Episode 44 of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast where Lucy Edwards blind broadcaster, content creator and Pantene brand ambassador talks about ditching tokenism from influencer marketing campaigns.


The Influencer Marketing Lab podcast is sponsored by Tagger the data-driven influencer marketing platform and social listening tool.

Show notes

This week I'm in conversation with Lucy Edwards blind broadcaster, content creator and star of those shampoo ads on the telly box.

In this episode we

  • Explore what makes an authentic collaboration between brand and influencer
  • Consider the importance of lived experience in influencer campaigns
  • Discuss what brands can do to make their websites accessible and their products follow  universal design principles
  • List the brands who are getting it right

Episode embedded recording

Useful links

Lucy Edwards tokenism quote

Lucy Edwards Biography

Lucy Edwards is a UK-based blind broadcaster, content creator, Pantene Ambassador and disability activist who is usually accompanied by her cute guide-dog, Molly. 

At the age of 17 Lucy lost her vision due to a rare condition called Incontinentia Pigmenti. 

Today and every day she educates her audience through entertaining short videos all about blindness. Lucy has amassed over 300 million views to date. 

Lucy is also is a regular consultant to global brands such as Google, TikTok, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Samsung, Estée Lauder and more. This marks Lucy out as a leader for the worldwide movement for universal design.

Lucy's ethos towards life is that she is ‘blind, not broken’.

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Podcast episode interview transcription

Scott Guthrie  00:00

Welcome to the podcast, Lucy.

Lucy Edwards  02:18

Thank you so much for having me, Scott. I'm really happy to be here.

Scott Guthrie  02:22

You're a successful broadcaster, a content creator. You're on the telly box all the time advertising Pantene shampoo. We were recently on the same industry panel, where you are articulate, insightful and funny. Yet, in our pre brief conversation earlier today, around potential topics to cover for this episode, you touched on imposter syndrome. Tell me more about that and your fears of imposter syndrome.

Lucy Edwards  02:51

The topic is very poignant to me at the moment, I think, you know, growing all of those followers back in 2020, you have this sense of enormity of what your platform has become. And I think when the [Pantene] advert aired on telly, on the first of January this year, I was like, 'Well, this is a new level'.

Lucy Edwards  03:13

And my fiancé says when we go out in London now people do kind of double take and know who I am. And I think it does give me a sense of what like, I look back at the achievements that I've made. And and obviously my fiancé helps me film that as my sister. It's a family business. And I'm like, wow, this is what we've actually done. Like when you're in the pandemic, and everything was locked down. And I was like, there's so many views. But what does this mean? This is exciting. I think then, I guess as I spoke to more brands, I did become more confident.

Lucy Edwards  03:50

I just wanted to touch on imposter syndrome, because it's real. And when I first sat down to talk to these big global companies, I thought, am I good enough to do this, you know, especially with the perception of disability. And, you know, my mindset now is that I'm blind, not broken, but  it hasn't always been that way. And we've got a long way to go with how we treat disability in the mainstream and day to day, you know, I'd get a guide dog refusal one day and then I'd be talking to Google the next it kind of didn't fit together as a jigsaw piece in my mind for a while but it's starting to.

Scott Guthrie  04:26

Keely Cat Wells was on the podcast recently and Keely, as you know, he is an entrepreneur, disability activist and CEO of C Talent, a talent management company that represents high profile deaf and disabled talent.

Scott Guthrie  04:40

Keely spoke about accessibility and I want to come on to this and accessibility and inaccessibility. In particular, Keely was talking about the importance of creating accessible workspaces, creating truly inclusive spaces. She says when we talk about inclusion, oftentimes access gets left out of the conversation.

Scott Guthrie  04:59

So Lucy, tell me about your experiences with inaccessibility when it comes to social media platforms. I know that 70% of websites are inaccessible to screen reader users. So tell me about your experiences and, and practical implications. What can influencer marketers change easily in terms of their processes to accommodate content creators with sight loss when sending them creative briefs and, and communicating with them?

Lucy Edwards  05:27

I love that question, Scott. And just first and foremost, Keely is someone that I would love to work with in the future, I'm just putting it out there into the ether, I love manifest. But she's amazing. I really respect her work. And it's fabulous that you did a podcast with her. I think for me, I agree with inclusion. And when you talk about diversity and inclusion, it doesn't always encompass accessibility and, and that's the sad thing.

