The year 2020 is thankfully about to come to an end and the radio industry is grappling with our fair share of challenges and opportunities.
Among them is the important issue of diversity.
Are Radio companies welcoming the cultural enrichment that comes from diverse experiences in education, class background, age, culture, ethnicity, race, color, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, nation of origin, language spoken, able- bodiedness, religion and beliefs?
Alright, I’ll admit I took the specifics in the previous sentence right from a job posting to make the point about the specifics of diversity and inclusion.
There has been work done to enhance this effort over the recent months by the industry, with some companies specifically designating someone to watch over diversity and inclusion to ensure responsible actions are taking place, but is it enough or is it just “white noise?”
How does the work in diversity of the industry stack up versus other media brands and other industries and what are some potential action steps that need to be confronted?
As Futurist Rishad Tobaccowala recently said regarding diversity “Innovation happens with fresh insightful connections between cultures, expertise and backgrounds.”
For some perspective on this issue I turned to industry thought leader Annette Malave, SVP, Insights at the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Annette recently wrote a brilliant blog post for radiomatters.org http://www.radiomatters.org/index.php/2020/09/29/inclusive-diverse-and-community/ where she acknowledges the many ways that broadcast radio has been inclusive: “from music to talk, radio stations across the country have always invited different types of people to express their opinions and share their voice.”
She also mentioned in the blog how important radio’s sense of community is within diverse communities “meeting with and speaking to diverse audiences.”
How are other businesses and brands confronting the diversity challenge?
Honda and Ford are making financial commitments to non-profits that support youth learning and Latina-owned businesses affected by the pandemic.
The American Honda Foundation has awarded grants of more than $700,000 to non-profits across the nation to support programming with emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and math as well as the environment.
Their goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Ford’s philanthropic arm/Ford Motor Company Fund launched a $400,000 initiative to provide access to capital, educational resources and network opportunities for Latina small business owners impacted by Covid.
Starbucks recently took a major step in their hiring practices linking executive compensation to improvements in inclusion efforts.
They are also vowing that by 2025 30% of all corporate positions and 40% of retail and manufacturing jobs will be held by black, indigenous or people of color.
Starbucks describes the inclusivity push as the “next step in turning each store into “The Third Place” not home, not work but a spot where people can mingle and be part of a community.”
In the media world as a reference point ,“BuzzFeed ” CEO Jonah Peretti recently announced they increased representation of Black and Hispanic/Latino employees year over year incrementally and they will continue to make recruiting a focus in their diversity strategy.
Annette Malave asks the question: “Radio will celebrate 100 years and is certain to be around for many more centennials but how will it engage with its future leaders?”
She acknowledges that there is a great effort by the industry to target and connect with college-aged students via mentoring, internships and scholarship programs.
This has been evident in the last few years at the NAB/RAB Fall Radio Show with many in attendance.
But what about Gen Z(those born after 1996)?
Annette goes on to point out that “they will be the most ethnically and racially diverse group compared to other generations and they are also the generation that has only known a digital world. It’s time to start thinking about engaging with the younger segment of this group.”
When Annette and I touched base some weeks ago about the important topic of diversity she told me a compelling tale that struck a chord.
“A few years ago, I was asked by a school principal to speak to students at a junior high school because “it was important his students see someone like them speak to them about a career in radio. Those words struck me and not for the reasons you think. Surveys and studies have shown that it is important for consumers that are being targeted by brands include someone who looks and sounds like them in ads. If it is important to do this when targeting consumers, why would it be any different when targeting future radio professionals?”
While it is true radio has to meet the challenge of reaching Gen Zers as listeners there also needs to be more outreach to them as future leaders in our industry.
Annette suggests we try reaching them in high school via alumni programs so we can make an impact early with them.
Let’s not be afraid to try other bold options to increase diversity in our business.
CBS TV has doubled down on it’s promise for diversity on and off camera, expanding that vow to their reality shows.
All unscripted shows, beginning with the 2021-22 season will feature casts with at least 50% of the contestants being Black, indigenous and people of color.
Are their opportunities to grow audiences by expanding the role of diversity in content?
Are their opportunities for diverse audiences to be heard via other channels of distribution such as HD2?
Radio has taken a leadership role in so many areas of media and I believe the business can take a step back, re-set and do even more.