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Stefania Pomponi Jun 9, 2020 4:17:53 PM 7 min read

Influencer Marketing Has Failed Black Influencers

CLEVER's corporate values center around empowerment, authenticity, and excellence. We're great at talking about it, but we have categorically failed at BEING about it.

We have failed Black influencers in our network. If you aren't a Black influencer marketer, you have, too.

Brandi Riley challenged us to own our failure, and we stand up—and use some of her words— to say: We purposely overlooked Black women because it was easier than to push back or educate a client. It was easier to use the excuse that we were making a “good business decision” than to take a hard look at our actions, even though for ten years we talked a good talk about valuing diversity.

We did that. We own that. It was wrong.

As we shared last week, we are in the process of reviewing all of our corporate policies to address and rectify these failures. With that comes ownership and accountability as well as taking informed action to do better. This is the work, and we can — and must — do it. 

We’re listening now, and we are sorry for not listening to Black influencers before. We are grateful to the Black influencers who have reached out to us offering help and guidance, even though that was never our expectation, and it is not your responsibility to educate us. We view every single piece of feedback we have received as a gift.

By our own actions, we have caused so much pain. We have affected the livelihoods and opportunities of all of our Black influencers. We have failed at amplifying the very voices and stories that we claimed were important to us. We acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to see this pain in hindsight, rather than having to carry it. We also acknowledge that privilege means using our voice to do something about it.

Over the coming weeks we will be sharing our action plans with you. We will ask for paid consulting help when we don’t know the answers. We will engage in conversation.  We will make mistakes along the way. And we will expect to be called out.

On Wednesday, June 17, we will be attending the action-focused conversation sponsored by Courage To Earn that will include influencers and representatives from agencies, publishing networks, influencer conferences, and blogger networks. We invite you to begin the process of listening, learning, and moving to action by registering now.

That is the first step we all can take, but we can’t stop there.

To our peers in the influencer marketing industry: to brands; to influencer marketing, talent, and content agencies; to influencer conferences, platforms and networks—we must all own this failure. We need to accept full responsibility, and we need to act now to foment change.

We challenge you to join us in leaning into the real work. If you have put out statements saying you support Black lives, equity, and justice, your commitment to the Black community must extend to the influencers you work with. 

We challenge you to hire Black influencers and to not hire any influencer who does not reflect and uphold the values you claim in your statements. We also challenge you to only work with influencer marketing, content marketing, and talent agencies who are making the same commitment to their networks.

White influencers: We challenge you to meet this moment. Listen, educate yourselves, and act. Push brands you work with to live up to their commitments. If you are at a brand event and see only white faces, say something. If your influencer networks are mostly white, challenge that. These are just some of the ways you can actively do the work of being anti-racist that can actually make a difference for your Black peers.

Influencer Marketing, Talent, and Content Agencies; and Influencer Conferences, Platforms and Networks:
We challenge you to join us in owning we are part of the problem. Join us in saying: we purposely overlooked Black influencers because it was easier than to push back or educate a client. It was easier to use the excuse that we were making a “good business decision” than to take a hard look at our actions, and we promise to do better.  

Join us in making diversity a priority parameter that supersedes all other parameters for a given program, and hold yourselves and your clients to it. Tell your clients they can expect to see this reflected in the influencer lists presented to them. Push back when your client only selects white influencers. We are the experts, and part of sharing our expertise with our brand partners is guiding them to do the right thing.

Make no mistake—we are not hiding behind our industry to deflect taking responsibility for our own failures. But as we think about how we are going to do our part to make our industry a more fair, just, and equitable place, we know it’s going to take all of us. We’re not waiting for someone else to step up first. There is no middle ground. There is only right and wrong, and it's beyond time to stand up for what we say we believe is right. Join us now.