What happened in Minneapolis, and its aftershocks, have had a profound impact on our world, and me personally as CEO of Grafik. As I watched what was happening all around us, I struggled initially: not knowing exactly what to say nor having the answers on how we as an agency can best respond to deaths of people of color and their treatment that, unfortunately, underlies the fabric of our society. Over the last few weeks I’ve reflected on my own actions; I’ve pulled my staff into conversations to hear their thoughts; I’ve reached out to clients who are community leaders, equally challenged in how best to respond in an impactful way. And I continue to spend a lot of time reading, listening, and learning from every resource I can.
The search for answers is not mine alone. In fact, it seems there are as many different answers as there are roles, responsibilities, upbringings, stages in life and prior histories that all need to be considered. To take a stand with resolute clarity around my actions is nearly impossible. But there is one important thing I’ve learned over my years, and that’s if you wait to take action until things are truly clear, it’s often too late. While I can’t necessarily control what’s happening in our world, there are things I know I can control as part of Grafik. And it’s time to act.
Over the course of our 40+ year history, Grafik has built a culture based on inclusivity embracing all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and social beliefs. We’ve created an environment where our staff has the flexibility and freedom to support causes that they’re passionate about and we as an agency have consistently worked to better our world through many philanthropic and pro-bono efforts. But I now realize there is so much more we can and must do to combat not just explicit prejudice, but systemic and unconscious bias. And we must fight for those who feel anything but equal in our industry.
A few years ago, we did an internal strategic planning initiative with a focus on better defining our purpose and vision as an agency. The concept of Inspiring New Possibilities is where we landed and has been a driving force for the work we do for our clients. I personally believe this can take on an even greater meaning, right now.
For starters, the creative community and agencies in particular are drastically underrepresented by people of color. And as groups such as 600 & Rising work to reform what has been an issue in our industry for far too long, Grafik will do our part to inspire new possibilities for the industry through our own hiring practices. That means not just hiring the best talent, but proactively looking at new recruitment channels (i.e. partnerships with HBCUs) to ensure we’re filling our pipeline with diverse candidates who might otherwise not have found Grafik.
Next, our platform as an agency and as communicators must be leveraged to explore and inspire new possibilities on actions we can all take that will someday make the need to state Black Lives Matter obsolete. We’re already seeing a lot of interest (and demand) from clients on how best to evolve their own brand marketing, recruitment and media strategies in support of both BLM and social justice and we look forward to further consulting on and amplifying the positions and voices of our clients in support of change.
Lastly (for now), we will start to hold ourselves accountable. We are in the process of forming a Diversity, Inclusion, & Equality committee. The focus is on best practices, education, community collaboration, and ongoing open dialogue. We’ll be using our website and our social media channels to provide transparency on progress hoping that our sharper focus is having an impact, is making a difference.