In episode 407, Jazzmine Woodard teaches us about DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) and how to create inclusive content in our niche to make as many people as possible feel included and valued.
We cover information about being top of mind that you have a wide audience and its value to respect your reader’s differences, be mindful about offering captions, alt text, and descriptions so people are aware of what they’re being led to, how do you ensure people are included with the content you share, and be aware of the language you use as you describe popular content.
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Bio Jazzmine has balanced growing her food & travel blog, Dash of Jazz, with a corporate career in DEI for the last 8 years. During this time, Jazzmine has learned how to be inclusive in her content approach without alienating her niche audience. She has also cultivated an audience engaging with food and travel content.
- Incorporating inclusivity is important in personal blogs and business blogs.
- Sharing your opinion, and being aware of the language used to compare a product or recipe helps to be culturally aware and avoid difficult issues our community is going through when describing the content.
- Image descriptions, alt text, and captions help include as many people as possible.
- Social media, your blog, and Pinterest are important to add accessibility.
- Continuing education on DEI is important and available.
- Make sure links speak to where a link is leading for best practice.
- Colonizing recipes should be top of mind when inspired to share a new recipe and help you determine how to share it. Share it from a curious perspective and convey the origins if you share outside your niche.
- Give a lot of information upfront for your reader to be prepared to know they can make this recipe, including the tools and ingredients needed.
LinkedIn Learning library – there’s multiple options but be sure to check out one named, Creating Inclusive Content.
Click for full script.
EBT407 – Jazzmine Woodard
Intro: Food bloggers. Hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve their freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional.
I’m Megan Porta, and I’ve been a food blogger for over 12 years. I understand how isolating food blogging can be at times. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported.
Creating content that makes our users feel valued and included, I think is so important to all of us. Some of us, myself included, just need a little bit of education about ways to do that. In this episode, Jazzmine Woodard from Dash of Jazz does exactly that. She talks about creating inclusive content within your niche so that as many people as possible feel included and feel valued. This is episode number 407, sponsored by RankIQ.
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Megan Porta: Jazzmine has balanced growing her food and travel blog Dash of Jazz with a corporate career in DEI for the last eight years. During this time, Jazzmine has learned how to be inclusive in her content approach without alienating her niche audience. She has also cultivated an audience engaging with food and travel content. Hi Jazzmine. How are you today? Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.
Jazzmine Woodard: Hi Megan. I’m doing well. Thank you for asking and of course, very glad to be here.
Megan Porta: Yay. I’m excited to have this very important chat today. But first, we want to know if you have a fun fact to share.
Jazzmine Woodard: Yes. I think the most fun fact of all about me is that I’m the oldest of five kids. I have two sisters and two brothers, and they range in age. With distance from me, like 2, to 13 years younger than me, so I come by bossiness very honestly.
Megan Porta: Oh man. You come by the bossiness. I was just gonna ask you, do you fall into that typical role of an oldest child?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yes, definitely.
Megan Porta: Yes. You’re like, yes, I do. Oh, I love it. That’s a lot of siblings to have, but very awesome fun fact. Okay, you’re here today, Jasmine, to talk about a very important topic, creating inclusive content within your niche. So would you mind talking through your first few years of blogging? I know that you kept your career, you had two careers really segmented and didn’t really consider the whole DEI aspect. So we would love to just hear that story and how it’s evolved and where you’re at now.
Jazzmine Woodard: For sure. So I launched my Food and Travel blog Dash of Jazz eight years ago, about eight years ago, within a week of also starting my career in corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion within HR. For the first few years, I kept them completely separate, like compartmentalized. It was mostly because Dash of Jazz was a creative outlet for me. I think like many bloggers, I started it not really thinking about eventually monetizing and making it a business, but it was really at the urgent request of friends and family members who wanted my recipes and were dispersed all over the country, all over the world. I promised that I would start posting them online. So it was really truly just like an online kind of recipe diary. Then eventually travel diary as well as I started traveling a lot, primarily solo to new places. So I didn’t really think about it through a DEI lens at first. So it was a few years in when I started writing travel content actually, that it became more top of mind because I try to approach my travel, whether that’s how I’m planning a trip or taking notes during the trip, and then of course eventually writing about it. I do try to approach that through a lens of inclusion and from a posture of learning because I don’t wanna position myself as an expert in a place where I don’t live. I also don’t want to like to reinforce stereotypes or unethical travel or consumption. I try to always be very respectful of the people and places that are having me as a guest, really, even though I am a guide or teacher to my readers.
