Why the Gender Question Matters

I’ve invited Maureen Ladley of Ladley & Associates to share her recent blog on the importance of understanding audience demographics. While Maureen’s expertise is surveys and focus groups, content creators need to care, too. After all, if you want your audience to hear you, you need to understand who they are and  what’s important to them.

I thought Maureen did such a good job of explaining the issue that I re-posted it here. With her permission, of course.

Take it away, Maureen.

Surveys and forms often ask the elemental gender question, but with a shift in how people in the US define their gender, businesses need to give special focus on customer definition.

In a 2019 report on gender identity, the Pew Research Center found about four-in-ten Americans (42%) say forms and profiles should include options other than man or woman (in ages 18-29 it’s 53%). In a related study, the Pew Research Center reports one-in-five Americans (20%) say they personally know someone who prefers personal pronouns other than “he” or “she,” (in ages 18-29, it’s 32%).
Whether you are designing customer profiles or research, here are a few reasons to consider how you are asking the gender question.

Customer experience and expectation

Our clients invest in research to  better align with their customers. The goal is to foster stronger relationships, design the right product or service, and gain a customer’s business. We do not want to alienate the audience while seeking to understand them better. If your customers are better served by a broader gender definition, provide it. How we ask questions affects the research respondent experience.

Confirming research recruiting goals, comparing results

Research looks for patterns and differences. In addition to confirming we hit research recruiting goals, use the gender demographic question to look for important insights from the research.
At Ladley & Associates, we use “male,” “female,” “prefer to self-describe,” and “prefer not to say” in our demographic question. However, we will continue to evolve the options to best serve our clients and research goals.

Matching research design to databases

The US Census is changing how they ask questions around sex, gender, and sexual identity. If it’s important to match up your own database, research or profile results to external databases drawn from US Census data, it will be helpful to understand how questions in this area are evolving.

More reading

About four-in-ten US adults say forms should offer more than two gender options.
About one-in-five US adults know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun.

About Maureen Ladley

A strategic marketer, Maureen found herself drawn to consumer research. How well do companies really understand their customers? Are we asking the right questions? Have we ignored key findings?

As the Principal of Ladley & Associates, she leads a consumer research firm that is innovative and disciplined, insightful and results-driven, and tailored to the needs of clients who were once in her position.

The Top Four Content Trends for 2022

The good news: digital content trends for 2022 are evolving. While some things haven’t changed (I’m looking at you, videos and podcasts), new trends are in the wind. 

  • The metaverse and augmented reality will challenge marketers.
  • Try a little tenderness.
  • My job may be going away. 

Wait, what?

Back to the future with videos and podcasts? Maybe.

Driven by increasingly powerful devices and the availability of more bandwidth, videos and podcasts are evolving from “nice to have” to “need it now.” However, increasing competition means marketers can no longer rely on the rough charm of a do-it-yourself recording. To stand out, you need high production values and professional polish.

My take on videos and podcasts

 Videos and podcasts have value only if your audience thinks they do. If you’re not sure whether either will appeal, ask a couple of your best customers. Before you invest in Hollywood-quality content, set appropriate goals to help you determine whether you’ll see any return on your investment.

Is artificial intelligence replacing copywriters? Not so fast.

The buzziest content trend in 2022 may be AI replacing content creators. Computer-generated copy has been used to produce routine content like financial news and sports scores for some time. More advanced writing tools like Google Docs and Grammarly employ AI with what I will kindly call mixed results.

My take on AI

Good writers don’t have to worry yet. I for one would be delighted to hand off mundane assignments to an AI so I can focus on the fun stuff.

Augmented reality and the metaverse are coming. Some day.

Augmented reality has been around for a while; the concept of a metaverse is at least 30 years old. How these technologies will play out in the coming years is tough to know. Clearly, there’s a lot of work still to be done, standards to sort out and a platform war to be won by the incumbents.

My take on AR and the ‘verse

Savvy marketers who know their audiences should keep an eye out and be willing to experiment with different platforms.  I expect acceptance to depend somewhat on age and level of comfort with technology. But don’t assume you won’t find older people in the Metaverse. What a great way to lead a whole new life!

Begin with empathy

The 21st century is an uncomfortable place so far. Wars, politics and disasters driven by climate change have dominated the news. Covid is wearing us down. Crime is up–or it seems like it thanks to clickbait headlines that grab attention. It’s draining. Given this backdrop, content that demonstrates empathy and understanding is going to win every time. 

My take on a tough subject

We all share the same desires: a roof over our heads, safety, good health and food on the table. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge our common humanity. I challenge you to stop blaming the other, doomscrolling and wishcasting. This isn’t time for messaging rooted in fear. Let your content reflect empathy and understanding for your audience.

Not sure what to do?

There are dozens of content trends for 2022; some are a bigger deal than others. If you’re not sure what’s worth paying attention to and what you can ignore, let’s connect.

