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The Thinking Behind ‘IN’ - B2B’s First Multi-Agency D&I Initiative

Branding and Marketing Agency
London, UK
Robyn Pierce, head of media at The Croc, speaks to the agencies involved in the ‘IN’ series to find out why they got behind the initiative and what they hope to get out of it

Last year I wrote a blog post calling out the lack of diversity on the speaker panel at a high-profile B2B industry event. 

Sadly, I got quite a bit of trolling and while the negative comments were difficult to take, the piece did spark a conversation that resulted in a number of B2B agency leaders getting together to share experiences and ideas about how to increase awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion.

As a group, we had a frank and open discussion about cultural change efforts and D&I policy setting within our individual businesses. We came to the conclusion that working together might be a better way to fast track progress within our industry, through joint accountability and initiatives.

The B2B industry needs more engaging outlets for these discussions, and here the ‘IN’ series was born - a series of virtual conversations on inclusion, live-streamed to a community of over 500 agency side B2B practitioners.

Guests so far have included Saatchi & Saatchi MD, Sarah Jenkins, and Ali Hanan, CEO and founder of Creative Equals talking about gender equality, and comedians Catherine Bohart talking about LGBTQ+ inclusion and Nabil Abdulrashid talking about Black Lives Matter.

I decided to speak to the agencies involved in the ‘IN’ series to find out why they got behind the initiative and what they hope to get out of it. 

Why did you want to get involved with ‘IN’ and the joint initiative? 

Kavita Shergill, head of talent, Octopus Group> “As society becomes more diverse, we need to provide training to make our employees more aware of and sensitised to difference. We have a strong heritage championing diversity and inclusion at The Octopus Group, but in the last 18 months, every Octopede recognised the need to take our efforts further. We felt we needed a mixture of formal and informal training – alongside some staff-led initiatives – to ensure we are a truly inclusive organisation. So it was a really rewarding opportunity to partner with like-minded agencies to host events that share diverse experiences, inside and outside the workplace.” 

Andrew Last, managing director, marketing, Harvard> “There is something extremely powerful about agencies coming together organically and putting on events. We’ve also shared experiences and learnings with each other relating to our D&I challenges, which I’ve found invaluable over the last 12 months, and has helped me stay connected.” 

Why do you think now is the time for these important D&I conversations? 

Kim Goodwin-Wheatle, human resources manager Transmission> “A number of movements have been prominent in the public psyche in recent years like #MeToo and BLM and now feels like an opportune time to harness the momentum and do what we should have been doing years ago; shining an uncomfortably bright light on ourselves and how we conduct our business through a lens of Inclusivity.”

Jason Talbot, MD, The Croc> “Last year the industry finally had to face up to its lack of action and progress on diversity and inclusion. The world was burning and the industry was tone deaf to culture and what was happening outside of our ivory tower. At The Croc, we’ve always taken inclusion seriously but we know we have work to do. Speaking with other like-minded agencies and sharing ideas and experiences has helped to create more tangibility in our D&I practice and a greater sense of accountability.”

Why is it important for agencies to stand together to drive change? 

Matt Harper, CEO, The Marketing Practice> “Firstly, because we can achieve more together. It provides a louder voice in the industry, and greater scale as our individual funding, time and commitment can go much further when pooled. But also because we have a responsibility. Ultimately all of us profit from this industry – we’ve built careers and businesses from it. We have a responsibility to make sure it’s an inclusive, diverse and welcoming place. That responsibility isn’t just a moral one – it’s also about recognising diversity will make us better marketers, and the better the marketing we do, the more sustainable our industry becomes.”

What do you want to achieve with IN and this joint initiative?

Kavita Shergill, head of talent, Octopus Group> “A change in behaviour. We want to go beyond training and create an environment where people share their lived experiences rather than simply offer theoretical training. The goal for Octopus’ D&I Champions Network has been to build and sustain a culture of inclusion. This ‘IN’ series pushes that, and while we know we have a way to go, our commitment to change as part of the joint initiative ensures we’re incorporating other views, cultures and identities. Ultimately, we want to keep challenging ourselves to learn more and reflect more – so when someone new walks through our doors, we can help them feel at home.”

What impact has it made to your staff? 

Andrew Last, MD of marketing, Harvard> “The quality of content and calibre of speakers for ‘IN’ has been first-class, and this is reflected by comments from the Harvard team who have attended and told me how inspired they’ve felt.”

Matt Harper, CEO, The Marketing Practice, added> “Our staff now know that we take D&I seriously, and that we’re willing to take action around it. More importantly, we’ve all learnt a lot from the experience so far. I’ve had so many messages of support and feedback saying how the events have provided new perspectives and opened new debates about what D&I means to us, and in particular what it means to be an ally. Our people are more energised and more committed than they ever have been to helping us make positive change around D&I.”

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