Introduction: The 4A’s is dedicated to supporting agencies and creative companies through leadership and community for our industry. We’re passionate supporters of the work small agencies do across America and the role of the Small Agency Planner Parley in helping strategists get fueled on creativity, commerce and culture, all moving strategy and the industry forward. For more information on the many benefits of being a 4A’s member, try aaaa.org to find out how our industry authority can be there for you, and, now, the Planner Parley.
Welcome to Planner Parley, a show where we come together under a flag of truce to talk about small agency planning. This week, our guests unwrap the layers of diversity and strategy. They lay out the steps to a mentorship mentality, how to get things down to a human level, and the best way to avoid pitfalls along the way. Join our guests Mollie Rosen, executive vice president of member engagement and development, and Alecia Page, manager of the MAIP Fellowship from the 4A’s in New York, New York, and, of course, John Roberts, CSO of Truth Collective in Rochester, New York, as they teach us how to attract and keep diverse talent and what it means for small agencies.
Pull up a chair and listen in.
John Roberts: Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Mollie Rosen and Alecia Page. Thank you for coming on. How about we have both of you give us the one-minute explanation of your role in the 4A’s and one wish you have for 2020?
Mollie Rosen: If I think about what my role at the 4A’s is, I think about the equivalent at an agency as being the head of client services, so, really, I’m here to make sure that our members are being well-taken care of, that we are bringing the resources that are meeting the needs that they have and that those are changing to meet the ever changing needs that our members have, helping them to stay connected, providing guidance, and looking constantly at how we can evolve and improve not only the member experience, but also what kind of value we can bring to our members as well.
John Roberts: Excellent, Mollie, so if you had one wish for 2020?
Mollie Rosen: My wish for 2020 is that all members are so engaged with us that we are just overrun with member requests, and nothing could make us happier than to know that our members are utilizing us to the fullest to advance their businesses on behalf of their people and on behalf of their clients.
John Roberts: Excellent, and this pod is going to help start that flow. How about you, Alecia?
Alecia Page: My name is Alecia Page, and I manage the MAIP Fellowship under the 4A’s Foundation, so I look at my role as basically facing two audiences. Number one, we’re here to recruit students, diverse students, into the advertising industry and connect really bright people with really great opportunities, and then, on the other side of the coin, we are also agency-facing, so our job is not only to provide really capable candidates to the agencies, but to make sure that the agencies are safe, inclusive places for our diverse students to land, and my wish for 2020 is to really see an increase in genuine and deep commitment to diversity and inclusion beyond the surface level.
Mollie Rosen: She was just mentioning that, so MAIP stands for the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, which has been in place for… going on over 46 years, 47 years now, so it’s one of the best programs of its kind delivering fantastic talent to the industry, which we consistently hear is one of the biggest needs that it has.
John Roberts: Excellent, a perfect segue in, because today is really picking up on one of those things that we know from all of the work we’ve done in other parleys and discussions at StratFest, what matters to strategists about how do we find and nurture talent, so let me ask you both. Do you feel that the talent challenge has changed in the last couple of years?
Mollie Rosen: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s just we’re continuing to see an intensification of competition for great talent. Back when, many, many moons ago that I got into the business, you had a lot of people trying to come in because we were the cool industry. There wasn’t a lot of other interesting areas where you could bring a creative bent to a professional organization. Nowadays, we’re competing with, obviously, the Googles, the Facebooks, Amazons, et cetera, the startups of the world, there’s so many agencies out there, and also from a client side perspective, so I think there’s a lot more challenge out there in competition for getting great talent and attracting them to our industry, which is a key focus for us at the 4A’s.
John Roberts: Alecia, when you think about MAIP, and, as Mollie was saying, it’s been in existence for nearly 50 years, do you see that the challenge, particularly when you think about multicultural diversity, has that changed over the last couple of years and, if so, how?
