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Double Down & Double Up [Hot Takes + Event Highlights]

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Double Down & Double Up [Hot Takes + Event Highlights]

12+ state legislators have introduced bills reining in DEI programs in universities, more than 600 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, and 1 in 3 DEI roles have been eliminated over the last year. Can DEI continue? It was a resounding “yes” at this year’s ADCOLOR 2023 Conference that encouraged DEI professionals to double down and double up to create lasting change in the face of adversity.

In a dynamic showcase of diversity, creativity, and inclusion, ADCOLOR 2023 brought together industry leaders, visionaries, and change-makers in the DEI space from November 9 to 11 at the JW Marriott LA Live in Los Angeles, California. The theme “Double Down & Double Up,” celebrated professionals at all levels and underscored the ongoing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the creative industries. Sessions encouraged the consistent amplification of diverse voices, and reminded attendees that what happens in this world is a mirror of our world at large and by changing one, we can start to change the other. Tinuiti was honored to be on the ground at this event, gaining invaluable insights that will shape our future approach to advertising and DEI in the workplace.

In this post, we’ll cover our top highlights and key takeaways from ADCOLOR 2023. These are a sampling of just some of the stand-out moments. 

“Our theme of ‘Double Down & Double Up’ makes it clear that even when there is a regression of support, the ADCOLOR community will stand strong and hold the line for diversity, equity and inclusion. ADCOLOR 2023 will be a safe space for our diverse communities and allies to activate inspiration and continue to push ahead the progress that has been made.”

– Tiffany R. Warren, Founder and President of ADCOLOR

 

Top: Chelsey Codrington, Sr. Director, Client Strategy and Chair of Tinuiti’s Diversity Council, Javier Carmona Program Manager, D&I | Tinuiti, Ronnie D’Amico SVP, Communications | Tinuiti, Jeff Batuhan Chief People Officer, Tinuiti Bottom: Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, Tinuiti’s DEI Leader-in-Residence, Devin Kates D&I Specialist | Tinuiti

ADCOLOR 2023 Sessions: Key Event Highlights 

While ADCOLOR featured dozens of thought-provoking sessions, here’s a select glimpse of those that made the most impact on the Tinuiti delegation.  

Inclusion Drives Impact: Where Marketing and Brands Converge for Real Change

In a captivating conversation involving marketing strategists and partnership leads, Disney’s Jan Coleman, Brittney Todd, and Erica Hansen explored the ways Disney elevated its marketing initiatives and collaborations, using films like “The Little Mermaid” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” to enrich narratives. The objective was to amplify and enhance these stories, fostering a positive impact on interconnected audiences, consumers, and the industry as a whole.

The leaders at Disney highlighted how the emphasis on inclusion extended beyond a business objective. They highlighted how inclusion became a fundamental requirement to ensure that audiences and consumers could see themselves authentically represented on screen.

“The person that is sitting next to me does not look like me and sometimes that’s a good thing so that you can learn from someone that’s different from you. Inclusivity starts with you as the individual and we don’t have to wait until someone tells us it’s okay to be inclusive. I think sometimes we feel discouraged if we don’t get permission from leadership, so don’t ever get discouraged. It starts with you and your passion.” 

– Jan Coleman, Vice President, Global Marketing Partnerships at The Walt Disney Studios

Brick by Brick: Building Equity and Sustainable Growth for Black Women-Owned Brands

During this session, the discussion centered on the challenges faced by black women entrepreneurs in the U.S. Speakers noted that despite 17% of black women in the U.S. launching or running businesses, only 3% see their ventures reach maturity. Amazon facilitated a conversation featuring entrepreneurs such as Tracee Ellis Ross of PATTERN Beauty, Toyin Kolawole of Iya Foods, and Beverly Melbranche of Caribbrew. 

These industry leaders shared practical strategies aimed at fostering long-term success for brands of various sizes… 

  • Consumer Research: Giving consumers what they are actually asking for, not what you think they need as a brand. 
  • Brand Creative & Messaging Alignment: Implementing messaging that resonates with consumers based on diverse voices.
  • Resource Sharing & Investment: Tapping into resources in the market, specifically from other businesses who have done it well and sharing those between teams for amplified growth.

“It’s been very hard differentiating myself as a black woman in America but one of the things that I notice is that when we ask the right questions and get the right answers, we’re able to achieve that success. How do we get in touch with our customers in the right way? 2.7M businesses are black female owned. If you are in a position of power, call those around you to be a part of it, do that. It’s diversity equity and inclusion, people do the diversity and inclusion, but it’s the equity that fuels the inclusion.” 

Tracee Ross

– Tracee Ellis Ross, Award-winning actress, producer, and CEO/Founder at PATTERN Beauty

Hidden Battlefield: Unearthing Safety Crisis in DEI Work

Lois Castillo, Head of DEI at Basis Technologies; Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, Tinuiti’s DEI Leader-in-Residence & Founder & Principal, Oh Hey Coach; Soon Mee Kim, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Omnicom Public Relations Group, and Aisha Losche, Chief Diversity Officer at Draper sat down for an important panel discussion delving into the challenges faced by DEI practitioners, highlighting hidden dangers, systemic hurdles, and the often-overlooked mental health outcomes stemming from their work. The session emphasized the need for updated industry standards, leadership responsibility, and proactive measures to address and mitigate these risks.

A significant focus of the discussion was on the uncomfortable aspects of DEI work that practitioners typically endure in silence. The session provided insights into a playbook, listed below, of strategies to establish allyship and safety nets, especially in the face of online harassment and real-life threats that contribute to burnout… 

 

  • Educate other departments about your role and involve them in DEI efforts, emphasizing that DEI is a collective responsibility, not confined to one person or team. Recognize the importance of seeking support and accessing necessary resources.

