Episode 248

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

The Black Lives Matter movement has triggered a global conversation that has been a long time coming. Like other business owners, agency leaders are wrestling with the questions and concerns about racial equality in their agency and in our industry. How should our agencies respond internally and externally?

The demand for conversations about racial equality is louder and more urgent now than it has ever been. Employment attorney and discrimination complaint investigator Jennifer Long has a scalable, business-centric response to moving towards racial equality that will help us create consequential and sustainable change.

What can we do to take meaningful action? Should we be issuing an anti-racist statement? Or use our social media channels to post memes? How do we handle this well and respectfully while also not taking our eye off the ball and helping our agency recover from COVID and the economic downturn?

It’s critical for agencies to have their house in order before they publicly bang their drum, and Jen can help us understand how that works from a business perspective. Her recent engagements have been focused on helping organizations expand their racial consciousness and messaging around this topic.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Leaders

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How agency leaders should respond to the need for racial equality
  • How to provide your team with the right resources to educate themselves about racial equality
  • How to improve your hiring practices and align them with racial equality
  • Why implicit bias negatively influences the workplace
  • How agency owners can put together a course of action that is meaningful but also enables them to continue operating profitably
  • What you can do to take a stance on racial equality without being criticized as a hypocrite
  • Examples of companies that are dealing with this issue successfully

The Golden Nuggets:

“There is a real opportunity for companies to figure out what is unique about them and show their support for racial equality through that uniqueness.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “Now is the time to use your organization as a vehicle to create the world we all say we want.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “Racial equality doesn’t just happen. We are all participating in a system, and in order to dismantle the system, we have to acknowledge the cultural filters through which we see the world.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “After reviewing their company through a racial lens, agency leaders can identify what they want to improve on in as little as a couple of hours.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “We are a racist culture, so all of us have been programmed to see individuals in a certain type of way.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “The challenge is to move away from the status quo and actively dismantle the systems that only provide you with white job candidates.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “You’re either racist or anti-racist—there is no more neutral.” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet “If YOU the agency leader and YOU the person want to be better, it all starts at the same place. Where are you at now and where do you want to go?” -Jennifer Long Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Jennifer Long:

Resources mentioned:

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too. Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for being here. I know that you are crazy busy, especially if you are listening to this in real time. I know this is a time of great change challenge, so I appreciate you making the time to join us. I believe this is a super important episode for us to share and I’m really excited to bring it to you. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about our guest and the topic in a second. But first I want to let so this is going to air in July of 2020. I’m telling you that because I’m about to tell you about an aberration to our workshop schedule. If you’re listening to this in like 2022 just ignore this part. Because of COVID, we are for the first time going to offer both our regular AE Bootcamp our advanced and our advanced AE Bootcamp virtually in September.

Two days of learning from me live. I will be live different than our on-demand course. With me the other AEs in a zoom meeting together. We will try replicate as much as we can, the collaboration and the sharing that happens in our live workshops. We’ve done a couple of these already it’s gone really well. I believe as participants, there’s plenty still to gain. But you don’t have to travel. You don’t have to worry about wearing a mask. You can just spend two days immersing yourself in how to be a better AE. If you’re an agency owner know that the purpose of these courses is to teach your AEs, honestly, what nobody teaches them, which is what their job really is. How they serve three different masters, the client, the agency owner and their internal team.

How do they serve those masters with a high level of excellence without compromising one or the other? The advanced AE bootcamp. That’s going to be for folks with four or more years of experience. That’s going to be September 1st and second. Just the regular AE Bootcamp for folks with less than four years of agency experience, that’s going to be September 3rd and fourth. You can head over to Agency Management Institute register for those. I will send you the Zoom information once you’re registered and we’re going to hang out for two days. We’re going to talk about what I believe is probably the most critical role inside an agency. When you think about it, these are the people who control, whether or not your clients are happy. These are the people who control the profit level of your jobs.