Lucy Edwards  05:53

There's a lot of tokenism out there in our industry and in the wider advertising world. And I think the one thing that I want to say is, if you're a brand, and you're listening to this, if you're a marketeer, and you're listening to this, you know, if you're approaching a content creator, like myself: is the core of your brand, what you represent day to day aligned with my values as well with my brand?' You know, I have a community, I don't just have an audience that I speak to, they trust me, I am authentic. And I want brands, who comes to me to be speaking to my audience, to be working on solutions and products that cater to my audience, and that speak to my audience. So for instance, you know, the reason that I value Pantene, and Procter and Gamble so much as a brand, and why I absolutely adore being their ambassador, is that I am not only the face of Pantene. But I am representing a product in the silky and glowing range that is going to be accessible for the blind. And when we put Navilens codes on a shampoo bottle, and I did the testing with Sumaira Latif, who's the Global Accessibility Lead at Procter and Gamble, she handed me my phone. And she said, Look, this is how you use the app. This is Navilens, it's a free app that you download, and I scan that product. And I burst into tears because I hadn't been able to read a product, what it was the ingredients in nine years. And to me, that's an authentic collaboration.

I think inclusion goes further than just kind of representation on our screens as well, the more people we employ behind the scenes within global brands to truly design for all the better. You know, if you don't have someone behind the scenes truly advocating and having a true lived experience of what you're talking about, then you're not going to get a true authentic picture of what life is like for that person. So when I get approached by a brand, I want people to know that when they're sending me briefs, I can't access PDFs with my screen reader, there needs to be a basic understanding or a code of conduct to say, look, if I'm approaching Lucy, it's not going to cut it, she's not going to, you know, be able to read the information that I'm giving to her and I'm not going to get the best out of her. I'm always going to work hard and work around these challenges and hurdles. But what are you coming to that creative with? And where's the foundation of a great relationship and a long standing relationship? I love collaborations that I can do over a long period as well that are authentic.

Lucy Edwards  06:19

Well, Lucy, there's so much to unpack, we probably need to cancel our weekend plans and just to just to dig into into this. Let's scroll back a little bit -- 70% of websites are inaccessible to screen readers. I saw a YouTube short of yours I think yesterday.Give me a few tips, simple solutions of what we could be doing better just to make those websites accessible.

Lucy Edwards  09:03

Yeah, I'm so passionate about this. You got me on my soapbox, Scott. So honestly, I go on to Google and Google is accessible. But a lot of the time you click on a website and it's not. And this is heart-breaking because I live and breathe on social media I work here. So you know, we have to think when we design a website, where are the headings, you know, I click my H key and it scrolls down every heading you know Heading One, Heading Two, Heading Three. If you've got heading two as the top thing you want me to know about it. I'm scrolling to heading one first. I'm not going to get that information in the right order. You know, that's that's number one.

Lucy Edwards  09:45

Number two is if you are labelling images as graphic or one to seven dot jpg, which is often the case, I'm not going to understand that and please do not rely on Apple or Google to implement an AI solution for you, because we're not there yet. They're doing amazing things leaps and bounds. But come on, let's describe those images. And there is so many ways that you can get across to me as the consumer, maybe like, slightly, you know, extra info about that, about that image. I always say, and I know we said, before we started this podcast, didn't we that? When you describe yourself, it's you that you don't know necessarily know what to describe? But just, you know, the basic info of that image, you know, what is your eye drawn to first? You know, what do you want the audience to think of when you look at that image, that's just a start. And don't be afraid to do it. Because the more you do it, the better you'll become at it.

Lucy Edwards  10:40

And then, you know, unlabeled buttons, and I could go on and on, I absolutely adore TikTok, that's where I started. But the process of me getting onto the app and actually uploading a video myself as a completely blind individual. It's not something that I can do. Yeah, I've had to put in processes within my own business structure, to say, Hey, I can't film and edit within the TikTok app, how am I going to restrict my business, to delegate those tasks to other people. And that's not something that is kind of, you know, I couldn't do that at the start, I had to rely on my fiance. And now I'm getting in revenue to my business, I can outsource those tasks. But what about the people who are content creators, where where is the access there, the point of access, it needs to be, you know, accessible to those people who have an iPhone, just like the next person and who are blind. So I'm so passionate about kind of talking with TikTok. They're so open, I don't want to slate them. They're a relatively new brand. But I'm also saying to them internally, come on, we can do this, we need to label the buttons. And it's what I say to every website developer to like, we need your help in order to access things.

