Today we share the perspectives of three leaders in the event industry whose passion for diversity shines in the work they do every day. These are their stories, as told to The Vendry.
This award-winning experiential marketing agency created a diversity practice focused on LGBTQ+, African American, Asian American and Latinx/Hispanic markets to encourage culturally relevant conversations and work towards implementing social change.
We spoke with Principal and Creative Director Anthony Larrisey:
By 2045 we will be a minority majority country. This is a fact that marketers need to incorporate into their marketing practices and how they engage consumers. For the most part, marketers aren’t putting forth people who look like their consumers and they are not consistently using language that is relevant to their consumers.
Three years ago we launched a diversity and inclusion practice, an internal group that works on a variety of diversity initiatives that we can offer clients. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we reference a list of three essentials: 1) Assemble the right team; 2) Commit for the long haul; and 3) Speak in relevant terms. If these three are achieved, then so is authentic representation and inclusion.
The right team begins at home. The Industria team is comprised of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, that is representative of the clients we serve. We believe the key to a successful campaign is having the right voice at the table.
"Brands that make sustained commitments to diversity are positioned for success — and longevity, authentic connection, believability and acceptance."
Second, commit and do it right. Listen, hear, empathize, be forward thinking, and commit for the long haul. Brands that make sustained commitments to diversity are positioned for success — and longevity, authentic connection, believability and acceptance.
Third, everything we do speaks to relevance. Make sure everyone is acknowledged and feels respected. For example, as a gay man, I want to feel that the brand is continually connected to me, rather than only through a vehicle like Pride.
The FX Networks’ American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Telling the untold stories of a historically silenced and marginalized community
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, by FX Networks tells the story of the killing of Versace and importantly highlights the victims who came before him. These victims were mostly gay men in Miami forced to hide their identities and exist on the fringes of society. The show is a story of homophobia and the queer individual’s place in society, and it compassionately tackles issues of social injustice. Versace’s killer had been on a killing spree before he murdered his high-profile victim, but the cops failed to share information with the gay community. The series shined a big light on these crucial issues, and shifted the conversation around an already famous story.
For this activation, FX Networks and Industria Creative created a series of screenings in American cities. We brought in 200 influencers from the queer community, allies of the gay community, and others who had something unique to contribute to the conversation. Each screening started with live opera and ended with a party. The after-party became a forum for people to discuss what they had just seen and share their own stories with one another and with their larger social audiences. The conversations that came out of those screening events contributed in a big way to what Ryan Murphy was hoping to achieve with the series.
HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Bringing light to a major contribution
We were hired to work on activations for HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on the book by Rebbeca Skloot and starring Oprah Winfrey. The subject of the story was a poor, uneducated African American woman whose cells were extracted without her consent or knowledge to be used for the development of vaccines and many other medical advancements. Unbeknownst to her and her family, Henrietta Lacks became the mother of modern medicine. The story follows her grown daughter retracing her mother’s steps to find out exactly what transpired. The story touches on several issues including bioethics, women’s rights and human rights.
"A common question I get is, 'How do I inject the idea of diversity and inclusion into my company?' I always reply, 'Take the bull by the horns and start the movement yourself.'"
We asked ourselves, how could we educate and publicize the show while remaining respectful to the delicate subject matter? The answer: create a collective. The HeLa Project brought together African Americans artists and other talented people, including poet Saul Williams and portrait painter Kadir Nelson. Nelson created the portrait of Henrietta Lacks that gave face to the campaign and became the iconography of The HeLa Project. This traveling art exhibition started in Baltimore and hit a number of stops along the way, including the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta and culminated with a showing at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. We hosted a screening and afterparty with Oprah and the other cast members and 20 members of the Lacks family attended. The National Portrait Gallery now hosts the portrait as part of the permanent collection. In a small way we helped rewrite history, by telling her story and furthering understanding of how much all of us have benefited from Lacks’s contribution.
A common question I get is, “How do I inject the idea of diversity and inclusion into my company?” I always reply, “Take the bull by the horns and start the movement yourself.” Sometimes your best internal ally is someone who doesn’t look like you. Pair up, start on a grassroots level and then bring your ideas to leadership.
As I said, by 2045 we will be minority-majority in the U.S.. Not only is inclusion the right thing to do, but it is also something that makes sense from a business standpoint. Speak to your current and future consumers. Promoting inclusions with your partners is good for the brand.
