The 4A’s on supporting Black talent 365 days a year

The days of only supporting Black excellence for only one month are gone. The 4A’s talent, equity and inclusion lead Simon Fenwick maps out its plans to help agencies celebrate and create visible career paths for Black talent, all year long.

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month in the US, and in the marketing and advertising industry, this month should look much different than years past.

With a heightened focus placed on supporting Black talent in our organizations over the past several months, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in our industry came under some much-needed consideration. Long gone are the days when honoring Black excellence for only one month is enough.

Many conversations about the need for better diversity, equity, and inclusion were held in agencies across the industry. Plans and benchmarks were written, alliances were signed, and leaders have ranked improving their diversity as their No.1 priority. Now, it’s time to make good on promises and see some results. While true progress won’t happen in a matter of days, commitment is long-term.

It is during this time when the nation celebrates and honors Black excellence that industry leaders should consider how to promote reflection after the boundaries of one month and support Black people every single day.

To this end, today the 4A’s announced ‘365 Black Print: Black History Re-imagined,’ a year-long initiative beginning in February and extending beyond the 28-day mark to honor Black trailblazers and up-and-coming disruptors and create a visible pathway for success at every career stage. This will provide agencies additional ideas for ways to support, recognize and promote Black talent 365 days of the year.

The initiative unites the individual missions of each of our programs designed to support Black talent under one common goal: hold every team member accountable for giving equity and inclusion a presence in our everyday work. By spotlighting the work of Black employees on a day-to-day basis, agencies have the opportunity to live their commitments and support historically undervalued talent.

In the first quarter, we will ‘Honor the Past’ and those who took their place as ‘firsts.’ In the second, we will celebrate those ‘Holding the Torch’ and leading by example in the present. In the third quarter, we will help to ‘Define the Future’ and focus on the potential of growing talent. And in the fourth quarter, we will reach back and ‘Lift as we Climb.’

With the mission of The MAIP Fellowship program to recruit, retain and grow budding Black industry talent, and with Vanguard’s mission to provide increased exposure and personal development, 365 Black Print promotes these initiatives even further, beyond their timeframes, and within individual organizations.

Up first, we have a series of talent talks with industry change makers including Deidre Smalls-Landau from UM, Chris Foster from BCW, Judy Jackson from WPP, Renetta McCann from Publicis Groupe and Louis Jones from Brand Safety Institute & Media Consultant. They will be interviewed by peer leaders, and together they will explore personal perspectives and journeys through the industry. We will also be publishing a list of Black-owned agencies for the industry to reference and create partnerships.

Black History Month should be one of many moments throughout the year that deserves attention to Black excellence. Now more than ever, we are ready to help agencies redesign their DNA and ensure they are instilling practices that promote equity for all, all year long.

Simon Fenwick is executive vice president, talent, equity and inclusion at The 4A’s