These are the people who control what you can sell to a client for how much. These are critical people inside your shop. After the two days hanging out with me, I promise you, they’re going to show up full of ideas, full of new energy and ways to help you make keep more of the money that flows through your agency. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, under the HOW WE HELP navigation, you can find the workshop schedule, say that five times through, and register there. All right? If you have any questions, shoot me an email. Let me tell you a little bit about my guest today and our topic. There’s not an agency on the planet that is not wrestling with the consequences or the questions or the worries that come around the resurgence of the Black Lives Matters movement.

Many, many agency owners all across the world are trying to figure out, does their agency take a position? How do you express your agency’s feelings about this situation? How do you answer your employees questions about what your agency’s stance is? What’s the difference? What’s the dotted line between how you as a human being feel and how your agency should respond. A few weeks ago, many of you who get our newsletter know that I wrote an article. I talked a lot about, I think that there are two paths that are before us. I think one is mandatory and one is optional. The mandatory one is action. I think all of us need to take action. We need to look at our businesses, we need to look at our hiring practices, our promotional practices. The people that we work with, the people we work for. The messages that we put into our clients, advertising and marketing. Are we being as anti-racist as we possibly can be?

I think that I believe, this is just my opinion, all of us need to do something in response to this. Without a doubt, we should have been doing something prior to the Floyd murder and all of this renewed energy around this topic, but we’re here today. This is not about looking backwards chastising ourselves for what we didn’t do. I think it’s really about looking forward deciding what kind of an agency you want to run how you feel about racial equality and how you can bake that into everything your agency does. That to me Is the path that we all must take. Then there’s the activism path. That’s the path where some businesses are whether it’s posting things on social media or it’s everybody on the team going out to a protest or whatever it may be. That I think is more optional. When I say optional, what I mean is, I don’t know that every business in the world needs to bang a drum about this publicly, is really much more important that we make sure that we have our house in order privately.

I think the danger is when we do one without the other. When we are out there and we’re putting up the black square, or we are posting means, or we’re releasing a generic statement about how we stand with the Black Lives movement, none of which I disagree with by the way. But when we do that we don’t look at ourselves and we aren’t ready to answer the difficult questions that our employees or our clients ask, then I think we’re at risk. I think we’re at risk of being called a hypocrite, we’re at risk of being a hypocrite. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take both action jump into activism. What I’m saying is I think you have some choices on that spectrum. I wanted to invite someone to talk with us about that. They could really look at it from a business point of view. How we deal with this personally is a whole different topic for a whole different podcast. But I wanted to invite someone who could help us think about this from a business perspective.

We’re already dealing with a lot, many of us have been knocked to our knees because of COVID. Some of you are still struggling to get your billings back in order. Many of you may have laid employees off or furloughed them. Then on top of that, just when you felt like you were getting your feet under you around COVID, then we had the protests the riots and this new discussion that is very important that we need to have inside of our agencies. But I know a lot of agency owners are telling me that they feel ill-equipped and they’re not sure what the right thing to do is and how much of their own personal feelings plays into how their agency should react. I think there’s a lot of uncomfortable questions to be asked. I’m going to just jump in ask them. Let me tell you a little bit about our guests.

Jennifer Long Is today an executive coach and consultant, a trained employment attorney and a discrimination complaint investigator. Her recent engagements have been focused on helping individuals businesses expand their racial consciousness and messaging around all of this topic. As background, Jen grew up in New York interestingly attended a public high school, a Catholic school and a Quaker school prior to going to college. Attended William Smith College in New York and then attended the Howard University School of Law which is a historically black college in Washington, D.C. where she graduated in the mid-nineties. She’s a licensed attorney in both the States of New York and California and today practices in California. I was introduced to Jen by a mutual acquaintance.

We had a really amazing hour-long phone call which was supposed to be about 10 minutes long stretched very quickly to an hour. I cannot wait to introduce her to you and to have her help us unravel some of these really hard questions. So that you’re feeling more equipped to know how your agency should respond to what your employees are asking, what your clients are asking and what your heart is asking you around racial equality and the current situation with Black Lives Matter. Let’s get right to it because I’ve got a lot of questions and I know you did too. With that Jen, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for making time to help us try make some sense out of what is certainly one of the more complicated issues that we as business owners probably have ever faced.