—Anthony Larrisey, Principle and Creative Director, Industria Creative
This brand experience agency works with some of the world’s most iconic brands including Nike, Facebook, Apple, JPMorgan Chase, and more. The believe that increasing diversity of people and thinking is essential to their success.
We spoke with Marketing Coordinator Dylan Foster:
At OBE we are focused on strengthening our internal processes to ensure that we continue to increase diversity of people and thoughts. The “DIG,” or Diversity and Inclusion Group, hosts an open meeting each week where we focus on education and planning, our internal workplace and our external outreach. Topics include: creating a more welcoming workplace, making sure opportunities are offered to all individuals, continuing to build relationships with diverse partners and vendors, and working with clients who value diversity. Our DIG meetings are mini workshops that might include listening to a 30 minute podcast followed by a 30 minute discussion on how we can implement new initiatives.
"We have seen an increase in our clients’ desire to work with diverse vendors."
Our efforts have paid off. We have seen an increase in our clients’ desire to work with diverse vendors. Our vast database of vendors allows us to execute on these requests and we continue to build out our networks and form new relationships.
Marketing small and minority owned businesses
One of our clients, Facebook, has become a leader on the diversity front. Facebook Community Boost is a 30 market community-driven event series providing social media and digital ad training to small business owners and entrepreneurs. The series is running in 30 markets across the U.S.. Facebook also wanted to improve their Supplier Diversity Program to help diversely-owned companies use Facebook to grow their businesses. We set up a supplier database to foster an inclusive procurement process and it worked. Of the 312 vendors captured in this database, over 50% were businesses owned by women, veterans, LGBTQ, racial minorities, and so on.
Breaking down barriers to financial security
Currency Conversation is an initiative to empower black women across the US to reach their financial goals. As a group, African American women face more obstacles to financial security than any other group in America. We traveled to Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Oakland, Washington DC, and New Orleans. At each stop, we connected participants with top financial experts. Panels and workshops provided tips and strategies to help women save money and invest. We provided free digital tools and workbooks and encouraged participants to make a pledge on the Currency Conversation website about their future savings. 12,000 women did so.
Empowering girls through sports
Working with Nike, our client of some 20 years, OBE recently helped launch Women Coach LA, a city-wide initiative to increase girls’ participation in sports. Girls drop off sports teams at twice the rate of boys, in part because their coaches are largely men. We partnered with Nike to host the Nike Legacy Summit that brought together 500 women and provided them tools and training to become role models and coaches. Our speakers’ workshops and activities focused on training women to mentor and empower the girls of the next generation.
— Dylan Foster, Marketing Coordinator, On Board Experiential
This national events staffing agency is active in 30 states and works alongside notable clients like Louis Vuitton, WeWork, and MKG, to staff high profile events including Art Basel and Coachella.
We spoke with Founder Martin Solorzano:
I am Latino and gay. I have found in recent years that employers and companies are pushing for inclusion, and want diversity among their vendors and suppliers. Companies have more awareness of the benefits of a wide range of perspectives and feel more responsibility to be actively inclusive. And they have seen the fresh and innovative ideas that diverse people and businesses bring to events. More than ever before, clients want to work with STAFFED INC. because of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, which stems from my roots as well.
Recruiting from the LGBTQ Community
Creating job opportunities where once there weren’t many
My latest diversity initiative started with something seemingly small. I was at an LGBTQ career fair and had an epiphany. The fair had great turnout and everywhere I looked I saw beautiful young people, many of whom who were transgender, genderqueer, gender nonbinary and gender nonconforming. These were bright young people who in today’s world could own their individuality and seize career opportunities that may have been shut off to them in the past. I saw an untapped talent tool and decided to make it my focus to offer individuals from this group opportunities at STAFFED INC. I am now actively partnering with local LGBTQ and transgender, gender queer, gender nonbinary and gender nonconforming communities and hiring them. I want people from all walks of life involved with every event.
A focus on diversity is something that sets us apart from our clients. It also creates opportunity where it often didn’t exist before. Some of our hires never thought they could work with luxury-brand fashion shows and other high-end events.
"My advice is simple: Practice what you preach. If you have an idea, bring it to the table and start the conversation with the people who make decisions at your company."
One of our company values is fulfillment. To become a purpose-driven business providing work opportunities with some of the biggest brands in the world creates a sense of fulfillment for me and for the team.
My advice is simple: Practice what you preach. If you have an idea, bring it to the table and start the conversation with the people who make decisions at your company. Come up with a strategy that can bring to life those first small changes.
— Martin Solorzano, Founder, STAFFED INC.