So it was very easy to think about inclusion from that standpoint. Then once I started evolving Dash of Jazz into more of a brand and more of a business, I started really looking at where I could be more inclusive with my content, and the things that I was implementing in my day job began to overlap with what I was implementing by night with my website.
Megan Porta: So interesting. Then I just had the thought as you were talking, like how do you promote things through the travel lens, for example, without being seen as an expert? Because I think that would be really hard because you go somewhere and you’re like, this restaurant or this food or this, whatever, fill in the blank was great. I think that we tend to assume that the person talking about it is an expert. So how do you draw that line?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah, so I try to draw comparisons, which I’m fortunate to have a very large body of content eight years in. It was harder at the beginning, but I do try to draw comparisons and interlink and reference people to other things. Oh, if you enjoy, this recipe, you would probably like this dish insert restaurant here, because you know they have a similar flavor profile. I’m also very transparent about the fact that I grew up with a mother with chronic illness, and so some of the diet modifications that she had to implement to stay well, naturally became just part of how we ate. So very low salt and things like that. So most of my recipes say to taste or to preference, because it really is based on preference. I might think something salty that another person might not. The same thing with the destination. So I try to position myself as a teacher to my readers with the content, but I also do include caveats or just notes, eliminating why I found something to be this way rather than just saying, it’s a great restaurant. I would say it was my favorite restaurant from the trip, and here’s why. So that someone can make their own determination even though Jazzmine liked it, the reasons that she said she liked it aren’t really what I’m looking for, for a nice dinner. So I’m going to go with this other recommendation that she made instead.
Megan Porta: You’re expressing your opinions about the food, the restaurant, the whatever, and I think that we can all adopt this same mentality with food blogging, right? Yeah, because we talk about food. Depending on what your niche is, from all parts of the world. I think just expressing opinions like what you just said. I love this food because. Here’s what I love about this recipe, and just putting it on your opinion, your preference. Okay. So then you realized this was important and you started incorporating this into your blog content. Then did this carry over also to social media?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah, so it actually, Megan, started with social and then Went over to the blog. So I think just a very easy thing is when Instagram and other platforms rolled out captions for videos, I was using a third-party app to caption my videos for a while before Instagram caught up. But that was just something I tested out and tried. Got tons of feedback from people that were very grateful that I was using captions, and so I continued to do it. Then when Instagram eventually rolled out its feature, that made it even easier. Image descriptions are another thing where it’s just simply typing up a couple of sentences or one sentence in the captions for all of my content to say what’s going on, essentially for someone who isn’t able to visually consume the image. So I then carried that over to my blog. So image descriptions, alt text. I think I’ve been blogging for eight years and I know there was a time when we were all, or many of us were using alt text for our Pinterest descriptions. So that’s something that I’m still cleaning up for some posts, but that was a very easy entry point to start considering how can I make my content as widely accessible and inclusive of as many people as possible within my niche. This isn’t about trying to reach every single person and trying to please everybody, but ensuring that every person has an equal opportunity to enjoy the content regardless of their differences.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love that standpoint. That’s so amazing. I think this is something, especially on social media that not a lot of us think about. Maybe it’s just me. But we all hear it’s so important to go into WordPress and put that alt text on your images. Or at least I don’t often think to do that on Instagram. But do you get feedback from that? Do you hear that it’s really helpful from people in your niche?
Jazzmine Woodard: So the image descriptions, I haven’t heard a ton of feedback is something I more recently have implemented. But when I do get feedback on the different inclusive measures, it’s always so touching and almost overwhelming because although maybe 10%, it might impact 10% of my audience, the people that it does impact, it’s a major impact for them. It’s not common and a lot of content creators and bloggers are probably not, as you said, thinking about all of these things. So their content does have barriers for folks that it’s easy to overlook. So people really do feel seen and included and valued, which, if you’re thinking about it from a business standpoint, does drive loyalty. But that’s just a benefit. That’s not really the intention behind it. But people that do feel included by those measures really feel included. It makes a huge difference to them to come across something that they can actually feel like they’re able to take full part in when there’s not a lot of that going on.