Alecia Page: Yeah, I would say that there are a couple of ways in which the challenge has changed. Number one, I look at education as an opportunity, but also as a gatekeeper for who is able to get into industry, so, whenever I think about the advertising industry and I think about the way that the diversity challenge is posed, I see that, long before a student ever makes it to college, they’ve already experienced a lot of adversity and diversity barriers that may prevent them from being able to move on, to go to college, to graduate and to enter into the advertising field in which a bachelor’s is often considered a minimum qualification, so I think that ensuring that education is accessible and consistent and that there are strong support systems has become even more critical over the course of the last 40 years especially with the sharply rising cost of higher education.
Alecia Page: In addition to that, I would also say that the layers of diversity have become a lot more clear. Now, I think about diversity less as a problem of just racial discrimination, but there are layers. This is an intersectional problem, so, now, whenever we think about diversity, we don’t just think about race, we think about sexual orientation, we think about faith, we think about gender and other types of discrimination that people might experience whenever they’re entering into the workforce, so our diversity and inclusion strategies have had to get a little bit broader and a little bit deeper to ensure that every person has equitable access to opportunity.
John Roberts: Excellent, and thinking that through and carrying on that thought, Alecia, when we think about the notion of our podcast, so thinking about how can strategists, how can we get better at what we do? What have you found up as some entry-level discussions to strategists in particular?
Alecia Page: That’s a really great question. It’s funny because talking to MAIPers who are focusing in strategy and trying to get into that field, one of the most frequent bits of feedback that I get is that they feel like there aren’t any entry-level opportunities. They feel like, whenever they put in an application, they get a chuckle and a nod and a, “Come back in a few years when you’ve got some seasoning under your belt,” so I would say, whenever you’re a professional who’s already in strategy and you’re thinking about ways to help entry-level talent, that mentoring and helping them find ways to just get their foot in the door could be a really huge way to make an impact on the diversity within the field.
John Roberts: It’s a really big problem because we also think about, fundamentally, the role of the strategist, how can you represent the voice of customer, and if we’re not representative of the customers themselves, it always means that there’s this notion of implicit bias, which is the lack of understanding, so, having found, Alecia, that voice, how can you help small agencies with that entry-level gateway? Can you?
Alecia Page: Definitely, so I would say that the 4A’s Foundation is uniquely positioned to support small agencies whenever they’re seeking out diverse talent because we have contacts with universities across the United States, including over a hundred historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions, so we’re already actively recruiting, screening and interviewing candidates that are generally prepared to start working in an agency within six months of completing their fellowship, so we’ve got the talent, and many of them are picking strategy as their first or second discipline, and they are hungry for jobs, they are excited, they have a lot of great experience under their belt before they even arrive at the agency application stage, but the real key is just making sure that, whenever the resume comes through, they’re seen, they’re taken seriously and that there aren’t other factors that hold them back.
Alecia Page: I mean, I know that we’re all pretty aware of some of the most frequently discussed biases. For instance, whenever a person reviews a resume, studies have shown that, if the name sounds like it might be a person of a different ethnicity, then the person who’s reading it is less likely to pass it forward for an interview, so, just having awareness of those kind of biases in the way that they exist and being proactive about bringing candidates in who are at the entry level to be interviewed and to just get a shot is a really great way that I think that we can… the MAIP team can support small agencies, and the agencies can also support us in making sure our talent moves on and gets in the industry and stays in.
Mollie Rosen: One other thing I’d just throw in there, John, just knowing a lot of the conversation we have with the strategy committee at the 4A’s, which you all know, is because of the challenge of gentrification of talent and some of the challenges of, as Alecia was saying, people wanting folks who already have experience, the MAIP Program obviously gives them a lot of experience. They’re well-trained in the internships. Obviously, we give them some real-life experience, but there’s also… Strategy in particular is a focus area for our professional and organizational development folks, so we have a lot of great training that can help to accelerate the growth of those people so that they go from maybe being entry level to a much more seasoned young person within an organization at a much quicker rate so that they can operate at a higher level for their team.
John Roberts: That’s a really good point, Mollie. I think, from the conversations I’ve had with both of you, just from our perspective as a small agency, some of the barriers, quite frankly, of how do we both find and nurture talent and also think about being more diverse and representative of the true population, the multicultural aspect and others, the other layer, as you were talking about, Alecia, is we pick up the phone. We literally… or shoot you both an email and say, “Hey. We have intention, and we need some guidance on what to do,” so people can start that simply, right?
