Communicating in Multicultural Britain: The Olympics and beyond

The diversity of London’s cultures is one of the reasons why the city was selected to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I have lived in London all of my life and truly believe that diversity is indeed one of our greatest strengths; representing a melting pot like no other and reflecting the wider global village.

The benefits of diversity are multiple and, when fully harnessed, can be used for innovation, growth and pushing boundaries; ultimately providing the framework to deliver a competitive edge. When I look at diversity from a marketing and PR perspective, I can see that this strength is one which is not currently being explored effectively by agencies, particularly when it comes to strategic planning.

I often use the example of Peckham, which is dubbed ‘Mini Lagos’ because of its large Nigerian community, to highlight an aspect of London’s rich cultural tapestry. If you are looking to sample the delights of Nigerian culture, Peckham is a great place to start with its array of Nigerian restaurants, clothes shops and food outlets. Another example is Southall, which has the largest Asian community in London, as well as the largest Sikh community in the capital. Southall Broadway is extremely vibrant (particularly on a Saturday) and hosts a number of processions during the year to celebrate religious festivals including Eid, Vaisakhi and Christmas. Like Peckham, Southall is home to numerous shops, restaurants and jewellers, tailored to cultural needs of its inhabitants.

Peckham and Southall are just two places in London, but the cultural lens through which I described the characteristics of each place is one which is replicated all over London, and is backed up by statistics which show that London’s Black and Minority (BME) communities represent nearly 40% of the city’s population. Furthermore, the findings of the 2011 Census, which are due to be released from this summer, are expected to show the UK’s BME population has increased from 7.9%  to 15%. The statistics speak for themselves, many more of which can be found in this useful document compiled by Race for Opportunity.

Despite the compelling statistics, when I look at PR and marketing campaigns, I can see there is a missed opportunity to engage with the diverse audiences in London and across the UK. I wonder how many agencies are capitalising on the increased levels of multicultural audiences that will be in London during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Although this sketch from Twenty Twelve, the BBC’s spoof documentary following the organisation of the Olympic Games, is hilarious, in my view it highlights that there can be a genuine lack of knowledge when it comes to understanding multicultural communities.

Over the years, I’ve worked on inclusive campaigns that have successfully engaged with a diverse range of communities. With London 2012 just around the corner, I think it’s time for PR and marketing agencies to finally tap into one of our greatest strengths. With this in mind, here are some of my best practice tips for communicating in multicultural Britain. Please feel free to share your own best practice tips, if you have any, in the comments section.

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