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Power of Diversity

Shay Phillips is the Assistant Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Founder of the Black Marketing and Advertising Group (BMAC) at AT&T.  She discusses the charter for this group which is to partner with AT&T’s Marketing and Advertising teams to provide insights that result in the creation of content and programs that appeal to the black community. 

The discussion in this Leap 2020 conference session revolves around an innovative approach to diversity in marketing and advertising led by Shea Phillips, the VP of corporate strategy for AT&T and founder of the Black Marketing and Advertising Council (BMAC). The BMAC works to provide AT&T's marketing and advertising teams with critical insight into how Black consumers view advertising and to eliminate stereotyping and cultural insensitivity in communications. By using a pool of multi-faceted employees in focus groups, the BMAC has been able to crowdsource cultural intelligence and influence changes in script and talent selection, resulting in more aspirational advertising with increased representation of the nuclear Black family. Diverse companies are now more likely to outperform financially, according to research by McKinsey, and having diverse employees to reflect customers is necessary for resonating with them.


As the world becomes increasingly diverse, it is more important than ever for businesses to understand and connect with different cultures. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing and advertising, where messages can easily be misinterpreted or even offensive if not presented in the right way.

That's where the Black Marketing and Advertising Council (BMAC) comes in. Founded by Shea Phillips, VP of Corporate Strategy for AT&T, the BMAC is a group within AT&T that provides critical insight into how black consumers view advertising. By partnering with the company's marketing and advertising teams, the BMAC helps to ensure that AT&T's messaging is inclusive, respectful, and effective.

The BMAC is a passion project for Phillips, who saw a need in the business for a group that could provide cultural intelligence around the black consumer. In her own words, Phillips believes in "crowdsourcing" this intelligence, by tapping into the expertise and insights of her own employees.

The BMAC is made up of a diverse group of employees who are interested in providing feedback from a consumer perspective. They listen to what AT&T plans to put out into the market and give candid and transparent feedback so that the company can communicate to the black community and black consumer in ways that will resonate with them.

Phillips notes that one of the most important aspects of the BMAC is its ability to influence changes in scripting and casting. For example, the group was able to provide feedback on the representation of black families in advertising. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes, the BMAC wanted to see more nuclear families represented. The group also provides feedback on the representation of black culture in advertising. For example, if a commercial is portraying a cultural tradition, the BMAC ensures that the portrayal is accurate and respectful.

The impact of the BMAC has been significant. Phillips notes that the group has been able to influence changes in AT&T's advertising and marketing campaigns, resulting in more effective messaging that resonates with black consumers.

The importance of diversity in business goes beyond just marketing and advertising. According to McKinsey, diverse companies are more likely to outperform financially. This is not surprising when you consider that diverse companies are better able to understand and connect with a wider range of customers.

But diversity isn't just about financial performance. It's about creating an inclusive and respectful workplace where everyone feels valued and heard. It's about understanding and respecting different cultures and perspectives. And it's about recognizing that diversity is not just a "nice to have" – it's an essential part of doing business in today's world.

There are many ways that businesses can work towards greater diversity and inclusion. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Hire a diverse workforce: This may seem obvious, but it's worth emphasizing. If you want your company to be diverse, you need to hire a diverse workforce. This means actively seeking out candidates from a range of backgrounds and perspectives.

  2. Train your employees: It's not enough to simply hire a diverse workforce. You also need to ensure that your employees understand and respect different cultures and perspectives. This can be done through training programs, workshops, and other initiatives.

  3. Create a culture of inclusion: In addition to hiring and training, you also need to create a culture where everyone feels valued and heard. This means listening to feedback from employees, promoting open communication, and creating opportunities for everyone to contribute.

  4. Partner with diverse organizations: One way to demonstrate your commitment to diversity is to partner with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion. This could be a local community group, a national organization, or even a non-profit.

  5. Use diverse suppliers: Another way to promote diversity is to work with diverse suppliers. This means seeking out suppliers who are owned and operated by women, people of color.