As an agency we know we can do better and do more. In recent days we’ve paused our external activity and turned inwards to discuss recent events in America with our team. We’re making the first steps in a life-long commitment as an agency to challenging ourselves, our industry and our society to fight inequality.
Meaningful change comes from us working together as a group. I spoke to the whole agency yesterday as the first stage of this crucial discussion.
I’m not speaking to you as a boss, this is just me as a human being trying to work out the right thing to do, and the reality is I need your help. It is a hugely emotive and highly nuanced issue, where many aspects understandably result in heated debate.
This isn’t about me, it isn’t about Builtvisible “the brand” or any bullshit like that, it is about the impact we as a group of people can have on the world around us.
The thing that is undeniable is that what is happening in America is horrendous. There won’t be anyone here who isn’t outraged with the news they wake up to every morning.
It raises questions that, as a middle-class white guy, make me deeply uncomfortable.
I understand that I will never understand, and anyone would be more than entitled to ask who am I to even speak about this anyway? The answer to that is simple.
The fact of the matter is I own this business, I am the managing director of this business and everything that happens within that context ultimately comes back to me.
The uncomfortable truth is that if you look at our company photo it does little to suggest anything other than the fact we are inherently a part of an industry, and indeed society, that upholds systemic racism. The lack of black and ethnic minority presence is jarring.
By systemic racism I of course don’t mean that any of us here are overtly racist, but that by being silent and taking no action, we are complicit to a system in which people benefit or suffer because of the colour of their skin.
I personally hate this, I hate the recent realisation of this.
With recent events unfolding in front of us, myself and the team have been talking extensively about this and having a long hard look at ourselves.
Conflicting me is that I am so proud of the organisation we have, and the way we make decisions, but that, in and of itself, is of course part of the issue. I know other people feel the same way across the whole business. I have had quite a few conversations on this so far and I am really thankful for those.
The good news is this organisation is full of incredible people that want to make a difference. Individually we can all contribute in various ways, and together I want us to get to the point of using Builtvisible to drive positive change here.
We said at the beginning of the Covid crisis that we can’t let the situation change our values, and we must continue to do the right things for the right reasons. This is no exception.
But as I say, I need your help.
With so much nuance, we as a management team need feedback. This is about the group response and working together to be better both in and outside of the agency.
So if the issue is systemic – what can Builtvisible do to change that system and how we interact with it?
I know many of us have been posting, donating etc. but in terms of Builtvisible I have been agonising over it, along with my team. It is going to be uncomfortable for many people in many different ways and I know that.
It comes down to being able to look in the mirror, as well as look each other in the eye, and be comfortable that we are moving forward.
For me that is about action – not empty gestures, one-off donations and using this issue to market ourselves.
There are two things we can do immediately, and I would like them to inform how we move forward.
Firstly, we have a wide range of systems, processes and agreements, both internal and external, that we use every day. Recruitment is a prime example of this for obvious reasons.
These processes need to be audited, presented back to the business and improved wherever it is possible to do so. These can be our own policies as well as the policies of our preferred recruiters, platforms and advertisers.
This work is beginning immediately and will extend across all aspects of the business.
We will update you with outcomes and resulting actions when we have them.
Secondly, we need to have a bigger external impact on our industry, and as a consequence society, or just directly on society itself.
This is a discussion we need to have.
We have a long history of supporting worthwhile causes either financially or with our time. As with other initiatives in the past it is reliant on you guys being under no illusion that Builtvisible will do whatever it can to support such causes.
Monthly charity donations and the volunteering scheme are just two examples of things the business has done historically to better society, that have come from the teams.
I know many of us care deeply about this and want to do something about it. You need to know we are behind positive change.
On the flip side, you need to know that we, and I, need your help.
We have the ability to do great things with this company, but it needs us working together as a group.
Over the coming days and weeks, not to mention at any time in the future, I would like to encourage anyone that feels inclined to get in touch with myself, Rebecca or Karlymay, or all of us, with thoughts, ideas or suggestions about how we might be able to positively impact the world around us.
This could be SEO, data or content itself, the wider digital industry or society in general.
Even if you just want to discuss this and talk about how you are feeling about it, please do so. Just writing things down or talking about them can often open up pathways to bigger, more constructive conversations.
I am going to make this public, explaining that we are of course against injustice, and openly committed to being better both inside and outside the organisation.
And that’s the thing I want to double down on here – I want us to make sure we are committing to lasting change, rather than making empty gestures, jumping on a bandwagon or not giving this the respect it deserves.
I know many people will be acting on their own regardless, but please know we are here to do the right things for the right reasons, and this is no exception.