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Millennial Marketers Share Multicultural Best Practices At Viacom

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How would you define diversity? WHOSAY Talent Coordinator of Diversity, Daion Morton, asked his panelists at Viacom.

“It’s about accepting and celebrating the fact that we’re different,” said CEO of SHADE, Jacques Bastien.

“It’s about being accounted for,” responded VH1 Social Media Manager and Beauty Influencer, Sarita Nauth.

“It’s about culture and how we connect as communities,” said Chairman of Streamlined Media & Communications, Darren Martin.

The panel “The Changing Face of Influencer Marketing,” part of Communications Week NY: “The Human Factor” Conference, examined the workforce of the future in the media & marketing, which, like consumers, is growing increasingly fragmented and diverse.

Morton then asked, What are media companies and agencies doing to create a more inclusive marketplace?

Martin shared that his agency creates cultural insights that help his clients gain more understanding of communities of color.

Nauth explained that the reason why VH1 “didn’t focus on music anymore,” as people often complain, was because there had been a cultural shift from the network’s early days of classic rock into more relatable and inclusive programming.  

“We believe that differences are good and embrace being different,” said Bastien. He added that one of the best things that hiring managers can do is to stop hiring by cultural fit, as it means people who look, sound, and think like us. “Instead, if you’re really smart, you’re gonna tap into folks that are different and can bring a different perspective and new experiences and ideas.”

The panel then moved to issues of attrition and retention. As Martin remarked; working in advertising is stressful enough. “People of color are extra-stressed, because of the feeling of not being ‘a cultural fit,’ he said. He added that these team members shouldn't feel like they should change themselves to “fit in” when instead they should be celebrated for who they are.

“Diversity is easy,” said Bastien. “Inclusion is difficult.” The SHADE CEO added that inclusion goes beyond just hiring a few minorities for the entry-level positions but also put them in executives roles and empowering them to be part of the larger conversation from the get-go.

Bastien also pointed the market itself dictates the need for more inclusive teams. “You’re dealing with such a diverse audience that you need to market your product to, and yet you have a group of folks who are not part of that audience making the decisions and running these campaigns,” he said. “That’s what leads to misrepresentation.”  

Both Bastien and Martin acknowledged being inclusive is not easy. “It means going against your natural, human instincts of only trusting people who look, talk, and act like you in the hopes of getting better ideas and results for your campaigns,” said Bastien. “It takes relinquishing ‘I believe power,’” added Martin.

It is not easy indeed, but creating more inclusive environments in the media will lead to better business results. Those who won’t adapt risk missing out as Nauth explained. “You see more women of color starting their businesses because there’s no room for growth,” she said.

And, as Martin added, it’s just a matter of time before these more culturally-aware new agencies strat winning clients over the less woke ones.

This blog originally posted on WHOSAY’s blog here.

How To Win The Diversity Game? Treat It As A Business Imperative

For companies, becoming more inclusive is not only a matter of corporate responsibility but also a business imperative. “In the next ten years, $12 trillion will transfer from baby boomers to millennials,” said Manager of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, Kiersten Barnet, at the Communications Week NY panel “Shaping a Diverse and Inclusive Culture: The Rise of Diversity & Inclusion,” moderated by PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair, James Shackelford at Viacom.

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Furthermore, as of 2015, it’s the first time in the US that women are in control of more capital; $14 trillion to be exact.

As Barnet said, these demographics are much more interested in transparency when it comes to being clients or employees of a particular company, especially when it comes to said company’s policies across all aspects of diversity. Long story short; companies cannot afford not to get it right on this issue.

“It’s a business imperative,” said Nielsen SVP Global Communications & Multicultural Marketing, Andrew McCaskill. “The populations' shifts that are happening are real; 92% of the population growth that’s happened in America for the last 15 years has come from communities of color, that means your constituents and your customers are going to be largely African American, Hispanic, and Asian.”

He added these groups represent about $3.7 trillion in spending power. “These are people who are buying your products, so you have to have people inside the organization who understand those cultures.”

But how can companies become more inclusive?

“Stop using ‘cultural fit’ as an excuse for bias,” chimed in McCaskill who also suggested an antidote to what he says is the industry’s “I don’t get the right resumes” excuse. “Every leader of a PR firm needs to go out and become friends with four senior professionals of color. Each of them can provide at least ten qualified contacts or point you in the right direction.”

MSNBC & NBC News Senior Vice President of Communications, Errol Cockfield said, “In the last half decade, there has been more focus on diversity and inclusion.” On the other hand, he said issues like the “Me Too” movement remain as vestiges of an era which is not representative of what we want.

He added that three things need to happen; reporting, bias training, and mentoring in and out of the organization, including middle, high schools, and colleges. “Tell people, ‘these careers are an option for you.’”

Ferrero USA Head of Corporate Communications & PR, Cheryll Forsatz,  said that, as the child of immigrants, your parents might not see a career path in marketing or any other field other than medicine, law or finance. “Broadening the perspective of people entering our field starts with how do we get schools on board, especially in communities of color.”