Scott Guthrie  11:54

We said in the in the pre chat element that there is at least some awareness, we are not doing it well. And I can't speak on behalf of social media platforms, obviously. But marketers are beginning to be aware of the issues. And if we're on a ladder where it might be on the first rung. Or maybe on the second rung, you spoke about Pantene and why you like working with Procter and Gamble, Lucy, what makes them special, give me some practical advice, you can offer to influencer marketers who want to make their campaigns more inclusive, more representative.

Lucy Edwards  12:27

I think from the ground up, they listen, you know, the agency that they're working with, is really open to finding new processes of working. And they know that fundamentally, I'm going to get that job done to the best of my ability. If the processes are right, you know, they only have to be tweaked a little bit, to really get the best out of someone like me. And you know, I won't have the same needs as the next person. It's just about communication, asking that person what you need, I always have a document on my, on my computer. And I always shout out Phil Friend, because when I started the BBC, he would say, Look, no one's gonna tell you what you need, only you know what you need. So write that document and send it to people and be proud of it. And I was like, wow, this is so cool. So that document for me has like access requirements and different things. And I'm okay to shout from the rooftops about what I need. And I think it's the confidence to but maybe some influencers at the start of their journey don't know what they need. So ask them, you know, I think another practical tip that Procter and Gamble are getting right is that they have an in house accessibility lead, you know, Sam is blind herself. She knows the needs of blind consumers. But she's got colleagues in higher ed places within that company that wants to listen to her and value her opinion. And you know, that is a core brand value for me. That's where we align and you can see that it's a very authentic collaboration through the marketing because me and Sam chatted about how we wanted it portrayed. From the very start. She was the one who rang me on the 31st of March, which my sister's birthday, she was like loose, this is going to be amazing for you. I am so excited for you. I just stood there and cried because I was just so happy to be doing it with her. And I guess I'm saying true fundamental collaboration is communication.

Scott Guthrie  14:26

You're saying Lucy, that you are proactive in terms of your accessibility requirements. Ideally, it should be the other way around where brands are proactive in asking for your accessibility requirements. And why they shouldn't be nice to have they should be mandated as part of the creative brief or the getting to know you pack between the brand and the creator.

Lucy Edwards  14:51

Yeah, I feel and I felt for a long time. Last year actually I was on a panel for YouTube and it was really good because I stood there. And I said, Look, guys, these big platforms have a duty to push out a code of conduct, because they are the place where creators are going. And they need to create a standard. Where is the audio descriptive tracks at the moment, they're a novelty for people. They're not ingrained in our society as a thing that happens, you know, when someone has audio description on a video, it could be funny, I've seen different audio description out there. It enriches your experience. And the more we see these requirements, as an afterthought, it's just the wrong way to think of things. I think, for me, if you really approach it from a universal design standpoint, and you say, right, if we put that track over, everyone's going to know more about the character, the product the desired how does that consumer feel when they hold our project, and, you know, everyone needs to close their eyes once in a while and see the true beauty of life because it's there and it just needs to filter down.

Scott Guthrie  18:12

We've talked a bit about content output, ie, how influencer marketers can create more inclusive more representative content. But let's turn for a moment to inside, inside creative agencies and inside brands. Is there a say-do gap? Do you sometimes feel you're invited to events or to brand collaborations because a firm wants to reflect representation. But that isn't really part of their DNA? We talked about Procter and Gamble, having representation and it's part of their values and beliefs. But are other brands not quite there? Do they not have their DNA and true representation doesn't really form part of their values? If that is the case, how can they do better?

Lucy Edwards  18:56

This is really sad because it's a part of our industry that I feel quite negative thinking about I get invited to so so many events, and I turn down quite a lot of them because I know when tokenism is kind of rearing its head, if a brand, maybe a fashion brand is inviting me to their event, and they're saying Lucy we want you involved. My brand is valuable. My brand is something that you know represents inclusivity. And if my consumers can't go to that brand and know what size they're picking, or there's not a bespoke person when you enter the shop that helps you with your outfit choices, then how is my community going to access that brand with all good intent and be able to make their own purchasing decisions themselves without someone helping them and it breaks my heart because if you do break it down and you listen to the people who you're selling these products to And you listen to all sectors of society that want to be included and want to buy your products, then it's not just going to be a surface level thing.

