A New Reality: Women of Color Meet at C2 Miami

As organizations adjust to cultural shifts within their businesses internally and search for ways to connect with multi-layered audiences externally, diversity becomes a major topic for senior leaders. A new reality for women of color in the communications industry leading the conversation around issues of diversity and inclusion is now before us.

I had the exhilarating experience of attending the ColorComm C2 Conference last week in Key Biscayne, Florida. Women of color in public relations, marketing, advertising, media, and digital gathered from all across the country to share experiences and learn from one another to enhance their personal and professional development.

The three-day event for women focuses on leadership training, executive positioning, business development, and expanding financial literacy. The event also attracts leaders in diversity and inclusion.

I asked some of the nation’s leading women in the communications industry their thoughts on diversity and inclusion, and they all agree on one thing: the practice must be a priority.

Hear what they had to say.

With a star lineup of speakers including women’s activist Gloria Steinem and CNN’s Lisa Ling, the women dived deep into discussions about diversifying the communications industry, remaining professionally competitive, navigating promotions and achieving work-life balance.

This event exchanged rich moments of wisdom, intellect and sisterhood. Click below to see the great rundown of highlights from social media with the #C2Miami hashtag.

Aerial Ellis

I’m definitely counting down to #C2Miami 2016!

Are you a women of color in communications? How do you think diversity impacts our new reality?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave your comment here and tweet me @aerialellis using the hashtag #PRdiversity.

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What Univision’s Acquisition of The Root Signals for Communities of Color

When I saw the news break on Twitter about Univision, the premier media company for Latinos in the U.S., acquiring The Root, an African American oriented news and culture website, I retweeted it immediately.  I retweeted the news because it instantly signaled to me the evidence of hope that someone somewhere had a major conversation revealing the power of collaboration between communities of color. It signals that someone understood that cultural inclusion breeds change and innovation.

In other words, this shift in perspective is more than just a money move or a PR plot – it’s a game-changing moment. As I retweeted in rejoice, others retweeted in reluctancy with a few questions in mind, “Didn’t Essence Magazine partner with Latina Magazine 10 years ago?” “What does this mean for the future of African American news sites?” “Isn’t this blended acquisition of an African American platform by a Hispanic-driven brand is no-brainer?” Yes, it depends, and not so much.

Univision-The-Root

(mediamoves.com)

Since 2008, The Root has become a leading website for African American readers and boasts an audience of 5 million unique users a month. Univision says The Root will “retain its editorial voice and mission but will now have access to greater resources, including Univision’s digital production facilities and publishing infrastructure.”

That’s great to know but the most promising advantage of this acquisition is the increased likelihood of intersectionality in three ways.

Brands/organizations that have a need to target both the African American and Hispanic communities now have an option to dig into both then drill down to the message specifics without fighting over which of the two audiences prove to be more valuable to their marketing/advertising budgets.

The lens of Hispanic/Latino culture alone is a rich case study of intersectionality both racially and culturally. Consider the experiences of Black Hispanics, a population who not are African Americans but speak Spanish. Consider the outlook of African Americans who have been heavily exposed to the influence of Hispanic/Latino communities over their lifetime though their extended families or neighborhoods. Each have authentic stories that relate and distinct identities that complement one another. Collectively, the acquisition makes both groups see their own relevance through the validation of multicultural stories with less content and images based on the divide of class, economics and geography.

Lastly (and what seems like the most important point to me), here’s an opportunity for audiences to challenge media outlets to provide us with more cross-cultural content. If diverse audiences are collaborating to greater impact conditions in our communities, why shouldn’t we see more companies find synergy to improve communication for people working within an international or multicultural environment or witness more media organizations merging and developing platforms that give depth of voice and length of distribution to stories that empower and entertain vital groups who are culturally common?

No The Root or Univision are not minority-owned but their organizations are clearly committed to determining what they can accomplish together for the good of their audiences. Perhaps this will even encourage folks of color to seek higher positions in media management or inspire collaborations that establish support for media ownership.

Since communication is the one most fundamental aspect people must get right when attempting achieve and understand how cross-cultural collaboration breeds innovation, it’s imperative that media take the lead in creating and displaying the intersections of cultural conversation in powerful and progressive ways.

No Apologies Needed

We must be in a season of bad judgments. Something is in the air. Is Mercury in Retrograde again?

From educators to celebrities and politicians to news anchors, the slip of insensitivity has forced our attention to address the cultural nuisances that are often hidden by societal attempts to get along and diversify.

Lest we forget, we no longer live in a world where thoughts and beliefs are private thanks to the internet. We are expressive. We are bold. We are challenged. Yet, we are insensitive and often care less about who we hurt or how we do it.

But then, you have leaders like University of Oklahoma President David Boren who had members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity kicked off the campus following the release of a video reportedly showing fraternity members singing a racist chant and then issued a bold statement on behalf of the university. I am not familiar with this Oklahoma community but I do know a great deal about communities of higher education.

From KOCO.com

From KOCO.com

Within higher education, the creation and cultivation of an environment of inclusion on college campuses is about strategic intentionality. It starts with the administration, faculty, alumni and professional mentors practicing and communication the integrity of inclusive excellence. Students must see that kind of leadership through transparency, and when they do, they will follow and then lead their peers to cultural collaboration and sincere acceptance with no apologies needed.

This kind of inclusive excellence was displayed perfectly in President Boren’s message. He did not issue an apology. He didn’t have to. He stood firmly and sincerely on what was intolerable and took immediate action.

He released this statement Monday morning:

To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.

Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.

All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.

David L. Boren
President
University of Oklahoma

When your organization faces public scrutiny at the cultural immaturity and insensitivity of its members, an apology may feel like a slap in the face to the public’s intelligence and to the character of those who were harmed. In these tense times, the public won’t easily accept an apology. Proud expressions of blatant bigotry cannot be matched suddenly with empathy for those toward which the hate is directed, especially when the evidence is not felt or perceived but it is visual and viral. The public will believe and internalize the initial expression to which they were exposed. This could happen to any organization, university, brand or individual. Boren took the high road – the only acceptable road in this case – and held his people accountable for their actions. Though his statement did not address whether the behavior of the students on the videotape is reflective of some deeply rooted, perpetually overlooked cultural issues on their campus, that too will soon be exposed to the public if it exists and has been allowed to live under his leadership.

More than a PR crisis, this kind of act represents a human crisis. What is most needed at the moment is the declaration of community, a recommitment to cultural acceptance, a call to social responsibility and a swift kick in the conscious.

No apologies needed.