What Is Your Multicultural Agency Doing for the Communities It Targets?

Giving Back Is Good for Community, Good for Business

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Tru Pettigrew Tru Pettigrew
I was recently at a dinner party with several other couples and after dinner, we were engaged in some healthy conversation which ended up on the topic of challenges in Black America and particularly black youth. Although we were discussing Black America, the issues discussed weren't just focused on black Americans, as some of the members of the group were Jamaican and Haitian. The dialogue pretty much revolved around the plight of many impoverished black communities in this country and why some individuals overcome those circumstances and others don't.

There were six of us participating in the conversation, five men and one woman, and as I listened to each person speak, I noticed that some of the commentary was somewhat critical of the members of those communities -- concerned and caring, sure, but still somewhat critical. The critique was not just reserved for the members of those communities though. I heard several arguments on who else should be held accountable for these conditions. The perpetrators ranged from the government, to society, to a failed education system. It reminded me of a Saturday afternoon at the barbershop with all the strong view points, healthy debates and even a few conspiracy theories! I loved it!

Please keep in mind that each person at this table was black and all came from these very neighborhoods and communities that we were discussing. Additionally, each of them are also now doing relatively well in life with nice homes, good jobs and beautiful families. So as the conversation progressed, I took a moment to ask the group what they were doing about the situation. We were all fortunate enough to overcome our circumstances and all clearly acknowledged the frustration and disappointment that it causes us to see a generation of black youth reinforce the stereotypes and/or become statistics. But what are we doing to change it?

The responses varied. Some were actively involved in youth groups at their church or community centers, and some admitted to not doing anything. That question helped each of us to reflect on our level of social responsibility. And since then, each of us has stepped up our contribution to making a difference and impacting change in the communities that helped make us who we are.

This of course got me to thinking about how I apply that in my professional life with Alloy Access and the Alloy Access team. As an agency, we take pride in the work we do as individuals in the arena of social responsibility and in the nonprofit organizations and foundations that we work with as our clients. We always stress the importance of giving back and being socially responsible to our for-profit clients. And in my conversations with peers and colleagues, I realize that most multicultural agencies and shops stress to their clients the importance of giving back as well. This is particularly important in multicultural communities. Members of these communities want to know that the brands that they are spending their money on are giving back to their community in some way. The general consensus from the African-American and Hispanic communities are that if Brand X is making tons of money from them, then they should be acknowledged and shown some level of appreciation for contributing to that brand's success and profitability. Giving back is not just considered a good thing to do, but the right thing to do.

I met with my team and we decided that this same philosophy holds true for us as an agency. We acknowledged that we give back in a number of ways as individuals and ensure that there is a give-back component to our client programs. However, we realized the need for the agency to do something directly and more formally with a cause.

And giving back isn't just good for the community, it's good for your business. If you're an urban or multicultural agency, your success is driven by your access, insight, credibility and cooperation among these multicultural communities just as much as the brands we counsel and advise. We often highlight and recommend to our clients how they should contribute and give back based on the issues and challenges that we are all very aware of. But by identifying a cause and establishing your own direct system of giving back from an agency standpoint will make you a stronger and overall better-rounded agency. It will provide you deeper and easier access to the communities you serve, it will build trust with the members of those communities, it will help to improve those communities, and it will show your level of commitment to your client and lend credibility to your recommendations.

Or, if nothing else, it will make you well prepared for when you're in the barbershop next month watching CNN's "Black in America 2" and the debate breaks out among the patrons about what the issues are in Black America, and, as the leader of a multicultural agency in this country, someone looks to you and asks, "What are you doing about it?"

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