Mollie Rosen: Absolutely. Yeah. We’re a phone call, an email, a smoke signal, a carrier pigeon away, whatever your preferred method of communication is.
Alecia Page: If we don’t have the answer, we’re absolutely willing to reach out to other people that we work with who may be able to add some support.
John Roberts: Apart from not reaching out, what would be the biggest barriers you’ve encountered from small agencies?
Mollie Rosen: I think the main part is, oftentimes, the relationship is held at the very senior level and it’s not well-deployed throughout the organization so that people who are doing the day-to-day work are aware that they are members and, even if they are, that they’re aware of the amount of resource that’s here, the fact that anybody in the organization can reach out to us. I mean, I certainly experienced that when I was still agency side of not really understanding what was there, much less that it was available to me as an assistant AE coming up to being a global account director, whatever. At every level, everybody within the organization has access, and we’re going to be excited that you called and reached out for whatever we can help you with.
John Roberts: Yeah, and, Mollie, that reminds me of an earlier podcast. We had conversation with Yusuf Chuku and Beth Egan, and we were talking about the distinction between finding talent and nurturing talent.
Mollie Rosen: Definitely, I mean, and those are two really big things, and I think that’s another thing. Going back to the… and we can help with the finding, but knowing that, particularly the generation coming up now, they want to be invested and they want to know that there are resources and tools that are going to help them to accelerate their careers, that they have a career path, and those are all things that we can help with, from job descriptions to career development, to training, to just giving them the tools to do their job better or to be smarter and have an edge over somebody else that they might be working with.
Mollie Rosen: We can help to provide a lot of those things in addition to just best practices around incentives for employees, oftentimes, non-monetary incentives, so I think the thing that I always find interesting having come to the 4A’s now is just, whatever the problem is, there’s probably a hundred different ways we can skin that cat to get you help and different ways that we can approach it, so a lot of holistic, I think, solutions to what oftentimes feel like challenges that you alone maybe are facing within your agency when, in fact, you’re not alone by any means.
John Roberts: On the other podcast we did with Yusuf and Beth, we had a long conversation about there’s the recent work study that showed that strategists in particular are… Many of them are looking to leave agency life, going consultancy bound or client side. When you think of junior talent, let’s start there, okay, so fresh coming in to the industry, what choice are they making? If it’s not into the creative industry that we have, where else are they going?
Alecia Page: We see, number one, students heading into the tech industry, your Googles, your Facebooks, your Spotifys, and we get mixed reports on what that’s about. Sometimes, it’s about burnout culture that exists in advertising and maybe there’s not enough work-life balance available there. Oftentimes, especially for the early-level talent, it can be about salaries and the offer levels that they’re receiving and having to make the best financial decisions for themselves.
Mollie Rosen: I think what oftentimes is interesting though is we do sometimes see this big boomerang effect where they go expecting to have a culture and work environment that is equally creative to the one that they just left, not recognizing that, despite what the product might be from some of those companies, they’re essentially engineering and tech companies, which is not necessarily the same thing as a creative company, and so we do see a lot come back because the thing that got them jazzed about our industry in the first place is not something that’s necessarily celebrated in those organizations, but it certainly is a serious challenge that we have, and there’s a lot of stuff that agencies need to rethink particularly as it comes to compensation to be competitive.
John Roberts: Yeah, and, Alecia, you were talking earlier about some of the challenges of the expectation of a bachelor’s or an honors degree as an entry level. Part of the conversations we’ve had in the past is about finding particularly, again, I’m thinking about my focus on strategists or planners, finding people from unconventional skill sets or backgrounds, Beth Egan, for example, looks… from Syracuse, Newhouse. She loves looking for musicians because of the talent and the mindset they have. Any other tips or thoughts for agency planners if we’re thinking about talent?
Alecia Page: Absolutely, so the 4A’s Foundation also supports two high schools that are advertising-specific campuses where the students starting at their freshman year of high school are already taking classes in advertising and strategy and marketing, all sorts of stuff, and one of them actually also offers a companion associate’s degree before the student graduates, so I think that there are a lot of positions that are available that currently list a requirement of a bachelor’s degree where, if we’re being completely honest, you could bring in a person with a high school diploma or with an associate’s and provide them with the context for operating in an advertising agency and maybe even a little bit of the hard skills, and continue to develop that talent in-house using learning and development resources that are available either at the agency or through the 4A’s as an alternative because, again, that degree can be a huge gatekeeper.
