We’re Sorry for Not Listening to Black Influencers Before

We expect to be called out

meditating
Own up to the failure. Sit with it. Then act on it. Getty Images

We have failed Black influencers in our network. If you aren’t a Black influencer marketing practitioner, you have, too.

Brandi Riley challenged us to use her words to own our failure, and we stand up to say: We purposely overlooked Black women because it was easier than to push back or educate a client. It was easier to use the excuse that we were making a “good business decision” than to take a hard look at our actions, even though for 10 years, we talked a good talk about valuing diversity.

We did that. We own that. It was wrong.

We are in the process of reviewing all of our corporate policies to address and rectify these failures. With that comes ownership and accountability as well as taking informed action to do better. This is the work, and we can—and must—do it.

We are the experts, and part of sharing our expertise with our brand partners is guiding them to do the right thing.

We’re listening now, and we are sorry for not listening to Black influencers before. We are grateful to the Black influencers who have reached out to us offering help and guidance, even though that was never our expectation, and it is not your responsibility to educate us. We view every single piece of feedback we have received as a gift.

By our own actions, we have caused so much pain. We have affected the livelihoods and opportunities of all of our Black influencers. We have failed at amplifying the very voices and stories we claimed were important to us. We acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to see this pain in hindsight, rather than having to carry it. We also acknowledge that privilege means using our voice to do something about it. We will ask for paid consulting help when we don’t know the answers. We will engage in conversation. We will make mistakes along the way. And we will expect to be called out.

To our peers in the influencer marketing industry: to brands; to influencer marketing talent and content agencies; to influencer conferences, platforms and networks—we must all own this failure. We need to accept full responsibility, and we need to act now to foment change.

Brands

We challenge you to join us in leaning into the real work. If you have put out statements saying you support Black lives, equity and justice, your commitment to the Black community must extend to the influencers you work with.

We challenge you to hire Black influencers and to not hire any influencer who does not reflect and uphold the values you claim in your statements. We also challenge you to only work with influencer marketing, content marketing and talent agencies that are making the same commitment to their networks.

White influencers

We challenge you to meet this moment. Listen, educate yourselves and act. Push brands you work with to live up to their commitments. If you are at a brand event and see only white faces, say something. If your influencer networks are mostly white, challenge that. These are just some of the ways you can actively do the work of being antiracist that can actually make a difference for your Black peers.

Influencer agencies and networks

We challenge you to join us in owning that we are part of the problem. Join us in saying: We purposely overlooked Black influencers because it was easier than to push back or educate a client. It was easier to use the excuse that we were making a good business decision than to take a hard look at our actions, and we promise to do better.

Join us in making diversity a priority parameter that supersedes all other parameters for a given program and hold yourselves and your clients to it. Tell your clients they can expect to see this reflected in the influencer lists presented to them. Push back when your client only selects white influencers. We are the experts, and part of sharing our expertise with our brand partners is guiding them to do the right thing.

Make no mistake—we are not hiding behind our industry to deflect responsibility for our own failures. But as we think about how we are going to do our part to make our industry a fairer, more just and equitable place, we know it’s going to take all of us. We’re not waiting for someone else to step up first. There is no middle ground. There is only right and wrong, and it’s beyond time to stand up for what we say we believe is right. Join us now.


Stefania Pomponi is founder and president of CLEVER, an influencer marketing agency.
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