Jennifer Long:

Well, thank you for having me.

Drew McLellan:

I think this is challenging on many levels, but one of the challenges is that agency owners are A, they’re still reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus on their business. Many of them have been knocked to their knees in terms of that. Financially they’re already struggling, they’re exhausted from the fight. Now all of a sudden they are being called upon in many times internally from themselves to take a stand on the whole Black Lives matters issue and to recognize acknowledge that we can should do this better. Business agency owners, the people listening to this podcast know that they have a role to play in this movement of change. Many of them personally have been doing protests doing all kinds of made donations. I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to figure out how do I respond to this as an individual?

How do I, Drew, respond to this? Then how do I Drew, the business owner, the agency owner respond to this in a way that’s appropriate for my business and for my clients, my employees. Talk to me from your perspective, how should we begin to approach this? I don’t think anybody listening doesn’t want to be better and to eradicate the racial divide that we have, not only in our country, because we have listeners all over the world. We certainly are seeing protests happening all over the world. I know this is not just a US problem. How should we begin to approach thinking about how our business should participate in this movement of change?

Jennifer Long:

That’s a great question. I think there’s a real alignment. If we’re working with the assumption that you, Drew, the individual and the business are both wanting to do better be better. I think the alignment is you’re going to start at the same place, which is where am I now and where do I want to go? The deviation between the individual and the business is how you analyze where you are and where you want to go. For the business side of it, you’re going to first start with what is your employee pool look like.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Jennifer Long:

Then you’re going to think about if it doesn’t look the way you want, why is that? You can look at your payroll, you can look at your promotion opportunities, you can look at your visibility opportunities in your organization. You can look at what outreach has your business done on the social activism side of things. In other words, has your company made donations? Is your company have partnerships with outside organizations? You can look and see, well, do those partnerships and outside organizations reflect where I want to be on this issue. If they don’t, are there opportunities for me to go find new partnerships in outside organizations. That’s the business side of things.

On the personal side of things, you’re doing an inventory as well, but you’re also probably going to be doing a lot more educating.Again, that’s for yourself also for your business, because not everybody who wants do better knows how to do better. From the personal side, I would say, if you’re not very savvy or you don’t have much experience, you can enlist help. There’s so many outside resources now. Because of COVID, there are so many virtual classes that you can take. People who have been doing anti-racist work for so long, who can help guide you navigate these terrains in a very safe way. As safe as it can be given that you’re going to be re-examining your point of view on the world?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s interesting I heard somebody talk about there’s racist and there’s neutral and then there’s anti-racist. I think a lot of agency owners, a lot of people listening would very quickly say we are not a racist organization. We don’t discriminate. But I think most of them, when they look, they would say we’ve probably been in the neutral area. Which means that when we get job applicants, if they all happen to be white, then we choose amongst the white applicants. What we haven’t done is said, how could we encourage more people of color or more people with different diversities to apply for these jobs? We haven’t really actively gone out tried to generate more diversity in our candidate pool, for example. I think for a lot of people they’re trying to figure out how do I… I just accepted it for what it was.

Now my eyes are open and I realize maybe there’s stuff I should have done to fix what I recognize was a deficiency, but I just accepted it because I wasn’t doing anything to prevent it. I was giving myself like a check mark, okay, well then I’m not racist. As opposed to saying, look, we need to create a partnership with a college in town that has a large population of people of color. Or we need to tap into the high schools in our area to talk to those kids about all the opportunities in the agency business, particularly those high schools, perhaps that have more people of color or people from underrepresented groups. I think a lot of us are trying to figure out like, not what I did wrong, but what could I do more, right?

Jennifer Long:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think that’s the challenge of the moment. There is no more neutral. That is the moment we are in. There is no longer, I’m just going about my business. Apart from individual businesses, the country now faced with there is systemic racism. Whether or not you know we are all participating in that system of racism. You’re either racist or anti-racist, there is no more neutral.