Alecia Page: I understand the value of an education. I was fortunate enough to get one myself, but I also know on the other end how many opportunities I had to turn down just based on how much I had to pay back in student loans. I couldn’t make it work, so I think that there are ways that we can start thinking about education and apprenticeship that could open up opportunities for a lot more people especially from diverse backgrounds.
John Roberts: It’s a great way. I love what you were just saying there, Alecia, about starting to think differently about what employment actually means not just in terms of a recruit, but how we structure and offer that. We recently, Alecia, you helped counsel us at Truth when we started creating our own local scholars fund of using city schools connected to RIT, because we have a fantastic [inaudible 00:16:42] here, and the intention was how do we build more than just funding the student, but can we provide mentorship, so actual real-life human contact and counsel all the way through? Are there any other tips, Alecia and Mollie, when you think of, again, as small agency planners, what we can be doing more, whether it’s within the 4A’s or, quite frankly, just starting to think about local contacts?
Alecia Page: I, personally, I’m a first-generation high school and college graduate, so, whenever I think about the opportunities that could have been available if I had just been aware, it absolutely blows my mind, so I think that, if you’re a small advertising agency and you’re out in a region where maybe you have a little bit difficult… a little bit bigger challenge recruiting talent, especially diverse talent, one of the first things that you can do is take a grassroots approach.
Alecia Page: Start looking at the high schools and colleges that are in the arena, frankly, just like you guys just did in reaching out to a local university to establish some type of a program, and I would say it doesn’t necessarily have to be about financial resources because, at the end of the day, if you can connect a student and let that student know, hey, we in you and we see your value and you could actually be really successful and very happy if you entered into this industry, that can change the entire path that they pursue for the rest of their career, and you could make the difference between a student who graduates from high school and feels lost and feel like they don’t have an opportunity and turn that person into a student who graduates from high school and feels like they have a purpose and a calling and a safe place to land whenever they wrap up whatever their next steps are.
John Roberts: I’m chuckling, Alecia. It’s a really good point because I think some of the things, quite frankly, that inhibited us in our early start would be we felt like we needed to have a perfectly structured plan, and we were counseled a couple of times by people who are way smarter than us, saying, “You know what, no one actually knows how our business works.” My father, bless him, doesn’t, but nor does a 16-year-old or a 14- year-old. They don’t actually know what we do, and so just coming to share some of that is a really easy way just to talk about what we love about our business. Right?
Mollie Rosen: Definitely. I think, so many times, going… so I speak to a number of business schools on… every semester to talk about marketing communications as a path, and I think it’s always interesting to me, regardless of whether or not they actually have like an advertising or a communications school, there’s always 10 kids who come up afterwards. They realized that they have identified with what happens at an agency. They make that classic connection of, “Oh, my gosh, I have a creative side that I thought I couldn’t nurture while still being in a professional environment,” and, suddenly, they hear about advertising and marketing communications and agency life as an opportunity, and you can just see that light bulb go off in their head of like, “I don’t have to give up one passion for another.”
Mollie Rosen: I think the more we get our people out there talking to the schools, helping them to paint the picture of what this industry can be and also helping them to really understand it’s not the madmen days in terms of what the rules are, I mean we need folks who have medical degrees, we need folks with data analytics to be the background, the creative technologies, I mean the number of roles that are in agencies these days versus where they’ve been, and so many of these people are going for a degree they have no idea, in the information and technology area of the campus that this is a… that we are a career path for them, so the more we can help to break down the silos that exist within educational institutions and so that the advertising can be a place for them, I think the better off the whole industry will be.
John Roberts: As we think about the notion of planners, we understand that we always start by we need to find and natural talent. Can we talk a little bit more about the role of leadership, because one of the things that’s come through loud and clear with many of the planners I talked to is there’s a big difference between being a planner and being a planner or strategist that manages other strategists, so what have you guys seen that can help us all listening in of how can we can become better leaders?
