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Why Diversity in the Communications Industry is Critical

Michele Lanza on Marketing Communications Today Podcast

Diversity is no longer a nice to have, but a business imperative, especially for the communications industry. Now more than ever, advertising, PR and marketing firms need to be as diverse as the consumers they want to reach. In this podcast, we will explore why diversity is critical to the industry and what agencies are doing to address the challenge.

Whitney Drake: What do you think has contributed to the lack of diversity in our industry? What, where, how have we gone wrong and how do we correct that as we move forward?

Michele Lanza: I think part of it is that diversity was seen as a separate thing versus it being really part of a business imperative. I'm going to keep coming back to that because I think it's really critical. As an industry in general, we need to do a better job of attracting people to come into the industry to really show people what's possible from a communications' perspective. It's one of the reasons why we have a high school program at Ketchum so that we can really educate people on career possibilities of being in communications. That's one thing that we're super proud of, and I know that there's a lot of other companies that are doing similar things, and I think that that's critical to growing the diversity in the industry as a whole. We also need to have more intentionality about our hiring practices. LaunchPad is an example of that. We had a fantastic fellows program, but what we were realizing, it was really the kid that had two to five internships that was getting the opportunity to get a spot at Ketchum. And we wanted it to even the playing field so what LaunchPad does is really give everybody the opportunity to show what they're capable of doing versus what they've already had the opportunity to do. It really changed who we hired, it made it so that we were hiring people that had never been in communications before, that hadn't had an internship. This need is also honestly why I created Work Wider, because there is not currently a platform that allows companies to look at all underrepresented communities in one in place. Work Wider, allows people to come in and show up in all the communities that they belong, but also allows them to be in the industry that they're working or want to join. And that's really a new way and approach to try and allow companies to hire underrepresented talent.

Whitney Drake: Can you explain more about Work Wider?

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Michele Lanza: I think that there's this whole notion of, you need to find diverse talent, and I think that we need to flip that upside down and actually create communities and places where people are engaging. What Work Wider does is, it's a full career ecosystem for all underrepresented talent on one platform. There's content and news, that is directed towards those communities, there's also a community where you can engage and get mentorship. There are jobs on there as well as company profiles that really are companies that are committed to hiring diverse talent, but also creating cultures of belonging. So that they're really committed to doing the work of diversity and inclusion, and making sure that everybody at their organization feels like they belong within the walls of the organization. Work Wider is the first platform to service all underrepresented communities in one place.

Whitney Drake: How do you network and expand your network? What are some tips and tricks to help us expand our network and ultimately expand the talent pool?

Michele Lanza: I really encourage people to follow influencers that are talking about this space, connect with people on LinkedIn and other social platforms that are outside of your normal circle. I think that what you will find is that what you're exposed to from a news perspective and just a thought process perspective, really shifts once you start opening your network to be more diverse and outside of the normal people that you follow and the normal articles that you read. I do think that this is really a critical moment for everybody to do a little bit of self-education and reflection on what their role has been in this process. Consumers are going to demand more. If you look at 70% of millennials say that they will choose one brand over another if that brand is demonstrating inclusion and diversity. I think that LGBTQ+ community, the Black community, the Hispanic community, they're using their buying power to actually support brands that are committed to this.

Whitney Drake: How do we make a lasting impression in the industry over time? Is it monthly check ins? Is it a yearly review? What are the ways that we make these programs and changes last?

Michele Lanza: It’s going to be really interesting to see. That companies that have been super vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement that's taking place right now, in two to three months, it’s going to be interesting to see how committed they are. I felt optimistic that this is a different moment in time and that people are going to continue this momentum. And for organizations, for companies really it's essential that if they leaned into this, that they can continue to lean in and continue to do the work because this isn't going to be solved in a month. It's not going to be likely solved in a year. This is going to take the commitment of senior level people involved in companies saying again, that it's a business imperative to address the diversity challenge all industries are facing and make substantive changes and continue to challenge themselves and push themselves to do the work, to actually make change. This is exactly what you need to do, but I think each organization is going to need to evaluate where they are and what they need to do to address the issue, and again, to continue to challenge their own organization to do better.


Michele Lanza

Michele Lanza leads Global Talent Acquisition for Ketchum. She has a keen interest in innovative strategies, such as the creation of LaunchPad, Ketchum’s blind selection process for entry-level talent, that was featured in Fast Company.  Michele is passionate about deploying recruiting processes that foster diversity and inclusion because she has experienced firsthand the value it creates for teams and businesses. In addition to her role at Ketchum, Michele is the founder of Work Wider, a career and recruitment social platform for all underrepresented communities.

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