Megan Porta: So instead of seeing it as something to check off your to-do list, I have to go fill in all of my alt text. Seeing it as a way to help people feel valued and to feel included, which is such a small perspective change, but I can see that making a world of difference, not in just who you’re serving, but how you are offering up your value as well, don’t you think?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah, I agree. I think that the thing with alt text specifically is it helps me to make sure that my images aren’t too repetitive. I think we’ve all really internalized or hopefully soaked up a lot of the knowledge that Casey Markee has been sharing about not having 30 hero images or 30 images of the same thing throughout the blog post. When you have to write alt text describing what’s in each of your photos, and you have three photos in a row that you’re struggling to describe differently from each other because they’re essentially the same, it also reinforces for you to make sure that you are curating your content very thoughtfully. So that’s another fringe benefit.
Megan Porta: That’s interesting. So that’s probably a little red flag. If you’re writing the same description three times in a row. You’re like, wait for a second, I need to go back. What am I actually publishing? Yeah. I never thought of it like that. So covering all the bases. So we’re talking like social media, just making sure you’re including everyone there. Your blog, captions, and alt text. What other ways can we make people feel included that we’re not thinking of?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah, so I try to invest in a lot of continuing education. It’s part of my day job, but once I realize that there’s a connection to blogging, I’m looking at it through that lens as well. So Casey Markee is a great resource. I also have taken some courses on LinkedIn learning, including one specifically about creating inclusive digital content. So if have access to LinkedIn Learning, I highly recommend it. SHRM, which is the Society of Human Resource Management, has great resources and so does Tastemaker Conference, which we just came from. They’re starting to do a lot of great sessions on DEI and content creation.
One of the things that I learned from that variety of resources was specifically about links. So when I’m going through updating a blog post or even just about to hit publish on a new one, in addition to checking for broken links or making sure that I have a balance between my internal and external linking, I check to make sure that my links clearly indicate where they lead, which is a good accessibility best practice. So instead of saying, Click here, and here is hyperlinked, and then the rest of the words say, to get my spice banana nut bread recipe, the whole link could say get my spice banana nut bread recipe. That’s what’s linked so that the person using a screen reader or other assisted device knows that’s where this link is going to lead me instead of the link saying, it’s gonna leave you here, quote unquote.
Megan Porta: So really the inclusivity could be just not hiding anything, just being upfront about what you’re offering.
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah.
Megan Porta: I love that. That is good practice for SEO too, just having a variety of really good anchor texts. It’s not just click here, because that doesn’t tell anyone anything, your user or Google, people have to research, where am I clicking? So I love that as a best practice.
Sponsor: Let’s take a quick break because I would love to chat about my favorite keyword research tool, RankIQ. One of my favorite strategies with this tool is to write really robust, helpful, and informative non-recipe content that actually helps to add value to people’s lives and also supports and lifts up my own existing content.
Let’s talk through an example. Chili. Since the beginning of my blog, people have swooned over my chili recipe. Up until I discovered RankIQ, I thought that writing supportive content for chili meant creating more chili recipes. So I have about a million chili recipes on my blog, and guess how much traction most of them have gotten? Little to none. Then I met RankIQ and the way I approach supportive content completely changed. Instead of looking for a hundred different ways to make chili, I looked for information about chili that would round out my user’s experiences. A few examples of non-recipe chili content that I’ve written that have done really well, are what sides go with chili, how to freeze chili, substitute for beans and chili, and I have so many more. I could go on and on. Now when my users browse through my chili post, they will need all of this other information, and sometimes a single H2 followed by a few sentences about that topic just is not enough. This is also a great way to let Google know that I am a chili expert. It’s a win all around. It helps the user. It improves the quality of our content. It helps us, more traffic and trust, and it also helps solidify our budding relationships with Google. Go to Rankiq.com to get started. Now, back to the episode.
Jazzmine Woodard: I also think about the language. So 80% of my audience is women. My reader persona is a woman. So I sometimes use terms like girl or sis in my copy, and that’s just the way of being intimate with my readers. My male-identifying readers actually get that. But when I’m scanning for my copy, I do wanna make sure that the way I’m writing an article doesn’t imply that cooking is only for women because it’s true for everyone. So that’s something that I’m thinking about as well. I think it is impossible to please everyone, but there are some things that we can do to make sure we aren’t unintentionally alienating a person. So just being really intentional with our language.