Mollie Rosen: I think it’s hard to say, and, it’s interesting, our business is one of the few where we’ve got a number of very important disciplines where the value in the work that you do has nothing to do with mentoring, managing, leading people. It’s a creative department strategy, and then, suddenly, you hit a level where, suddenly, you’re supposed to not be in the work, but you’re supposed to be guiding the work and you’re supposed to be mentoring and leading others and setting broader visions for how things can be done, and that’s a pretty big transition. It’s an area that we’re looking to do some training in.
Mollie Rosen: To be honest, it was focusing on the creative, but it probably could also have some implications for other disciplines like strategy where that leap is required, and I think the other thing that you see a lot of folks talking on our… on the committee, John, I’ll reference again, in terms of reverse mentorship programs, in terms of reading groups, part of it is also just changing the style and understanding of how so many folks that are in those senior leadership positions are “classically trained planners,” and yet now there’s so many different flavors of planning. There’s so many different ways of approaching it.
Mollie Rosen: It’s been interesting to see how the leaders are trying to cope with that and integrate what’s best about the way they’re working with what they’ve known to be the discipline all along, and I think we talked at one point about having a conversation around, “Great. Thank you so much. That was helpful. Here’s what you don’t understand,” to the senior folks about how the more junior folks coming into the industry are approaching planning and finding useful, so I think, part of it just really goes back to a lot of things we’ve talked about around mentorship, about providing the leadership and understanding and helping people to. It’s always the planners who are in the best position to do it.
Mollie Rosen: If you think about folks who understand people, understand their motivations, understand what’s going to drive them, what are going to be obstacles and barriers for adoption, that’s the planning job, so I think, if they can apply the skills that they bring forward on their client’s business every day and apply that to the people that they have, I think they’ll find that they’re actually quite naturally suited for the task.
John Roberts: Great point. I’m thinking of past conversations where we all know that the world of strategy is changing dramatically partly because of the world that we live in, but also in terms of how we need to have different types of people delivering on a strategy. I think BBH talked about in terms of casting, casting the right strategies for the client assignment, so let me ask about clients. How much do they care? When we think about building a richer, more multicultural and diverse field of planners and strategists, how much do you feel that clients actually overtly care?
Alecia Page: I think that clients, those who maybe not be as focused right now, are going to be forced to care as Generation Z becomes more of an active consumer and participant in the economy, because this entire generation is all about social impact and they won’t accept anything less, so I’ve read some LinkedIn articles here and there about clients walking because a team of homogenous people came in to pitch a product that was supposed to reach an audience that looked completely different than them. We’re going to see that continuing to become the norm, and that’s why agencies need to be smart and savvy now and ensure that the team that they’re employing is reflective of the population that they’re serving.
John Roberts: It’s a great, Alecia. When we think about it, fundamentally, it feels like the role of the strategist is to find a way to connect our brand to culture in a manner that makes the brand relevant, and yet if we don’t really understand that culture or not reflective of it ourselves, that’s a tough ask. It’s a tougher task. It doesn’t mean that we can’t, but it’s much, much harder to get to or tough to get to.
Mollie Rosen: We all know from many highly publicized examples that when you don’t have the population at the table to comment, or even if they’re at the table, but not empowered or given enough support where they feel like they could have a voice, that’s when disastrous missteps happen with brands, that in today’s social media age the littlest thing can be amplified before you’ve even blinked, so the risk to brands I think has never been greater and, therefore, to Alecia’s point, the need and the desire by brands to make sure that they’ve got appropriately reflective teams working on their business is going to be all the more important, and we’re seeing that in pitches in terms of the requirements that clients are making, of teams to show that diversity of thought and representation.
John Roberts: Are you seeing that coming through now in terms of instructions or expectations within a pitch itself
Mollie Rosen: Sure. There’s been a number of examples. I’m, of course, blanking out right now. I believe General Mills had one when Michael Fanuele was the head of creative there. I think he was one of the first to mandate that as a part of the pitch process, and we’ve certainly seen others follow suit, and, anecdotally, we’ve also seen examples where clients have looked for agencies to have the diversity that they themselves lack, so it’s playing out in a number of different ways, but, whatever the motivations, I think the reality is it needs to happen, and we’ll only all do better when that becomes more of a reality.
