By Azlyn Jeffries, Brand Strategist, Orci
I know you’ve heard it before, but it cannot be said enough: Culture does not move without Black creativity. And because Black creativity drives culture, brands and marketers need to begin championing the Black voices doing the work.
Let’s begin by examining why it’s crucial to have Black voices in creative spaces. Innovation and creativity are deeply rooted in our identities and since the beginning of time, Black people have had to be resourceful in order to not only survive, but thrive. It’s an unexplainable ability, but I think I can speak for many Black strategists and creatives when I say that when given the time, space and resources necessary to harness our full potential, magic happens. Black magic happens.
Far too often, a Black creative or strategist will share an idea or concept that gets remixed or watered down by their counterparts or superiors, losing all the special vision it once had. This tends to happen in spaces where few Black voices are represented… In fact, the 4A’s found that only 5.8% of the ad industry is Black and only 1% hold leadership roles according to the Ad Association, but that’s an article for another day.
Sadly, we don’t always get the opportunity to be the loudest voice in the room no matter how impressive or impactful our words and work may be.
Which is why we need to take proactive steps to remedy this. As marketers, clients, stakeholders and colleagues, please take what I’m about to offer to heart. Keep it at the forefront of your minds, and act accordingly.
Start by listening. Nine times out of 10, we are the target demographic—the people you want to communicate with and seek buy in from. So, when Black strategists or Black creatives make suggestions, share insights, or offer an anecdote based on their real-life lived experience, hear us out.
Next, bring us in at the ground floor. You heard that right—don’t treat us like an after-thought or forward us an invite because it seems logical. Include us from the get-go. You can’t build a house on a foundation that’s riddled with gaps. Understanding every piece of the puzzle is essential for any creative or strategist to be successful, and we have meaningful insights (as just stated above) to share.
Remember, creative greatness takes time. It also takes space, patience and flexibility. Empower us and give us the creative breathing room and creative freedom we need to feel our way through a project and dream up something grand. Encourage us, support us and cheer us on. Knowing your colleagues not only believe in you and your skill set but have your back, makes all the difference. Trust me, I’ve had experiences both ways and I know how impactful demonstrated support can be.
Give credit where credit is due. Lifting up a talented individual will not only create a positive working environment for that person, but allow other Black creatives and strategists the opportunity to feel safe when it comes to sharing big out-of-the-box ideas. And when you dig their idea, say so.
You’ve heard of thinking 360? It’s just as important to be thinking 365. During Black History Month, brands and agencies everywhere were loudly touting their support for the Black community across social or otherwise. But you know what? There are 11 other months where Black strategists and Black creatives need to hear, see and feel how you’re championing them. So think of this as a “love letter” to my agency peeps—Don’t just “love” us one month each year, but year-round.