to open a dialogue with Indigenous audiences. This can be achieved by initiating community activities with communities, especially with elders as contact points.

There are many community associations in Australia ranging from those dedicated to the advocacy of Indigenous rights, to those which provide services helping the Indigenous community.

Some notable organisations include ANTaR, furthering justice, rights and respect for First Nations peoples; KARI, providing quality programs and support services to Indigenous Australians, and The Redfern Foundation, supporting the Aboriginal community in Inner West Sydney.

Community initiatives can involve developing informational resources such as factsheets and toolkits, participation in culturally relevant events, and connecting with community ambassadors to foster engagement.

4. Develop campaigns that reflect Aboriginal cultures and values

First Nations peoples have a deep connection with their cultures, histories, lands, and ancestries, that brands must be mindful of when developing campaigns.

They also have unique worldviews that may be different from the mainstream. Land, family, law, ceremony and language are five interconnected elements of Indigenous cultures though which many see and interpret the world.

A marketer who wants to be perceived as authentic needs to go the extra mile to build relationships with these audiences and hence it is important to reflect the culture and values in your marcomms to truly resonate meaningfully with Indigenous Australians.

5. Use storytelling in your messaging strategy

Storytelling is at the heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, whether the stories are told through dance, song, painting, books, film or animation.

Even to this day, Dreamtime stories are passed from generation to generation around campfires and in bedtime stories, representing an important oral tradition to preserve Indigenous cultures and heritage.

Brands that weave storytelling in their advertisements or campaign strategies can tap into this age-old tradition to engage Indigenous audiences and create emotionally impactful and sensory experiences that foster deeper connections.

Storytelling is also a great way for Indigenous audiences to know the brand authentically through its personality and values.

Interested in engaging Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in your next campaign? Contact MultiConnexions today – or submit your creative to our bespoke cultural and diversity testing sister company Diversity Testing.

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