I also make sure that I’m not incorporating stereotypes or harmful language into my content. So labeling something as generally Asian, for example, because it uses certain recipes, may not be appropriate. So I do try to also do a lot of research to avoid that. But also thinking about stereotypes. We see a lot of recipes that are called, Crack cookies or crack bars or insert dish here or even the term addictive. The point is to try to communicate just how delicious that recipe is. I think that we can be more creative in doing so without making light of the crack epidemic, for example. Or people who are currently heavily impacted by the opioid crisis. Where to someone who is very closely related to that, that can be painful for them. I think we can get the same message across.
Megan Porta: Yeah, I think that’s something, again, like a lot of us don’t think about. This came to light for me because I was researching RPMs and why some of my posts can be really low RPMs and some really high, and it came to my attention that if you do use some of those terms, like addictive, which I used to write that word all the time to describe my food, or I think I do have, I think I changed it, but Crack Brownies. I just didn’t think of that. I feel like, oh my goodness, why was I not considering that? But now I’m like, of course. That’s why the people serving up the ads maybe don’t want their company associated with something like that. So just being aware. And I think that’s why these conversations are so helpful because honestly, a lot of us don’t even consider this, but once you bring it to our attention, we’re like, of course. That makes total sense. So what are some other things that maybe we’re not thinking about, alluding to drugs or, just anything else that comes to mind for you?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah, and I had Megan, an Addictive Massaged Kale Salad recipe on my blog for years. The recipe is still there, but I’ve obviously changed the name. When I thought about it as well from an SEO standpoint, are people really searching for an addictive salad recipe? Probably not. I had to put some thought into how to describe it in a more meaningful and accurate way – The Best Massaged Kale Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. It is one of the most popular recipes on my site, year over year, especially since making some of those changes. But I think another piece that’s related to the conversation of just inclusion in food blogging is the concept of colonizing recipes or colonizing cultural foods. It’s something that we talked about at Tastemaker Conference this year. Where we all have exposure and experience with a variety of foods that maybe we don’t have a close personal cultural connection with. It’s not something maybe our parents taught us to make growing up, but something that we tried at some point in life and enjoyed. So I think about that as well when I’m conceptualizing recipes or really, I think like most of us, will get inspired when I’m eating out or just trying new things in addition to keyword research. I often will eat something at a restaurant and think oh, I could make this, or I could make this in a different way. So I think that really embedding that cultural curiosity or that, curiosity and questioning of ourselves when we are part of our recipe research is helpful. So having recipes on your site that come from another culture, I think can be done well if you are intentional about the research. So conveying the origins and the significance of the recipe in your copy. In linking to more authoritative authors that might have that connection and be sure to clarify where your recipe is not traditional or authentic, and talk about why you’ve made those changes. One thing for me, I just asked myself the question at the very beginning is, do I need to develop this recipe? Does it exist already in a more authentic way? Usually, the answer is yes. So I typically will just make something for my own enjoyment rather than publishing it. But when you do, I think that some of those things that I outlined can be helpful in addition to avoiding using words like elevating or discovering, or making something better. Because when we think about many recipes, there’s a phrase like, there’s nothing new under the sun. So many things have been done. We just may not know about them, but that doesn’t mean that they’re unknown or hidden. They’re probably an everyday part of life for someone on the other side of the world, for example. So just making sure that we aren’t positioning ourselves as experts in the cuisine if we’re not, but also not implying that the cuisine or the particular dish needed to be improved.