John Roberts: For sure, and, again, it keeps coming back in my mind to… This is a pod for strategists by strategists, and everything you’re talking about, about richer, more diverse talent base, fundamentally, you’ve got to make the role of the strategy better in terms of having the people within, so, when I think about… I talked earlier about some of the mistakes that we’ve made in the past certainly about wanting to be… feel as though we had a 100% right answer. What are other mistakes you feel that you’ve experienced from agencies that we need to not make or need to get across, overcome?
Mollie Rosen: I’ll say a couple of things, and they’ll be a little bit broad. I think one is what you stated, which is feeling like, yeah, to have it perfect versus just feeling like you need to get started and taking baby steps. I think the other… and, in part, why people feel like they need to get it perfect is because they also oftentimes feel the need to go from zero to 60 versus taking those baby steps and learning along the way, so I think one of my… One of the things I think, and it applies to probably everything that’s happening in our industry, is calibrate, calibrate, calibrate, iterate, iterate, iterate, and try it again. That’s just going to be the nature of the beast moving forward.
Alecia Page: I would say what comes to mind for me is putting the onus on diverse candidates to be the diversity in the room and to create the strategy and to fix the problems. I recognize that there are people in the advertising industry who didn’t necessarily major in diversity or in inclusion or in HR, but I think that we all have a responsibility to acknowledge the strain that it creates whenever you hire diverse talent without preparing the environment accordingly, and then those people have to deal with microaggressions every single day, and, on top of that, often teams will look to them to course-correct or to let their uppers know or to let the people around them know when offense has been made. I think that that’s something that every industry, not just advertising, definitely needs to work on.
John Roberts: That’s really, really interesting, Alecia, because I think about this as… Sometimes, we’re inhibited by a fear of not wanting to make a mistake or not wanting to offend someone, so we actually don’t do anything. How do we get started? How do we improve on where we are today?
Alecia Page: That’s going to vary, depending on where the agency is at. I think the first step in creating a meaningful strategy is always finding out where you stand, so, if you’re at a smaller agency and you know that one of your biggest challenges is that your staff is not diverse at all, go ahead and set your target, set your goal, and identify when you’re going to accomplish that by, but, in the meantime, as you’re doing the searching, the hiring, the recruiting, have those conversations internally about, “Okay, this is what discrimination looks like in the modern workforce. This is how overt or subvert racism can occur in a certain context. This is what you do whenever you as a person with privilege observe someone experiencing a microaggression,” and these are healthy ways that we can facilitate these conversations without anyone feeling like they’re overstepping, but also without anyone feeling like they’re not stepping up at all.
John Roberts: They can always reach out to you as well when they need help and the counsel in these conversations.
Alecia Page: Yeah, and the 4A’s has actually put together a really phenomenal program called the WEC Program. That stands for Workplace Enlightenment Certification, and this is actually generally targeted for C-suite level leaders, but it can also be accessible to other people who are in the group, and this is specifically to help agencies that are saying, “Okay, we recognize maybe we have a diversity problem,” or, “We want to just be more proactive and do better in this arena,” so that they can get access to additional resources for putting together a really great plan and making sure they follow through on it.
Mollie Rosen: The last thing I would add on to that is, obviously, the MAIP Program exists to deliver trained, selected, scrutinized and insanely talented, diverse talent directly to our member agencies, organizations and then to help with some of the challenges that Alecia was talking about in terms of creating a supportive, nurturing environment. A, we’ve got the training, but we also in the past few years have launched the MAIP Alumni Association, and we do a summit for that, for those alumni every year because, oftentimes, despite the best of intentions within agencies, the level of support that they need just isn’t there, and that’s why we see the trend is oftentimes maybe it’s not so hard to find diverse talent, but it’s hard to keep at it after that five-year level, and so the summit is a way in which they can come together for both the support, as well as the career development opportunities and community that they need to feel like they’ve got the support even if it’s not happening day to day within their agency experience, and so a number of programs to help the agencies regardless of what level and where they are on their journey, getting to a more diverse… diverse employees, as well as creating a more safe and supportive and equitable environment for them to thrive in.