Because there’s no more neutral, to your question about, well, this is the way we conducted business and these are the results we got. I think you pointed to something very important, which is what does your outreach look like for black people, indigenous people, people of color. I went to a historically black law school. Those are great places to look, to find candidates for agencies. Then they have like all universities colleges, alumni communities that you can partner with. I think part of what the challenge is, is to move away from the status quo and to actively help to dismantle the systems that only presented you with white candidates.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay. I’m going to ask what, even in my head feels like a really uncomfortable question, but I know it’s a question people have in their heads. I’m going to go out on the limb. Let’s say I have-

Jennifer Long:

Go for it.

Drew McLellan:

Two candidates, one is white and one is black. My population in my office is predominantly white. Should I hire the black candidate no matter what? Should I hire the black candidate only if they’re the better of the two candidates? Am I being racist if I hire the white candidate, because I think they’re actually a better fit? Like help me unpack that because I think that’s the sticky stuff that we have to talk about.

Jennifer Long:

I think that’s a great question and I’m going to put on my employment law hat for that question because-

Drew McLellan:

I forget you come with many different qualifications to this conversation.

Jennifer Long:

There is a lot to unpack with that. I think embedded in the question is a lot of the dialogue around affirmative action. Which is I’m not hiring the best candidate and that has to do with perception. Again, remember the status quo is white, is the norm, that’s the standard. Anything that isn’t that can be viewed as deficient or giving away something that belongs to someone else. I can’t exactly answer that question with a blanket statement, but I think that we need to step back from that unpack the question. Because like I said, embedded in that is that these two candidates are not equally qualified. I think businesses really part of what you’re bringing up, both in this question the previous question is implicit bias.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

Jennifer Long:

Implicit bias is something that happens unconsciously. It’s a way that based on all of our societal input we come up with ideas about who different types of people are. For example, if you say African-American, there’s going to be a tape that’s playing that you may not be aware of that’s going on in your mind. There’s a lot of science behind this and the same is true if you say white person, if you say Latino, if you say indigenous person. Part of the work that individuals agency owners will be doing is unpacking their own implicit bias.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Because everybody’s tape is going to be different, right?

Jennifer Long:

Everybody’s tape is going to be different, but we’re all again in a racist culture. We have all been programmed African-American people like myself, white people, Latino, whoever has been raised here has been programmed in a certain kind of way to see individuals. Now, many people, many of your listeners, I would imagine, may do some type of mindfulness work. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a way of tapping into the quiet in your mind and having awareness around it. Just the mere fact that you’re aware I could have an implicit bias. Studies have shown it, you can have two applicants, you can have an applicant with a white sounding name less qualifications and an applicant with an more ethnic name better qualifications. The white sounding name applicant will get picked more times than not. It is perception.

Ibram Kendi who is big in the world of anti-racist talks about where do you see racial disparities? In schools, when you see achievement gaps or where you see salary gaps in education, that’s racism. It’s not happenstance and I think, again, when we look at where we are in the country, the conversation is this doesn’t just happen. We’re all actively participating in a system. In order for it to be dismantled, we all have to awaken to what’s in our filter. Robin DiAngelo who wrote White Fragility talks about, I think that percentage and don’t quote me on it is something like 73% of white people can go from cradle to grave and never have any meaningful relationship with a person of color. What does that mean? Where is that white person getting all of their information about black people, indigenous people people of color. TV?

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. Social media.

Jennifer Long:

If we just do a quick survey of those places, what are those images usually like? She goes further to say, it’s not they’re never taught that they’re missing something of value. When we’re at the table we’re making decisions the table looks one way, does anybody say, wait a minute, we’re missing some voices at this table and these are valuable voices that can help us give us a different perspective help us to grow our marketing. I think that’s where the opportunities are.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think this is going to be a lot of hard soul searching work for all of us, but I also think you’re right. I think there is opportunity. I think that’s the way we as agency owners need to approach this, which is I have an opportunity to make my business better, stronger, more attractive to candidates even before all of the recent news and all of the discussion about police brutality. Even in the l