Megan Porta: That’s such a good point. Maybe to our tastes right? I catered this to my liking instead of I’m elevating this dish, because I can see that being really offensive to a lot of cultures who have put so much blood, sweat, and tears and love into creating these recipes. Then someone who tastes it a handful of times comes along and I’m gonna make this better. So just thinking about that and doing a self-audit and realizing how offensive that could be to people, I think is what you’re saying. So speaking of self-audit, do you have a process that you go through? So you mentioned that you ask yourself, do I need to create this? Do you have anything else that you do that keeps you on track?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah. So I think part of the research that we do, is keyword research, and just like Google searches to see what’s out there, I always start there to give myself a grounding. What does the landscape for this recipe look like If it is something that I wanna pursue? Not only from a competitive standpoint, but from a standpoint of whether are there things I need to be sensitive of. So building that lens into my research. But also I think even on a more practical piece, in the recipe development, I know something that we always hear about making the content as helpful and as useful as possible for the reader is about providing alternatives or providing just as much information as possible before someone actually gets started so that they know what substitutions they can make. What kinds of tools do they need to have on hand? I try to think about that from an accessibility lens as well. Not necessarily only accessibility based on physical ability or mental ability, but also just where you might be located in the world. My cultural background is that my dad is Nigerian. He immigrated here in his twenties, and my mom is black American. So her family, her side of the family has been in the US for many generations by virtue of the transatlantic slave trade. So there are some intersections in those cultures in the food, but there are also a lot of very strong distinctions. So I cook lots of Nigerian dishes for my website, but I don’t position myself as an expert on Nigerian food because it’s an entire country that is not my home, although it does feel like home. The way that I’m making things in the States can vary a lot from how someone in Nigeria or in another part of the world with Nigerian roots or interests might make it just by virtue of what products are available to me and what they’re called. So that’s something that I try to think of when I am developing a recipe like that, for example. But even just someone who maybe lives in the same country or state as you but doesn’t have access to fresh ingredients, for example. So always providing where it makes sense. Could I use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic cloves? For example, could I use dried parsley? What’s something else altogether that might fit the bill that maybe someone could find easily?
Megan Porta: So I feel like we all have this desire to be inclusive as possible and to make people feel valued. But this conversation I can see where it would spark in some people, especially newer bloggers, this feeling of how can I, this is overwhelming, like thinking of so many different foods and recipes and ways to deliver the information that you want to include as many people as possible, but you just can’t do it all. So I was just hoping you could give us some encouragement of course we can’t cover every single base out there in this entire universe, but we can still do this reasonably and, create really good, quality content that’s including a lot of people.
Jazzmine Woodard: Yeah. Especially for newer bloggers. I would say to start with what you have and where you are, which I think is a common refrain of advice. But specifically like with recipes that are familiar to you, that you learned how to make from a family member, or that you just could make without measurements, very easily because you are most likely to actually be an expert on that recipe and to be able to offer a lot of valuable, fruitful information for your readers without having to engage in a ton of research or really spin your wheels. I would also recommend starting with a strong theme or framework if you’re using one of the blog frameworks or if you’re fortunate enough to start with a designer from Jump, is to make sure that inclusion is part of that inclusion and accessibility and a lot of the W3 standards of accessibility will be taken care of for you by virtue of having a solid theme or layout. But I would also say that what you do doesn’t have to look like what anybody else does in order for it to be important or helpful or truly amazing. There are so many best practices and models of success that we see what a good food blogger is. Even what we’ve talked about today, these are things that any creator or business owner can implement. Some things are truly universal, but at the core of our storytelling and our blogs is our individuality. So my encouragement to my fellow food bloggers is to bring your individuality and your authentic point of view to your work. We are each inherently worthy, and somebody out there really needs to hear your voice and what you do.
Megan Porta: Oh, that was so well said. Thank you. Yeah, I feel inspired by everything you’re saying. As I said, I’ve said a million times that we all want to include people and make our users feel loved and heard and all of that. So just being aware of some of the things that you are talking about is step one for a lot of us. So thank you for bringing this very important topic to the table, Jazzmine. Is there anything we’ve forgotten to touch on before we start saying goodbye?
Jazzmine Woodard: I don’t think so. I’m really glad to have been in conversation with you, Megan, and hope that this topic is helpful.
Megan Porta: It is so helpful and I think underserved. So thank you again. Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with today, Jazzmine?
Jazzmine Woodard: I would just reiterate that we’re each inherently worthy. Someone out there is really needing to hear your voice in your content. So I would remain true to that rather than trying to adopt a more generalized blogger voice or a more mainstream blogger voice and share the recipes and the stories that are authentic to you.
Megan Porta: Amazing. Thank you so much. We will put together show notes for you, Jazzmine. If anyone wants to go look at those, you can go to eat blog talk.com/dashofjazz. Tell everyone where they can find you online and on social media, Jazzmine?
Jazzmine Woodard: Yes, of course, dashofjazz.com. That’s D A S H O F J A Z z.com is my food and travel site. Then I’m Dash of Jazz blog on every platform, Instagram, and Pinterest. I love Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Go check Jazzmine out, everyone, and thank you so much again for being here and sharing this information, Jazzmine. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. Please share this episode with a friend who would benefit from tuning in. I will see you next time.
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