I’m a talent agent of 9 female social media influencers and content creators, 8 of whom are women of color. My day is spent on the phone closing deals, negotiating contracts, getting agreements signed and creating moments when I can channel my inner Jerry Maguire… “Show me the money!”.
When I woke up that day in June to an Instagram feed full of black squares, I was confused. It seemed very counterintuitive for a company to vocalize their commitment to standing with the Black community, by being silent.
As I explored how the Black squares came to be, I grasped the meaning behind it. Yet I couldn’t help thinking, as my dad always says “A for effort. F for execution.” Their silence will get us nowhere and now’s the time, more than ever to be vocal in one’s support.
While pondering these black squares, I found myself mulling over the questions : how can I be an active ally? How can I spend my days being actively anti-racist in ways that have an impact? Where do I have the greatest ability to affect change?
Serving as a talent agent affords me the unique opportunity to connect with brands and agencies about their campaigns, their budgets and their talent lists in ways that Influencers can’t.
It’s a perfect perch for me to be actively anti-racist by bring paid financial opportunities to Black content creators and introducing Black talent to my network of agencies and brand representatives.
The six suggestions below are what I’ve identified as the most impactful questions and conversations I can have as an Influencer talent agent.
1. In conversation with a brand about one of my clients about an upcoming campaign, I ask what other BIPOC content creators the brands are considering for this campaign. Asking the question lets the brand know this matters to you AND you’re watching.
2. Share my talent agency’s ever growing list of Black content creators including those I know well, along with their best contact email.
Going a step further, I offer to make introductions as well. This gives the Black influencer a direct name and email to build their network.
3. For brands that my agency is currently working with in a long-term partnership, I ask them to hire an equal number of Black influencers, to match the # of white and Latina faces in their current ambassador programs.
A couple brands have said they are looking into it for 2021. To which I responded and asked them to do it in 2020. Even if the brand is unable to hire for the same scope of work as my clients, which is understandable, finding budget to hire 3-4 Black influencers to post a few times on social. I strongly believe is doable and will speak volumes about a brand’s commitment to support Black talent.
4. Question conferences and event organizers that showcase a vastly majority white speaker line up.
Contact the event organizer and ask them where the BIPOC speakers are. Ask them who they reached out to and invited in as speakers. Encourage them to change their programming to invite in more BIPOC content creators. Send over names + email. Make direct introductions.
Truthfully, when in this situation, I’ve debated on this last part. It’s not on me to do the event organizer’s work. Ultimately I opted to share names as it’s a chance to promote Black influencers.
5. When negotiating with Black influencers and the brand doesn’t have budget to meet their rates, ask “What can YOU (Black Influencer) make work for this budget?” instead of “Well this is all the budget we (Brand) have left for this laundry list of deliverables. Will you still do it?”
Most of the time Black content creators are a (last minute) addition to a campaign, a token afterthought. By the time the brand reaches out, majority of the budget has been spoken for.
Asking what the Black Influencer can make work with the budget available is more respectful for their time and talent. Of course, prioritizing selecting diverse talent for a brand’s campaign, eliminates the issue of serving up left over budget to Black Influencers.
6. Offer your talent agent services for free to Black influencers. Put a call out on social media offering to help with updating media kits, teaching how to negotiate with a brand, giving feedback on their rates, reviewing their website, making introductions to your network.
Once you’ve gotten to know their brand and vibe, make 1:1 email introductions to your network of agency reps and brand contacts. For free.