It’s been one year since the launch of Turn the Talk. How has the initiative developed in the last 12 months and how well has it been received by industry peers?

Anjulie Blunden: We didn’t really know what reception to expect when we launched the initiative. We knew it was a topic that resonated with many people on a personal level but couldn’t be sure what the response would be by businesses and the wider industry. 

Turn the Talk’s mission is to empower individuals and broaden the voices in the performance industry. It’s a pretty wide remit! There are challenges faced in many areas; from hiring and supporting new talent in an inclusive and unbiased way, to supporting career development, right up to ensuring diverse representation of individuals at boardroom level. These aren’t small issues, and what’s more, they can be emotive and sensitive to discuss. We recognise that there’s no right or wrong way to drive change, but we’re pleased that Turn the Talk has had such a positive response. 

The diversity of speakers on stage has been questioned at events and conferences over the years and this was a key driver in setting up Turn the Talk. What was the initial response at the time of launching the initiative, including the feedback from the survey that was carried out?

AB: The way we see it is that the diversity of speakers on stage at events and conferences is just one part of a very large and complex puzzle. When we conducted the survey last year we found that 74% of people actually wanted more opportunities to present and raise their public profile, but for a mixture of reasons didn’t feel able to put themselves forward. This led us to understand that there are a lot of people that hadn’t presented, but would do so if there was a chance to. So we thought, ‘let’s inject some change into that part of the process’. If we can make more people feel empowered and confident to nominate themselves then we can hopefully see a change in the end result; the diversity of speakers that we see on the stage. 

A key motive last year from Turn the Talk was to increase the number of people that are publicly representing the industry. Through your workshop and collaboration with partners in 2019, progress has certainly been made with events organisers tackling the challenges head-on and opening up to best practice for new speakers to flourish, but this is just a start. What more can we do as an industry to push for the tools and platforms necessary to support a diverse range of speakers on stage?

AB: The workshop we ran last year was a real success with lots of great feedback, and we plan to host another event this summer. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, one of the most positive outcomes of launching Turn the Talk has been the real sense of collaboration that we’ve seen from companies in the industry. Every organisation needs to ensure they are creating an inclusive and diverse environment, and I think coming together to discuss ways to do that as an industry has been very inspirational. While there’s certainly no clear cut route to tackling these issues it’s been useful to talk to one another about different approaches.

And what more can we be doing as an industry to encourage a diverse range of speakers? I think we need to be more human and recognise that public speaking is not an easy thing to do. Pushing someone onto a stage because they fill a quota is never going to get to the crux of why they might not have felt comfortable on that stage in the first place. Training and support are fundamental. Also, people are different. Not everyone communicates at their best on a panel when the audience is often baying for blood! Similarly, some people find the rigidity of a keynote presentation stifling. The more creative ways we can find to enable that speaker-audience setup the better. I truly believe that more innovative formats will surface and showcase different voices.

Let’s talk about your plans for 2020, which looks to initiate industry-wide change that creates and recognises a broader spectrum of role models. Could you tell us a bit more about this and some of the ideas you’re looking to implement this year?

AB: When we asked people what they wanted Turn the Talk to focus on this year there was a very clear theme that resonated with us. People said that they wanted to hear from their peers as much as they did senior or more experienced individuals. Whether that’s account managers talking to other account managers, grads to grads or founders talking to other founders. 

We want to recognise that for many people a role model doesn’t have to be someone more experienced or more senior than you. The challenges that led us to create Turn the Talk are the same this year as they were last, but we don’t want to tackle them with constant grumbling negativity. If we can showcase more role models we know we will ultimately showcase a much wider and diverse representation of the industry.

This Sunday (March 8) is International Women’s Day and we’ve been asking the question to tie in with this theme of gender equality – “How can the digital marketing industry collectively help to forge a gender-equal environment for aspiring individuals to flourish?”. From an industry standpoint, what are your thoughts on this?

AB: Equal access to training and resources to help people improve is a really important one for me. Back to my earlier point about role models, showcasing talented, successful women in the industry is also vitally important, so we create more female role models. 

It’s also important that at every turn we promote equality. It’s really empowering in the industry for new voices, be they female or otherwise, to be judged on the same level as their peers, rather than relying on ‘special dispensation’ to take part. Nothing should be more inspiring than to see successful women in our industry celebrated and held in the highest esteem while being judged equally alongside other genders.

Lastly, with the growth of Turn the Talk, how can organisations get involved and showcase their efforts to support the initiative and the wider-agenda at hand?

AB: As we progress throughout the year we’d like to highlight companies who are supportive of the Turn the Talk initiative, whether that’s directly through their contribution to the events and content we provide, or because of their own diversity and inclusion efforts. And of course, if any individuals want to chat about our plans for the year, or how they can get involved they can email us through the website.

Follow the latest updates from Turn the Talk and more here.