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.