Diversity Advisory Council: One Year Later

Written by: Dana Schmidt

When I was considering joining the Slice team a few years back, I was drawn to the company’s sincere commitment to its values. As a woman-owned business, diversity, equity and inclusion are prioritized in every aspect of Slice’s work. 

Still, we had blind spots that needed to be addressed. How could we ensure that all voices were heard around the decision-making table – especially when we’re not a massive agency with hundreds of employees? In early 2020, we focused on creating a model that offered a potential solution: a council of paid consultants similar to that of an editorial board, all with different backgrounds and life experiences, to help us work through these blind spots. We were only a few months into research and planning when George Floyd’s murder sparked civil unrest around the country, making this already critical concern even more urgent. 

And that urgency came across in the response we received from local leaders eager to participate in this new undertaking. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and generosity of the business leaders who signed on to our Diversity Advisory Council. We held our first meeting in October of 2020, and an ambitious tone was set. This Council was ready to push us to think bigger, to consider new perspectives, and to actively work against racism and discrimination in both the work we do for our clients, and the work we do for ourselves. 

In the year since we launched, I’ve been amazed at the work we’ve accomplished together, beginning with the content we’re producing for our clients. On ten separate occasions, the Council was brought onto client strategies to further develop messaging and creative campaigns. To help establish an inclusive tone. To weigh in on industry trends. The consultants went beyond simply flagging something that could be considered problematic, and instead proactively contributed by adding completely new perspectives and ideas and always asking the question, “What if…?”

One particular project that stands out to me is our collaboration on a Giving Tuesday campaign for Philly’s oldest homeless shelter, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. In a “normal” year, Sunday Breakfast’s holiday campaign is a massive undertaking. But during the pandemic, they needed to go above and beyond to create a safe, socially distant experience for their guests. Slice’s Diversity Advisory Council reviewed our proposed creative campaigns and pushed one particular idea even further by leveraging the “Never Have I Ever” trend on Instagram Stories. In asking followers to screenshot the prompts and donate to the Mission if they’ve ever done the actions listed on-screen (like eating cold pizza for breakfast or having an ice cream sundae before noon), we would be able to generate engagement organically and raise funds. The key here, per the Council, was to balance the “games” with meaningful stories of impact as told by diverse individuals. This would allow people to see the tangible implications of their gift and feel more connected to the mission. As for the results? We were able to generate over $46,000 attributed to digital marketing efforts alone. 

This project has stuck with me because it’s a very clear example of the Council helping us make a real difference in the lives of Philadelphians during an incredible time of need. But they also contributed to hugely impactful events and organizations that shape this great city – from The Philadelphia Flower Show to the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. Local schools, small businesses, and non-profits all benefited from the Council’s wisdom.

We’ve also turned to the Council to help us fill open positions, both on our staff and on the board of Social Media Day nonprofit. They’ve come through time and time again with fantastic recommendations and connections that have enriched our networks. And when we asked the consultants if anyone was interested in sharing their own personal thoughts on DEI in marketing, we were overwhelmed by the positive response. The generosity and dedication of this team know no bounds.

This past summer, we expanded the Council and added a dozen new members to the team so we can continue to refresh perspectives and be as inclusive as possible. With so many voices all committed to the same principles, we’ve been able to have truly inspiring conversations that go beyond “the work” for clients and start to address “the work” for ourselves. During one session this past summer, we spent nearly an hour talking about the word “diverse” and the importance of the specificity of language. For example, how do you begin the hard conversation of asking someone what they really mean when they say “diverse?” The team doesn’t always agree, and that in itself is why it’s so important that the Council exists in this model. To educate and inform, and to open new windows of thought so we can discover how to all be better advocates and allies. 

I believe that we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in the communications industry. Because words matter. And representation matters. And working with the leaders on the Council is a way for us to do something about it, and be held accountable for it. 

I am extremely grateful to those who have shared their insights, expertise, and experiences with us and our clients over the last year. And I hope that together, we can help other organizations adopt a similar model.

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