“You can have all of the diversity you want on your website,” she added. “But at the end of the day, if candidates walk into your office and don’t meet with people they aspire to be like, statistics don’t matter.”

But attracting multicultural talent is only one part of the equation. As McCaskill pointed out, companies want to make sure talented people of color don’t walk out the door disappointed or disillusioned about their experience at that particular agency. “Because some of them go to corporate and become your clients.”

Aside from reaching out to schools to “opening some kids’ minds” about the industry, as Forsatz suggested, the panel offered more practical advice to make the industry more inclusive.

“Consumers have choices, and your employee base has choices, too,” said McCaskill, adding that agencies and media companies need to make sure multicultural team members are part of prospective employee’s interview process.

He added that companies need to bring these multicultural communities along by inviting them to host their events at the company’s headquarters. “Let them know that this is a place for them, maybe not right now but in a couple of years from now; this is a good place for you because we enjoy your perspective, we enjoy having you around.’”

Lastly, McCaskill advice to “check the modicum of privilege we all have.” He offered the metaphor of an elephant and a mouse that lived together. While the mouse has to know everything about the elephant (when, what, where he eats, sleeps, etc.) to survive, the elephant may or may not even be aware of the mouse. “Sometimes we are the mouse, and sometimes we are the elephant,” he said. 

The bottom line? To win the diversity game, agencies and media companies need to start treating it as a business. “It wasn’t until we started putting data around it that we started to identify those challenges,” Barnet shared. “I'm a believer in data for good, to pinpoint where your problems are, identify those challenges, measure the progress, pivot what’s working and what isn’t. Treat it like as best practices.”

This post originally appeared on WHOSAY’s blog here.

Communications Week London: Meeting the Needs of Next Gen Talent

On an otherwise dreary Wednesday evening in central London, Chancery Lane WeWork played host to the first ever London Communications week event. A crowd of media, marketing, PR, communication and HR professionals gathered in to shelter from the rain and pick the brains of industry professionals who shared their expertise in how to satisfy the ever changing needs of the PR workforce of the future.


The inaugural Comms Week London event saw panelists Alexandra North, Senior PR Account Manager at Luminous PR, Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA and Chief Executive, ICCO, Alex Lewington, Chairman, PRCA Recruiters Forum and Head of PR & Communications Recruitment, Reuben-Sinclair and George Blizzard, Co-Founder, The PR Network and mentoring programme lead, Women in PR UK, engage in lively debate about the changing nature of the PR industry and how it must adapt in order to accommodate the needs of the next generation.


The conversation, led by Kite Hill’s own UK VP Tom Kirkham, touched upon the many challenges the industry faces drawing in new talent, with panellists in agreement that attracting new talent is the number one issue we face.


Lewington began by talking about the Catch 22 situation young people face trying to break into the industry, forever being asked to demonstrate prior experience to gain entry-level roles. She dispelled the stereotype that millennials are work shy, noting that they often take on internships for little or no pay simply to gain a footing on the career ladder. Ingham reinforced this point, telling the audience that, “We don’t pay PRs enough,” with young people regularly putting in long hours without reward or recognition.


Kirkham relayed an anecdote about once receiving a CV that read, “It has been my dream to work in PR since the age of 10,” asking the panelists to ponder the reason why, for most, PR is something we are unaware of when first considering career direction. Lewington made the ironic observation that “PR is not well publicised,” provoking a discussion about the ways in which the industry could be introduced to talent at a much younger age through the education system. By increasing the visibility of PR and ensuring that young people understand it to be a viable option from early on, PR could become a more established career choice as opposed to something that most simply “fall into.”


With inner city living costs continuing to rise, the panel discussed the benefits of flexible working and remote agencies. Instead of reinforcing the idea that career progression lies within the capital city, Blizzard reminded us that, “Young people moving away from London is a good thing for clients... It offers that diversity of creativity we always talk about.” Lewington responded by reminding the audience that, “Flexible working isn’t just working from home. Some people prosper by being in an office environment… We need flexibility on both sides”. On this point, North spoke of her “communication rituals” for remote working, most notably, remembering to check in with co-workers and to set aside time in the day for team activities. Ultimately the panelists agreed that the agencies best placed to meet future needs will be the ones that actively listen and offer working solutions that adapt to fit the requirements of each individual.


Next, the panel touched upon the importance of social purpose and the way young people now, more than ever before, want to work somewhere that makes a positive contribution. Ingham reminded the audience that although PR sometimes gets a bad press, “The fall out from Bell Pottinger showed us that PR has standards and morals.”


The debate concluded by recognising that, while the industry is often associated with providing businesses with damage control, there are moral standards with which we all must comply and, where the industry demonstrates that it has principals, it continues to appeal to talent on a basic human level. Ultimately, meeting the needs of future talent means understanding that circumstances and context are ever-changing. If our industry shows a willingness to change with the times, it will continue to grow more appealing to young people.