Ode to Science Fiction

I’m a lifelong science fiction fan. My first exposure was the full set of L. Frank Baum’s stories set mostly in the land of Oz. Don’t think that’s science fiction? Then you never read the books. The cast of characters included robots, talking toys, mysterious aircraft and mutant monkeys. And let’s not forget the farm girl with a teleporter in her shoes. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

“Let’s fly!”– Captain Michael Burnham, USS Discovery

From there it was on to Isaac Asimov’s classics: I Robot, followed quickly by Caves of Steel and the original Foundation trilogy.  (My heart goes out to the scriptwriters for the Apple TV series Foundation. Asimov could tell wonderful stories but he wasn’t much into writing dialog.)

After that, I dove headfirst into the deep end. Heinlein, Clark, Bradbury, Bester, Butler, Delaney, Dick, Ellison, Tolkien, Simak, Niven and Pournelle, Cherry, McCaffrey, Le Guin, Verne, and Wells;  the Science Fiction Book Club, Astounding Stories and Dangerous Visions. I devoured it all.

Speaking the language of science fiction

Like any true science fiction fan, I also picked up the technobabble. Technobabble is strings of words that sounded sciencey enough to be plausible–as long as you don’t examine them too closely. For example, what exactly is a stargate? The term connotes the sense of interstellar travel beautifully.  More technobabble: transporter, tricorder, lightsaber, death star, grok, unobtanium and tribbles.  All made-up terms that convey an idea even the uninitiated understand. (Weirdly, my grammar checker recognized them all and corrected two misspellings.) 

Technobabble generator

Writing this blog led me to wander through my library, dusting off the favorites and picking out the words I most loved. As a salute to the science fiction authors peering over my shoulder, I created my very own technobabble generator. Pick one word from each column and you’re on your way to speaking technobabble.

The Deans+Co Technobabble Generator
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Content From the Internet

Have you ever “borrowed” content from someone else’s website? Did you give credit to the author? Sometimes reusing content is perfectly OK (“fair use”) and times when it isn’t, but how do you know which is which?

I invited Kelley Way, an attorney specializing in copyright law, to share her expertise with you. You can find this and other relevant content on her blog

Take it away, Kelley….

Can I use Content From the Internet in My Work? 

@MetaLlab on Nappy.co

I get this question a lot. Sometimes, it’s not even a question – the person assumes it’s fine as long as they [use less than a certain amount/don’t make money from it/clipped it from Google/insert justification here].

Unfortunately, the mere fact that the content is on the Internet and easy to copy or download does not mean that it is free to use. Just like anywhere else, the normal copyright rules apply. When in doubt, assume that the content is copyrighted.

How to Safely Find and Use Internet Content

Good news: you have choices.

  • Use a website that offers free content. If a website tells you that something is free to use, you’re reasonably safe using the content. Some search engines, like Google, also have filters that will only show content labeled for reuse. Just check and make sure that the website is legitimate, and the person who made the content has given permission for others to use it. The Internet is rife with stolen content, so do your due diligence before going this route.
  • Pay for a license. This is a safer route than the free websites, and it helps support the artists who created the content. There’s still a chance that the content was taken without permission, though, so you still want to make sure that the website is legitimate.
  • Reach out to the owner directly and ask permission. This option is a bit of a gamble. On the one hand, if the owner says yes, you’re golden; you have a green light to use the content, and they can’t take it back later. On the other hand, if they say no, you’re back to square one and have to find someone else’s content.

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that permits the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research are examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. 

You may try to rely on fair use, but in many cases fair use is a bigger gamble than the options above. The courts declared that every claim of fair use must be decided on a case by case basis. In other words, claiming fair use won’t stop copyright owners from suing you, and you won’t know for sure that your claim will hold up until the lawsuit is over. 

Fair Use Test

Photo Courtesy Pixabay

Courts use a test to determine whether something qualifies as copyright infringement. You can apply this same test to see how likely you would be to win a copyright infringement lawsuit.

  1. What’s the nature of the use? If you’re using the content in a way that benefits the public (such as for teaching, criticism or commentary), the court is more likely to find fair use. If you’re using the content to make money, the court is more likely to rule in favor of the copyright owner.
  2. What kind of content are you using? Copyright protects creativity. The more creative the content, the more protection it gets. Fiction would get more protection than non-fiction, and an elaborately staged photograph would get more protection than a snapshot of your dinner.
  3. How much of the content are you using? If you’re quoting one sentence from a full-page novel, the court is more likely to find fair use. However, the courts also look at quality, not just quantity. If that sentence is the major selling point of the book, the court is more likely to find copyright infringement.
  4. How does your use affect the market for the content? This may be the most important question. If your use means the copyright owner can’t make money from their own copyright, then the courts will very likely find in favor of the copyright owner. On the other hand, if your use really doesn’t impact the owner’s bottom line, then there hasn’t been a lot of harm done.

If you would like to learn more about fair use, or any of the other options I wrote about, email me at kaway@kawaylaw.com.

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice, and that an attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading the article or by commenting thereon.

About Kelley Way

Kelly Way Attorney pic and bio Kelley Way was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in English, followed by a Juris Doctorate. Kelley is a member of the California Bar and an aspiring writer of young adult fantasy novels.

Phone: (925) 357-8845 | kaway@kawaylaw.com

150 N. Wiget Lane #210, Walnut Creek, CA 94598