In this issue:
- Media buying agency Horizon Media has created a new position of “chief marketing and equity officer”, a role the company says is designed to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into the core of its business.
- News organizations were quick to hire for diversity-focused roles after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, but sustaining change has proven slow and challenging for many.
- Many media and marketing organizations are struggling to diversify their ranks, but well-intentioned diversity initiatives are meaningless without accountability.
- Merkle’s chief equity officer says attention to DEI across the marketing industry has lulled, and warns of DEI “industrial complex”.
Marketing meets equity at Horizon Media
Media buying agency Horizon Media has hired Latraviette D. Smith-Wilson to a newly-created executive position of “chief marketing and equity officer”, a role the company says is designed to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into the core of its business.
“There is no better way to show that DEI is a central element of our business strategy… DEI is an integral part of who we are and of our cultural make-up. It’s in our client work – it’s in our understanding of the consumers our clients are trying to reach – and it’s core to our innovation” said Bill Koenigsberg, CEO and founder of Horizon Media in a press release announcing the hire.
Horizon claims the combined role is an industry first, and it’s one that more companies in media and marketing may mimic. As DEI becomes more central to many agencies’ business models and propositions, a demonstrated focus on it may increasingly become a competitive differentiator in terms of attracting and retaining both client business and talent. Recent studies from Edelman, for example, show that a growing number of employees choose where to work based on alignment with core values.
American journalism’s “racial reckoning” has made slow progress
News organizations were quick to hire for diversity-focused roles after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, but sustaining change has proven slow and challenging for many, according to Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.
Journalists in diversity-focused editorial roles across a range of new organizations reported a recurring set of challenges, including a lack of editorial support, lack of resources, and fundamental misunderstandings of the role journalism plays in marginalized communities.
Danielle K. Brown, the Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity and Equality at the University of Minnesota, published similar findings in Columbia Journalism Review last month based on interviews with various staffers charged with overseeing diversity initiatives within newsrooms.
DEI initiatives are meaningless without accountability
Many media and marketing organizations are struggling to diversify their ranks, perhaps because of the flawed application of well-intentioned diversity policies.
DEI policies are only as good as the people responsible for carrying them out. If those people don’t fully understand what problem new processes or policies are solving, they won’t understand their role in bringing those plans to life, according to Evelyn R. Carter, a social psychologist who has conducted research on how to detect and discuss racial bias.
Carter has developed a three-part framework for driving greater accountability around DEI that includes:
- Educating people on the why, not just the how of DEI initiatives.
- Listening to feedback and iterating on policies.
- Celebrating wins, but nudging those who need it.
Merkle’s chief equity officer warns of DEI “industrial complex”
Conversation around DEI exploded across the media and marketing industries following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. But two years later, attention to DEI has lulled somewhat according to Merkle’s chief equity officer, Kirt Morris. Speaking with Digiday, Morris said a sense of fatigue has set in across the industry, which he refers to as the “DEI industrial complex.”
“There was a lot of attention, but some folks have actually moved on. As chief diversity officers, we have to lean in and say this problem hasn’t changed from 2020, even 2021. There’s still a lot more work to do and how do we lean in as organizations? The good thing is that we are seeing clients now coming to us and saying we need to see a diverse team. If we continue to tie it to the work that we’re doing for our clients, and clients are asking us to show up in that way, that will continue the actual momentum going forward,” he said.
Other notable reads:
- Twillio chief diversity, inclusion and belonging officer Lybra Clemons says companies need to go beyond DEI and think of “anti-racism” as a core part of company culture.
- A new book argues that companies must fix work environments that systematically bias against women of color. Deepa Purushothaman’s “The First, The Few, The Only” is designed to help women of color “question everything.”