Black Meetings and Tourism

November/December 2020

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30 B M & T ••• November/December 2020 ••• T he lack of racial diversity and inclusion in the hospitality/trav- el/meetings industry has resulted in only a handful of Black- owned public relations firms and advertising agencies actually having a seat at the table and influence over creative content. Not surprisingly, that deficiency directly affects the narrative and images of the Black culture, resulting in the ineffective creation of messaging and campaigns targeting Blacks. Those obstacles limit the participation of Black professionals in the cre- ative process, which causes a void in the messaging from the mainstream that is created for diverse audiences. That fact hasn't gone unnoticed by high profile Black executives in the advertising and public relations industry who unanimously agree that mes- saging from a Black advertising agency or public relations firm that has the depth, the history of experience, and a wealth of knowledge about their own markets, would not only be credible and authentic but would boost cultural sensitivity Carol H. Williams, the founder of Carol H. Williams Advertising and the creative mastermind behind major campaigns for Secret, Pillsbury, and Disney, said both the advertising industry and mainstream pub- lic relations firms still had a lot of work to do when it comes to the inclusion of Blacks. "Most of the hospitality hotels are owned by others," said Williams who recently became the first Black woman to receive Ad Age's Vanguard Award. "So as a result, they hire what makes them comfortable. A cul- ture they can immerse in well that speaks their language. Unless you have grown past that concept and embraced a culture, it's very diffi- cult for that to happen." Treva J. Marshall, president of TJM Communications, agrees that the lack of Black firms and agencies has to do with the absence of diversity in the industry. "If there was more representation at the management and executive level, it would translate to higher levels of engagement," said Marshall. "It's all a by-product of the absence of diversity in the industry. It's 2020 and we are still having these conversations." BY DARLENE DONLOE

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