ColorComm 2015: Waves of Truth

“The Godmother Part II” mentorship panel

Having just returned from the 2015 ColorComm Conference (C2), the annual event which focuses on women of color in the field of communications, I was struck by the authenticity of every person I encountered. Whether during Q&A’s with session panelists or 1-on-1 conversations, each interaction felt “true.”

Brain-child of founder Lauren Wesley Wilson as a way of taking networking to a deeper level, the conference began as a small, invite-only luncheon in 2011. It is now celebrating its second year as an annual, 3-day nationwide convergence of U.S.-based communications professionals. Being an expression of a larger, infinitely powerful whole – as a wave is to the ocean – captures the essence of the C2 conference.

The topics discussed at ColorComm are important to brands and companies across the industry. I am proud that Ketchum was a corporate sponsor of this year’s event, and sent a delegation of colleagues from across our U.S. practices and offices to participate. Through a whirlwind of sessions we had the opportunity to hear from industry powerhouses, including two of my personal heroes: Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms. Magazine and feminist movement pioneer; and Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and former president of Spellman College. Yes, I am still levitating!

Beyond the joy of meeting such icons, I continue to be uplifted by the stories, wisdom and passion shared by the incredible lineup of speakers. Here are some insights that I found to be both professionally strategic and intimately personal. I hope they resonate with you, my fellow communicators, the same way they did with me (click to tweet):

  1. The value of feeding your soul.
    Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer and president of the Verizon Foundation, Verizon, discussed the importance of nourishing your soul and your personal network – making it a priority – and balancing the nuances of career determination and personal fulfillment. We applauded her transparency in taking time to recharge and be true to her family-centric roots.
  1. Your past does not define your present.
    Lisa Ling, executive producer and host, CNN’s This is Life and former host of The View, shared her personal journey of being the young kid given an opportunity to grow in the business via Channel One News and ultimately leaving The View when her own views no longer matched the direction of the show. She underscored the importance of not letting circumstances (age, economic status, etc.) define you, to stand for what you believe in, follow your passion and trust your instincts.
  1. The power of body language.
    Linda Clemons, sales and body language expert, whose high-energy presentation demonstrated how words are just seven percent of communications, that tonality makes up 38 percent and nonverbal cues are 55 percent.
  1. What is the value of a mentor?
    Ketchum’s own Sharon Jones, SVP, director HR – DC, Atlanta, Dallas and director, Diversity & Inclusion North America, was onstage as a member of “The Godmother Part II” panel discussion which highlighted divergent views on mentorship. She was joined by Marvet Britto, president and CEO, The Britto Agency; Susan Jin Davis, SVP, Operations Compliance, Comcast; and Christy Haubegger, agent, Creative Artist Agency and founder, Latina Magazine. The panelists voiced strong opinions on opposing sides of the importance of having a guiding force of experience to support your career journey and those who stressed how critical it is to believe in your own ability to succeed regardless of whether you have a mentor.

A few good men took to the stage, as well. During “The Male Point of View,” I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief, PRWeek; as well as Torod Neptune, chief communications officer, Verizon; and Thomas Genseler, U.S. chief strategy officer, Burson Marsteller. The session was moderated by Dia Sims, president, Combs (as in “Sean” “P-Diddy” or “Puffy,” whichever generation is your frame of reference) Wine & Spirits. The men opened themselves up to straightforward questions – from how to deal with HR challenges of inappropriate clothing and advising female reports on knowing who their internal advocates are, to not “out-manning the men.”

In her keynote, Gloria Steinem discussed a wide array of topics that included:

  • pay equity and why companies do not simply place value on the job vs. whether it is done by a man or woman
  • the digital disconnect of pressing “send” and believing we are truly communicating
  • the importance of using all five senses to empathize and connect with each other
  • the inherent disconnect of hierarchical structures
  • the Native American paradigm of a circle, a communal, nourishing existence that supports the whole vs. the few (stating that for 95 percent of human history we lived a communal existence)
  • the need to regain what has been lost in the values of our connections and communications

This, and so much more, made for an “ocean” of memories. Bring on C2 2016!