The last month has certainly encouraged all of us to look inward, ask hard questions, have difficult conversations, and learn how we can be better allies to the Black community.
In seeking change, we must also look at the broader picture of industries we are part of and hold them accountable for being anti-racist as well. We need to take a closer look at the places we shop, the businesses we support, and the people online that we know & love.
In looking at the influencer marketing industry, a couple disheartening facts have come to my attention:
- Black and POC influencers are consistently paid LESS than their counterparts for the same campaigns.
- Black and POC influencers are consistently less represented at panels, press trips, events, and campaigns.
So how do we change those things?
We commit to holding brands – and each other – accountable.
Below I’ve outlined 8 actions that all influencers, bloggers and online business owners should begin implementing. Some of these may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but without real change in our actions, we won’t see real, long-term change in this industry.
8 Steps to Take to Make the Influencer Industry More Anti-Racist
Check who’s in attendance
When I think back at panels I’ve been on, influencer events I’ve attended in NYC, and press trips I’ve gone on, the reality is hard to swallow. The number of Black influencers in attendance was sorely lacking and, in some cases, completely absent.
Why is this something that didn’t bother me and that I didn’t speak up about? That’s a question I know so many of us have been grappling with.
But part of creating radical change is owning up to where we have been wrong in the past and holding ourselves accountable for the way we will behave moving forward.
The first thing influencers can do to make the influencer industry more anti-racist is to ask who is in attendance at panels, events or press trips we are invited to. And if Black and POC creators are not going to be properly represented, decline the invitation.
When you receive an email inviting you on a press trip, to an event, or to speak on a panel, here’s what you can reply with (just copy & paste!):
“I so appreciate you reaching out and inviting me to [event or trip name]. I’m interested in attending, but have an important question before we discuss further. Can you please confirm that there will be Black and POC influencers attending, and if possible, let me know who those influencers will be?”
Ask what other influencers they are working with on the campaign
Lack of diversity in an influencer campaign can often be harder to spot than lack of diversity at an in-person event. Lack of Black and POC representation at an event is glaringly obvious. But in a campaign, you’d need to scroll through the campaign hashtag and see which creators are using it and therefore, which creators were hired by the brand.
Campaigns are also more likely to involve payment than press trips or events, so it’s important to make sure that our fellow Black and POC creators are paid equally.
So when a brand reaches out to you to be part of a campaign, inquire about the other creators they are working with.
I know that when there is money involved (and you’re just starting out as influencer), it can be hard to stick to your guns. But it’s so important to have integrity. When you share anti-racist resources and preach to your audience about how to become a better ally, but then take part in a campaign with zero or a couple Black influencers, the hypocrisy will have a negative impact on your brand.
You can phrase it like this:
“I am so thrilled about the potential of being part of this campaign and I thank you for thinking of me. Before we discuss further, can you give me some information about the other influencers on this campaign? Specifically, what Black creators you are also in discussion with?”
Ask about their internal practices
Beyond the influencers that companies work with, it’s also important to be informed about the inclusivity & diversity practices within their company before agreeing to a partnership.
Questions to ask:
- What anti-racism work are they actively doing?
- Is the roster of creators and models they work with diverse, and are they paying them equally?
- What are their internal practices when it comes to hiring? Is their leadership team diverse?
Ask brands to do better
If after you ask about the influencers in attendance or other creators in the campaign, you notice a sore lack of diversity, decline the partnership and ask them to do better.
Of course, in doing this there is a fine line between being rude/ completely tarnishing your relationship with them and calling for them to make improvements. The below paragraph declines the invitation for clear reasoning and also recommends a Black creator to replace you.
You can say something like this:
“Thank you for providing that information. Unfortunately I’ll need to decline this [campaign or event] for now. As you know, there is a sore lack of diversity in influencer campaigns, and it’s important to me that when I work with a brand, there are more than a couple Black influencers on the same campaign. If you’re looking for Black creators to work with, some extremely talented ones I know of are X, Y, and Z. They have a similar audience and style of content to me, and I know you’ll love working with them!”
Recommend Black creators for campaigns
Brands and PR agencies are always looking for more creators, so go out of your way to recommend your favorite Black creators for campaigns even if they don’t ask!
If you’re looking for Black influencers to follow or recommend, these are some of my favorites:
- Ciara from @heyciara – Travel content creator and story teller. Always read her captions!
- Chanel from @chanelmckinsie – Fashion and lifestyle in neutral tones.
- Asiyami from @asiyamigold – STUNNING fashion and travel content creator and storyteller. The founder of clothing brand A.Au and creative agency AuCoStudio.
- Onyi from @mossonyi – Her images are beyond dreamy and editorial.
- Nimi from @nimiblackwell – All around fashion and lifestyle inspiration.
- Janea from @jnaydaily – Total happy vibes, sharing lifestyle & interior inspo.
- Skylar from @skylarmarshai – Stunning, editorial images focused primarily on travel. Also a social strategist at The Creative Collective NYC, an influencer agency for Black creators.
- Shelcy and Christy from @nycxclothes – Two sisters that will inspire you to up your wardrobe game. They also share lots of branding and online work resources!
Feel free to share your fave creators in the comments!
Lift up Black voices
Take care to share Black content you love on your Stories, share Black-owned brands, and share Black creators you’re loving for your audience to follow along with. Not just people who look like you.
If you have online courses or coaching programs, ensure you’re sharing their the stories and successes of Black clients and students.
If you have a podcast, ensure you are actively seeking to lift up Black voices.
As influencers, we have tremendous power over where our audience’s dollars go, so we need to be careful about which brands we’re sharing about and promoting on our platforms.
Some things you can do to validate a company’s practices:
- Go to their Instagram and other channels. Are they featuring diverse creators on their accounts?
- Look at the models they use. Are their models diverse?
- Look at their Board of Directors or leadership team. Are they diverse?
- What statements have they made about how their company is practicing diversity and inclusion?
Buy from brands that practice inclusivity
This is behind-the-scenes work that won’t necessarily be shared online, but it absolutely can’t be skipped over or forgotten.
Every dollar you spend at a business is a vote of support for them, so be sure that you are putting your money into brands and businesses that you know have comprehensive inclusivity practices.
Again, you can reference the list from the last point to validate what a brand is doing.
Let’s do better
This is not a fully exhaustive list of the ways we can practice allyship, but simply a place to start.
Remember that in choosing to be silent, in choosing to carry on with “business as usual,” we are not just not getting involved, we are being complicit with the continuation of inequity in the influencer industry.
In taking these extra steps, we are taking small – but meaningful – strides toward real change. You may not think your actions as an individual matter, but they do.
And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, say something wrong, get called out, or feel uncomfortable. Those are all side effects of standing up for what’s right and creating positive change.
Any other actions you’ve been taking that you’d recommend to others? Anything you’d add to what I wrote? Share in the comments and let’s have a conversation!