Engage Speakers Series: Q&A With Shelcy Joseph

Engage Speakers Series: Q&A With Shelcy Joseph

Socialyte’s Creator Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Alliance Committee Chair, Shelcy Joseph, shared her thoughts and experiences on diversity and inclusion ahead of Socialbakers Engage 2020, an online event that brought together thousands of marketers to learn from each other around the overall theme of The Value of Experience.

Shelcy is a fashion and lifestyle editor, content creator, and brand consultant based in Brooklyn who was brought onboard Socialyte, an influencer marketing agency, to help the company achieve diversity and inclusion goals through initiating actionable change and creating resources for brands and creators alike.

In addition to her role and Socialyte, Shelcy is also the Founder of NYCxStudio, a consulting agency that seeks to bring more transparency and diversity to the digital marketing space, by specializing in influencer relations, content and social media strategies. She is passionate about authentic storytelling and inclusive community building.

Watch Socialbakers’ diversity panel and learn from Shelcy’s expertise below:

Many companies have had a reality check this year, and had to face the hard truth that they may not be as diverse and inclusive as they thought they were. As Chair of Socialyte’s Creator Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Alliance, could you give brands some pointers on how they can implement real change within their organization to ensure inclusivity?

First and foremost, brands should ask themselves WHY they are embarking on this journey. If their only goal is to publicize their initiatives and earn an accolade, then it should go without saying that these intentions could be more harmful than helpful, ultimately resulting in only surface-level change.

Once a company has determined their intentions and established clear goals, they can put their plan into action, with simple steps: 

  1. Set ego aside and listen. This is easier said than done. Proactively seek out outside perspectives and try to absorb information without making any judgements. Qualitative information is just as important as quantitative. Be sure to survey your minority employees, creators and/or social media audience to receive objective feedback. If you don’t know where your problem areas are, you can’t fix them. Giving your employees a voice and outlet to voice their concerns is crucial. 
  2. Avoid taking any feedback personally or defaulting to defensive behavior. Acknowledge your mistakes and commit to making amends.
  3. Educate yourself. Read books. Watch documentaries. Research scholarly articles. Follow academic leaders who have dedicated their life to this fight. Support grassroots organizations (rather than well-funded non-profits like the NAACP). Take notes and come back to them. Ask questions. Be vulnerable and hold yourself accountable to self-learning.
  4. Hire consultants to establish an action plan, with clear goals and tangible steps. These consultants would be responsible for reviewing internal processes, identifying biases and providing clear actionable feedback. As such, transparency is paramount. Providing enough information and visibility into the inner workings of your organization to outside partners and employees is vital. Do not alienate these consultants or fail to prioritize their suggestions. This would defeat the purpose.
  5. Pay consultants. Allocate and maintain a budget to continue the work. Do not treat it as a one-time contract. This work needs to be prioritized as just another aspect of running your business. Make the case to upper management, presenting both the moral, cultural, and business benefits of this coursework.
  6. Review hiring practices and bring in help as needed to create new, more inclusive policies.
  7. Track progress and implement feedback at every step of the way.

As a company that specializes in influencer relations, and has a vast roster of names that can be used for brand campaigns and marketing, how has CDIEA helped Socialyte transform their process to encourage brands to rethink their own external marketing?

We’ve held bi-monthly meetings to explore key themes and scenarios that the Socialyte team encounters in their dealings with clients and creators. We’ve started addressing issues such as pay disparity, old beauty standards, preferential treatment, and biased processes as it pertains to influencer marketing. We’ve analyzed the way certain brands price creators of color, build out their influencer programs, and treat the issue of diversity as a whole.

These internal calls have helped us paint a picture and grasp the magnitude of the problem. By identifying biases and seeking out both scholarly and news articles, as well as business reports, to find answers we’ve also started to draft the language to not only educate ourselves, but also our clients, in hopes that fair and equitable representation of BIPOC becomes a reality.

At Engage 2020, President Beca Alexander discussed how Socialyte, like many other companies, received backlash after a Black Lives Matter social media post. What was your personal reaction when you heard/saw the situation from the outside? What was your impression of your first conversation with Beca? What advice can you give to other organizations who have made the same mistake?

I wasn’t exactly surprised as these issues often arise in environments that aren’t diverse. Socialyte, being an agency with mostly white women in decision-making positions, will lack the perspectives that take into account the diverse groups that it serves and ensure it’s being inclusive at all times.

I thought Beca had the right attitude (open, reflective, and collaborative), which made me feel more comfortable in getting involved as a consultant. However, I also want to spend more time with the other gatekeepers on the team.

Surrounding yourself with people who can challenge you by presenting a different viewpoint is the first step towards achieving personal and professional growth. As such, my advice to other organizations would be to seek out these perspectives in the books they read, the people they follow online, the movies and documentaries they watch, and in the wealth of knowledge and first-person stories available on the internet.

If they don’t have the budget to hire consultants (they should look into making room for one), they can look to their own minority employees to lead the charge and offer them the resources and additional compensation needed to do so.

Part of Socialyte’s new vision is to only work with brands that are “anti-racist.” Could you give us some insight into what factors now play a role in deciding if a brand is a right fit for Socialyte? How has CDIEA helped Socialyte establish these parameters?

While we are still determining these factors, I want to be clear that being anti-racist is a constant work in progress, rather than a final state of being. No one is ever done being anti-racist. It’s an active state of being and a sustained effort.

But to answer your questions, we will essentially be analyzing a brand’s history when it comes to being diverse and inclusive, assessing their current attitude and commitment, as well as tracking their progress periodically. Once we start to see positive changes within the makeup of their team, internal policies and external imagery, we can more or less feel confident in their willingness to sustain the work.

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