 

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of the current and future requirements of your work in DEI.

 

  • Review and redefine your job responsibilities by clearly delineating what you are paid to do, what you are asked to do, and what you need to do. Embrace the assignment with confidence, holding your head high.

 

  • Assess the security measures required for your role and familiarize yourself with the existing company policies that support DEI efforts. Advocate for necessary changes or additions to enhance your support.

 

  • Recognize that mutual support is a crucial resource in DEI work. Acknowledge the potential isolation and weightiness of the role, emphasizing the need for a network of trusted individuals around you.

 

The session’s bottom line conveyed a powerful message: DEI professionals are not alone in their challenges, and the importance for organizations to prioritize the well-being of those dedicated to taking care of their people in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“People in positions of power need the audacity to reset the room.” 

ronnie dickerson

– Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, Tinuiti’s DEI Leader-in-Residence & Founder & Principal, Oh Hey Coach

 

Tinuiti Team at ADCOLOR 2023

Left to right: Jeff Batuhan Chief People Officer, Tinuiti, Devin Kates D&I Specialist | Tinuiti, Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, Tinuiti’s DEI Leader-in-Residence, Chelsey Codrington, Sr. Director, Client Strategy and Chair of Tinuiti’s Diversity Council, Ronnie D’Amico SVP, Communications | Tinuiti

Dismantling Disinformation: How to Reframe and Refocus DEI Efforts

Brands committed to inclusivity and DEI practitioners are in a perpetual struggle against misinformation surrounding equity and inclusion. During this session, industry leaders advocated for winning strategies to counteract this challenge, such as reshaping language to secure executive buy-in and investment, transforming “inclusion” from a source of inspiration into a tool for growth, and setting enduring, consistent goals.

They encouraged DEI professionals to ask the question, “What is your company doing internally to reflect the image you are showcasing externally? How are they matching?” 

“Don’t ask for permission to do it, ask for the power to do it.”

Smith

– Adrianne C. Smith, SVP and Senior Partner, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at FleishmanHillard

Raise the Volume: Why Amplifying Diverse Voices is Good for Business and Culture 

In this panel session, Scottie Beam, Joe Hadley, Kristin Jarrett, Sylvia Obell, and Jazmine Settles,  discussed the impact of sustained support from brands on diverse creators. The conversation focused on empowering underrepresented talent and implementing strategies to broaden audience engagement and profitability, all while ensuring that external voices align with internal commitments to equity and inclusion. 

Joe Hadley, Global Head of Artist Partnerships & Audience at Spotify, noted that you can’t support black, brown, or queer artists if your executive team isn’t reflective. He noted brands to be deliberate in budget placement, ensuring it goes beyond typical areas. Hadley also highlighted the importance of breaking historical patterns and showcasing diverse voices where they may not be expected.

The discussion delved into creating equity programs within brands, emphasizing the necessity of having the right leaders to empower the right people in the right rooms. Settles emphasized the importance of an “always-on” mentality, placing diverse creators at the center of campaigns and utilizing platforms to fill white spaces and close gaps.

The panel also provided “Green Flags” for working with partners, emphasizing honest and direct communication, understanding the audience, and addressing imposter syndrome. The significance of diverse agency partners was stressed, with a call to ensure diversity not only within the company but also among agency representatives, as they play a crucial role in representing brands.

“Hire people and agencies who are also very diverse – don’t just make sure your company is diverse but also your agency partners because they represent brands – you have to have like minded partners to learn from.” 

scottie beam

– Scottie Beam, Podcast Host, Media Personality, Radio

Bridge The Gap: How to Increase LGBTQ+ Engagement in Advertising & Branding 

Marketing leaders discussed GLAAD’s latest research  around the current sentiment of brands investing in campaigns related to the LGBTQ+ community. The panel, featuring Meghan Barterly from GLAAD and Ravleen Beeston from Microsoft Advertising, delved into the study’s findings, offering unique insights into the evolution (and lack thereof) of LGBTQ+ representation in advertising.

Key points from the discussion included the industry’s fear of potential boycotts for including LGBTQ+ content and that one-third of the industry reported having no budget specifically allocated to target the LGBTQ+ community. GLAAD cited specific concerns often heard from brands: featuring the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have enough value to include in campaigns compared to the risk and backlash they may face , featuring transgender and non-binary people will detract from messaging; potential risk of lawsuit was too high.

The main takeaway emphasized the need for executives to have tools and support, particularly from partners like GLAAD, to effectively engage with and represent the LGBTQ+ community. While recognizing the business growth opportunities, the panel stressed the importance of focusing on case studies to showcase the value of such engagements.

“Executives need tools to help them do the work and they need support from partners to show the work that drives value and business growth – show them the case studies.”

meghan bartley

– Meghan Bartley, Director of Agencies, Brands, and Engagement, GLAAD

“We’ve been a leader in DEI policies and resources for our employees for 30 years – companies need fundamental policies and strategies to drive systematic change.”

Beeson

– Ravleen Beeston, Regional Vice President, Microsoft Advertising, UK, Microsoft 

Conclusion

“Let’s make the pledge to harness the power of our collective, to push forward even when the road is bumpy, to double down and double up.”

– ADCOLOR 2023 

The 2023 ADCOLOR conference highlighted the enduring importance of DEI in advertising. This year, the imperative to double down and double up on DEI conversations is more vital than ever, emphasizing that DEI is not a passing trend but a critical part of our industry. The call is clear—to come together, renew our commitment, and engage in conversations that lead to substantial investments in organizations and brands to drive fundamental changes for a more inclusive and equitable future.

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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