Lucy Edwards  20:10

I don't want to sell something and not truly believe in what I am posting about. And often it is about just having me there to say that I'm there or to kind of put put a slant on their brand to prove that they're inclusive. And I don't want to necessarily be associated with that. I think it's getting better. Scott, I'm feeling that a lot of brands behind the scenes are coming to me as consultancy based jobs first, and they're saying Lucy, we want to know how we can be better. And that's happened over the past year and a half, two years. During the pandemic, I felt like we're all locked down. And when Boris Johnson came on our TV, it was the exact seven year anniversary of me going completely blind. And it was a bit of a flashback moment, to me, of not being able to walk out the door again to how I first thought about becoming blind. I think a lot of us empathised with that we were all in the same boat all at once. And I felt this wave of inclusive design conversations that I'd never had before. Yeah. I really appreciate the brands basically that come to me that want to make consult first and then work with me publicly.

Scott Guthrie  21:20

We've talked about tokenism. Do you think that there is an unconscious bias in the makeup of these teams, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it might not be tokenism. They might be thinking they're doing the right thing, but they just don't have these lived experiences.

Lucy Edwards  21:33

Yeah, they don't necessarily have to know how the lived experience. Sometimes it's not their fault. You know, we're not educated about disability, within our workplace within our schools, from a very young age. If we were, I wouldn't be sitting here saying to you now I knew nothing about disability, until I became a disabled woman myself, which is a crazy statement for me. I can't believe I had to learn how to eat, drink, walk, do all of these things, again at 17 pretty much on my own. With the prospect of doing that it was scary. How am I meant to put the blame wholly on people who have never had this lived experience. That's why I educate with my videos to bridge the gap in this knowledge. But once you do know which you do know that something's inaccessible, which you do watch one of my videos, it is your duty to do something about it. Because we all deserve to live in a fully able world. And, you know, I'm not broken, because I'm blind. I'm broken because the world around me disables me.

Scott Guthrie  22:39

On a very practical, pragmatic level, if brands aren't truly representative of their audiences of their communities, then they're missing out ultimately, their audiences or their communities or their customers will vote with their feet. And I think we're becoming more cognizant of that.

Lucy Edwards  22:57

I agree. I think when my audience click on something, you know, because not a lot of products these days are accessible or tactile, you're going to get a very loyal customer if you do cater for myself and my community, because we're going to repurchase that ultimately and be loyal. I totally agree Scott.

Scott Guthrie  23:18

Dan Edge, who describes himself as a professional actor, wrestler, model and circus aerial performer who just happens to have cerebral palsy echoed your point almost exactly during a panel discussion I curated at the Influencer Marketing Show on behalf of Whalar, Dan said that once disabled customers feel that your brand is for them. And they feel that your brand is accessible to them. And that they don't have to fight to use it. They will forever be loyal, and will return time and time again.

Lucy Edwards  23:57

I agree. Dan edge is definitely a leader in this space. And I think he's brilliant. I can name to you on one hand, the brands that I really really do right in this but you know ... 

Lucy Edwards  24:08

Lush,  instantly I can go into their app, and everything is accessible. I can buy all of their bath bombs, and I get them home and I smell exactly which one done. It's a completely accessible experience from start to finish.

Lucy Edwards  24:20

Innocent smoothies they are so good with their branding, if anyone wants to turn on their screen reader which is really simple to do. All you have to do is go into your iPhone. Say hey Siri VoiceOver on. If you want to turn it off, don't worry. Just say hey Siri VoiceOver off. You can get a bit confused. But if you are on Instagram and you're wanting to know kind of behind the scenes of what I actually listen to on a day to day basis, yeah check out Innocent smoothie. They're so funny. They do like little in jokes. So yeah, we're getting there. The more people I speak to you I mean to face now. They're UK page. They're doing all text really great to see.

Lucy Edwards  24:57

Gucci, I'm seeing a lot more alt-text image descriptions, which is amazing for a fashion brand, because they're putting a lot into their descriptions when I read them. So yeah, yeah, we're getting there. But a handful.

Scott Guthrie  25:09

You spoke a little bit earlier in the conversation about universal design, but I'm still not 100% sure what it is, and why it's important to tell me about universal design.

Lucy Edwards  25:19

Universal design is designing from the ground up. And when you hold a product in your hand, you need to know that every age, every gender, every disability, every ethnicity, every person is catered for. When holding that product, often, a lot of things are, right, and there's some things that are accidentally accessible. But we need to know the distinction between accessibility and universal design.