John Roberts: We’re coming up to our final question. I think, guys, this has been a really helpful reminder for me as we, personally, myself and my company are knee-deep in figuring out solutions, and we’ve come a long way of that clumsy learning I’ll talk about… I talked about earlier of feeling we had to be perfect. Realizing we weren’t inhibited us to begin with. When you think about the future in 2020 for small agencies, Mollie, you talked earlier about your wish for agencies to become more involved, members to get more involved with the 4A’s, and, Alecia, you talked about… eloquently about having a genuine and deep relationship and understanding about the role of diversity and how it helps nurture our talent. Do have you any last closing tips or words of encouragement for people listening in?
Alecia Page: Absolutely, I think, at the end of the day, whenever we think about this problem of diversity and inclusion in the industry, it can feel big and daunting and overwhelming, and it can feel like something that an individual can’t possibly make an impact on because it’s such a large system. I think that the healthiest way to make a positive impact is to just bring it down to a personal level and recognize that every candidate that you’re interviewing, every person on your team, every client that you’re working with, every single one of us are just humans, so, whenever we interact with people, it can sound like such a simple notion, but treat every single person like a human in the way that you would want to be treated. Connect with them on a meaningful level. We try to shut off the fear of saying or doing something wrong, but just being conscious and intentional in your communication and in your behavior, and you’ll find that it’s really easy to attract and to retain diverse talent whenever you start treating people like humans consistently.
John Roberts: Thanks, Alecia. How about you, Mollie?
Alecia Page: Taking a much broader view just in terms of how the 4A’s overall can help our smaller agency members, I think in many ways a lot of our resources are ideally suited for them from the standpoint of we can really act as an agency accelerator in a few different ways. One, we bring together the collective best practices and knowledge of our industry and so, whereas many times agencies feel like they’re alone in the problems that they’re facing, if they reach out to us, they can find out not only are they not alone, but we can share with them the successes and what has worked so they can skip the pitfalls, or at least make them aware of what some of the challenges are, so that as they think about what’s right for them, they can try and avoid them.
Alecia Page: The other aspects of it include the fact that we have subject-matter experts across all the different disciplines within agencies and, therefore, if you need the point of view of a CFO or if you need somebody who’s an expert in agency operations, HR, et cetera, we can act as a part of your team, and I think the agencies that get the most out of us think that we are a member of their team and a resource across any type of question that they have.
Alecia Page: In other cases, we’re almost like an extra set of hands from a research standpoint. Our secondary research specialists can stay in the agency for days, weeks in fact, if you think about just getting smart on a category for a new business pitch, and then obviously it’s hard to build a learning and development program within an agency and fund that with you having to shoulder the entire cost. 4A’s helps you to distribute that cost. You can get it for cheaper through us, and you don’t have to think about shouldering all the costs versus sharing that with other agencies, and so the list goes on and on, from Ts and Cs and all just the basics of the MSAs, but I think the key thing is you don’t have to go it alone, and you can find community and you can find the scale and the best practices of working with the 4A’s and, more importantly, the broader 4A’s member community.
John Roberts: Great summation. I think it’s pretty much a great, great way to wrap up. Alecia and Mollie, it’s been really good getting your perspective on things that really matter to a strategist about how do we create better, richer, more diverse talent and why it matters, and I love what you guys were talking about earlier about, fundamentally, that’s got to be connecting the agency life through the strategists in particular, and I’m biased as a strategist myself, but thinking about our role is to find a way to get and create fresh perspectives. That’s why it matters when I think about the role of talent moving forward.
John Roberts: We heard about how the 4A’s can help not just nurture talent, train, but also, particularly what Alecia was talking about, about actually finding resources for us, particularly thinking about the multicultural and diverse aspect.
John Roberts: Thank you, Mollie. Thank you, Alecia. Anyone listening in, there’s going to be contact details attached to this pod, so how you can reach out to either of them to help you and your agency get better in 2020 and beyond. Thank you, guys.
Alecia Page: Thank you.
Mollie Rosen: Thanks so much for having us. This was fun.