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[column] Diversity in IT? Also a matter of the right marketing

In practice, this means thousands of women, people from all cultural backgrounds, large groups of people over 40 and SMEs who are trained to be programmers, data analysts, growth hackers, UX designers or tech managers. Not exactly the average target groups for IT educators. Some of the most frequently asked questions we get are: “But how do you reach those underrepresented groups?” And “How do you activate them into IT?”

Finding and training potential IT people, a matter of collaboration and commitment Facebook

TechConnect launched various initiatives in early 2019, with the initiating partners Booking, Rabobank, TomTom, CA-ICT and the Amsterdam Economic Board, to realize the ambition, such as IT trainer TechGrounds, IT guide TekkieWorden, career orientation program PathWays, tech- education fund TechMeUp and SME program SME Digital Workspace.

One of the main challenges turned out to be reaching the target groups. Facebook joined as a partner early on to become successful in this.

Tens of thousands of people have already been reached, hundreds have been trained and dozens have left for IT jobs. But how do you reach people in the neighborhoods? And how do you activate people for whom a study or job in tech has never been an option?

We share 5 learnings with which we managed to reach the target groups:

  1. First approach the target group offline, and then determine the online message together
  2. Let the role models do the talking
  3. Continuous experimentation with campaigns
  4. Adapt image and language to the target group
  5. Telling a story with impact

1. Live and move first in the offline target audience

If you have never taken a step in Amsterdam Osdorp, Zuidoost, Zaanse Poelenburg or Rotterdam-Zuid (or our TechGrounds locations), how can you persuade people from that neighborhood to follow a tech training and let them dream of a future in IT? By working with “linking pins“. People from the neighborhood who know the neighborhood like the back of their hand, have an influential neighborhood network and are in daily contact with people in that neighborhood. Each TechGrounds location is therefore run by a “local”, such as Abdessamad Dari in Osdorp and Joshua Annan in Amsterdam South-East. We are also part of a community offline and have a direct impact on our target audience. And together with the participants, we develop the online message, both in word and image. From, for and by the target group.

2. Role models make the difference

Sometimes it took a while, but there are plenty of role models who make an impact on aspiring IT people. How about techgirlhajar with more than 360K followers on Instagram and videos of Mirjam, and also Hajar that has been viewed thousands of times. Hajar took a three-month programming boot camp and tells her story of starting a career in IT. She is a role model for many women with a cultural background. Mirjam was a ballerina and now she manages a service desk as a manager. How did she manage to become a Tekkie from a professional dancer. Inspiring stories for people who may also have an IT worker hidden away. These role models will arouse interest and instill confidence in underrepresented audiences. Or René, who at the age of 59 did a retraining program at TechGrounds and is now an IT specialist at PostNL. There are plenty of stories and the role models are eager to share them. But how do you get this visible to the target groups?

3. Continuous experiments with campaigns

Just as important as the offline connection with people in the neighborhoods is the online contact via social media. Since the start of TechGrounds and TekkieWorden, we have, in collaboration with Facebook, brought the stories of Hajar, Mirjam and other participants from offline to online. We were able to reach potential participants in the target audience through their stories and platforms. On the one hand through large-scale, target group-oriented campaigns, and on the other hand by setting up online communities through Facebook Groups. It is platforms like Facebook and Instagram that enable us to set up experimental, target-group campaigns targeting the underrepresented groups in tech, such as women and people over 50, people with diversity in their cultural background and in specific neighborhoods. Ultimately, the online and offline marketing then converges, because as a result of a campaign, participants easily visit a tech hub in the middle of the neighborhood, where a local “TechGrounder” is always available. Of the thousands of people who have now been reached with TechGrounds marketing, 1,400 have registered for a training and thus become acquainted with the tech ecosystem. More than 100 of them have also successfully completed full-time training at TechGrounds. In addition to Facebook and Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter are also used. Not only to approach the target group, but also for the other side: getting the right companies on board that are looking to bring more professionalism and diversity into their IT teams.

Language and images matter. IT jobs are associated with boring, nerdy, “not for me”, a man’s world, at the computer all day, good maths

4. Adjust text and images

Language and images matter. IT jobs are associated with boring, nerdy, “not for me”, a man’s world, sitting at the computer all day, with good calculations. At TechConnect we have started to adjust image and language. For example, the colors of TekkieWorden are bright, yellow, purple and blue. With striking and energetic illustrations. We want to appeal to a young target group. Lyrically we also experimented a lot with language, choice of words, tone-of-voice and type of message. Connect with your target group, avoid IT specialist language, inspire and offer perspective on change in the near future.

5. A story with impact
Integral and inseparable from our social campaigns, and all other means we use to reach our target groups, is the story we share with the world. We do this with the use of PR. We have a current, socially relevant story with concrete impact. A story about diversity, equity and inclusion. The stories of people in the neighborhoods, who sometimes go from unemployed to a real job in tech in no time. Life changing events that we are happy to present to journalists that help us to be visible to a huge audience and ensure sign-ups of new partners and participants. From FunX to FD and from NOS to trade platform AG. And everything in between.

This blog was written by Erik Lückers, MarCom Lead at TechConnect

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