Ten memories from Miami: The ColorComm Conference 2019

Gideon Fidelzeid shares highlights from the sixth-annual event, which took the diversity and inclusion conversation to another level.

2019 Circle Award winners flanked by ColorComm founder Lauren Wesley Wilson (r) and Univision's Maity Interiano (l), who emceed the ceremony. (image courtesy of ColorComm)
2019 Circle Award winners flanked by ColorComm founder Lauren Wesley Wilson (r) and Univision's Maity Interiano (l), who emceed the ceremony. (image courtesy of ColorComm)

I attended my second ColorComm Conference last week in Miami. My first was last year in Maui. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Kudos to Lauren Wesley Wilson and the ColorComm team, not just for three days, but for how they empower women of color in communications every day. (And let’s not forget what they do for men since the 2018 launch of Men of Color in Communications.)

Awards were bestowed upon eight very deserving women on opening night. Ann Curry closed the show. And the message of what we all can do to advance diversity, inclusion and equity, a critical third component without which the first two cannot thrive, resonated throughout.

But let me state clearly: the industry remains in need of vast improvement in this regard. On more than one ocassion, a speaker on stage underscored how great it would be if progress on this issue reached the point where discussions about it would no longer be necessary. Those same speakers all conceded that day is, unfortunately, off in the distance.

Unconscious bias is clearly an obstacle that impedes progress on this matter. But overcoming that, while vital, is still not enough. Each organization has to drill deep into cultural immersion to reach a point where theirs is a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

Also somewhat alarming was a stat shared by Joanna Barsh, senior adviser at McKinsey & Company, during her session: only 51% of managers say they know what to do to move the needle on diversity and inclusion. The math is clear: half of the people in the best position to facilitate change don't know how to go about it. So even if the willingness is there, the knowledge to design an effective gameplan is lacking.

Those realities are part of why events such as the ColorComm Conference are so important. Plenty of tactical, applicable counsel is provided that everyone can benefit from.

Speaking of everyone, what really struck me about this year's event was the diversity in the topics tackled over the three days, as well as the welcoming environment, which I personally felt, that epitomizes inclusion.

To underscore that "something for everyone" sentiment, below I share 10 memories in the form of quotes from leaders who spoke during the ColorComm Conference 2019.

1. "Generic brand messages that are not wrapped up in great ideas don’t have impact."
-Fernando Machado, CMO, Burger King (during a fireside chat on the final day)

2. "Good leaders welcome their teams to call them out when they get things wrong."
-Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO and founder, WE Communications (during a session entitled Creating Allies & Advocates)

3. "A pitch is not a commercial for a client."
-Leslie Linton, SVP of media strategies, MWWPR (during Pitching 101: Getting the Media to Bite)

4. "People don’t care what you know until they know that you care."
-Soon Mee Kim, EVP, global diversity and inclusion leader, Porter Novelli (during the final day’s opening session)

5. "Understand the rules, then become the exception. And when you become the exception, you have to make the rules."
-Nate Poekert, global director of marcomms, BMW Group – MINI Innovation and Strategy (during A Few Good Men session, speaking specifically of the responsibility leaders of color must accept to ensure more diversity and inclusion at the senior level)

6. "To be chosen, you have to choose yourself first."
-Nely Galán, media entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author (during lunchtime keynote on second day)

7. "The decisions we make today impact seven generations from now. The visual language being created by communicators are making that impact."
-Bethany Yellowtail, designer and CEO, B. Yellowtail (during Making Brands Matter in Today’s America session)

8. "Always be in a place of humility so that you can support others."
-Jovian Zayne, international speaker, executive coach, and founder of On Purpose Movement.

9. "People are voting with their wallets and [electing] brands based on what their beliefs are and how they act based on those."
-Smita Reddy, global client relationship manager at Edelman and PRWeek 2018 40 Under 40 honoree (during Brands Take a Stand)

10. "If you’re a successful business but don’t have an impact on the world, what’s the point?"
-Jennifer Rubio, cofounder of luggage/travel product brand Away (during Up & Away session)

Some of the quotes above underscore how the theme of purpose was prevalent throughout the entire event. And that topic will be delved into from every angle when PRWeek presents its annual conference – PR Decoded: Purpose Principles – on October 16 and 17 in Chicago.

I learned so much from this event. The 500-plus who attended the event surely did, too. And I bet if anyone reading this attends a future ColorComm Conference, they’ll be able to say the same thing.

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