Lucy Edwards  25:50

You know, a lot of the time accessibility means putting Braille on something. But if I told you that only 10% of the blind population know braille, then suddenly it's not universal. When we talk about universal tactile symbols about having design processes in place where, say, like Navilens, you know, it's not only accessible for me, as a blind person, it's accessible for someone who doesn't know English as their first language they can translate when they scan a Navilens code into any language, you know, it's going to be on signs in Euston and in TfL, all around our rail network, suddenly someone who is coming to the UK from a different country, they know how to read the signs. And also if you've forgotten your reading glasses that one day in the shop, it's not only for me to try and find the Navilens code on the bottle of a Pantene bottle. But yeah, so that's what it truly means. It's about designing from the ground up from.

Scott Guthrie  26:50

Another question I had is the difference between medical model versus the social model of disability.

Lucy Edwards  26:56

This is something that I talk about a lot. And I touched on earlier, when I said that I'm blind, not broken. That motto to me has been something that I have struggled with, over the past few years, I didn't want to be blind I, I wanted to run away from it, I felt that blindness meant that I was a burden that I was the thing that needed to be fixed that I ultimately needed my eyesight back to be valid. And for me, the medical model says that I'm the thing that needs to be fixed. And the social model is actually flipping that on its head and it's saying, hey, Lucy, you are not the thing that needs to be fixed, it's the rest of the world, the rest of the world needs to change in order to accommodate you. You know, at the end of the day, if there was ramps everywhere, and we didn't have loads of steps, then suddenly, everywhere would be accessible for wheelchair users. But it's not commonplace. It's not our society. It's not in our society to do that yet. But what we're saying is if you shift your thought processes, suddenly, I'm not the thing that needs fixing. It's everyone else's attitude.

Scott Guthrie  28:00

The most recent figures in the UK from the National Statistics shows that the overall percentage of people who report a disability has increased to 22% 24% of females reported disability. So it's one in four.

Lucy Edwards  28:13

15% of the whole world population is disabled. And remember, in the pandemic, we had an amazing room on clubhouse where it was called the 15%. And it was so amazing to hear from so many people around the world, there was hundreds and hundreds of people in these rooms, just chatting about how we feel. And it's important to have a community. That's why I feel like you know, do my job every day. I just adore it tapping into my community every day and speaking for them. And that's a privilege. You know, I do take my job very seriously.

Scott Guthrie  28:50

I can hear that you do Lucy? We the 15 is that global movement as well as enabling to transform the lives of an estimated 1.2 billion people around the world with disabilities.

Lucy Edwards  29:01

Yeah. it's not going to happen overnight. We, but there are brands like Procter and Gamble that are listening internally, you know, I'm doing things with my own brand as well, to say, Hey, I stand for this. And there are amazing people like yourself and Keely Cat-Wells and notable people standing up and saying, you know, we're not going to accept this. And I think it's about having an approach to it that I guess I do in a sense that, you know, no question is necessarily off limits. I know that a lot of disabled people who are just in the throes of losing their eyesight wouldn't be able to answer all the questions I do. I know I certainly wouldn't have been able to when I was on antidepressants and feeling so so low, but ultimately, if you ask me a question, and you know the answer, it's your duty to do something about it, but it's not your fault that you don't know.

Scott Guthrie  29:52

Lucy, what have you got in store for the rest of 2022?

Lucy Edwards  29:56

Oh my gosh, so much. I hesitate to divulge lots but ...

Scott Guthrie  30:03

Just some headlines

Lucy Edwards  30:04

Yeah next year is going to be a massive year for me.

Lucy Edwards  30:07

I haven't announced anywhere yet. It's going to be about telling my story in a really deep, and richer way through my writing. I'm so excited because I think that a lot of people know me from my short videos, but it's gonna be all about long form content, it's about getting to know my story in a guide type format for everyone to kind of relate to and, you know, navigate their way through really uncertain times when they are just go through a disability or just a hard time grief and loss really, and my platform is going to increase I'm going to start doing live videos a lot more. And you're going to be seeing me in a lot more places possibly do product lines, so watch this space.

Scott Guthrie  30:08

Well don't tease! Give me some headlines.

Scott Guthrie  30:20

On that note, where can listeners turn to to find out more information about you and what platforms are you busiest on?

Lucy Edwards  31:03

I'm primarily on TikTok so it's @lucyedwards you can find me on YouTube dot com slash Lucy Edwards and Instagram Lucy Edwards official.

Scott Guthrie  31:14

Thank you very much and I'll be sure as ever to include those links with the show notes accompanying this podcast just Google the influencer marketing lab for further details. Lucy Edwards broadcaster creator brand ambassador all around good girl. Thank you for your time and for your insights today.

Lucy Edwards  31:30

So lovely to meet you Scott again and we'll speak soon.

Scott Guthrie  31:34

You betcha. 

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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