I had the pleasure of presenting at #SXSW this year on a panel. My fellow panelists – André Blackman, Abe Cajudo & Pam Slim – and I waxed poetic on why it’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for brands to authentically engage with diverse audiences. Diverse audiences aren’t going anywhere – in fact they’re growing. The sooner we all do the important work of making our businesses & brands, marketing & advertising more inclusive, the better for everyone.
But a funny thing happened on the way back from Austin. The news about Starbucks’ new #RaceTogether initiative broke. And it seemed to play into everything we were talking about during our panel. A good intentioned CEO with hopes of getting the dialogue started about race in our country (a very necessary conversation) with the poorly thought out plan of having baristas deliver the message. Howard Shultz is not an evil person and he’s certainly not a stupid person. He just oversimplified a complex issue and tried to throw a blanket solution at it. It happens all of the time.
I hope that after this all dies down Schultz does continue to try and address social issues in an appropriate way. And I sincerely hope that the swift backlash he received doesn’t scare other CEOs and executives from tackling tough topics. As my friend and fellow panelist, Abe Cajudo, said,
“Likes are cheap and conversation is expensive. It’s easier to criticize than to create. It’s easier to attack and shame and point fingers than to accept responsibility (regardless of rightful ownership) and take steps toward positive and lasting change. But change? Change ain’t easy.”
Change ain’t easy. But I’m hopeful that with consistent effort and open dialogues, we’ll get there.
The slides and audio from our panel are now available! Give it a listen and let us know your thoughts. We’ll also be continuing the convo using the #DiverseROI hashtag on Twitter and sharing resources at bit.ly/smdiversity