Affiliate marketing, and the marketing industry in general, is an incredibly sociable industry that thrives on building relationships. The issue is that when I look around networking at industry events, in client meetings, or when reading articles from influential voices in the industry, I don’t see diverse representation from all backgrounds, including my own. The area this brilliantly sociable industry has fallen short over the years is in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment, which has been put even more under the spotlight in recent months since the Black Lives Matter movement and the conversation around it has blown up. So, we need to establish ways in which to help the industry to be more diverse and more inclusive.

So how can affiliate marketing make better progress on diversity, equality, and inclusion? 

In order to help stop racism and ensure we create a more inclusive and diverse industry moving forward, there’s so many things the industry can do. Firstly, there needs to be more educational pieces to help individuals understand the topic more; to educate ourselves on important topics from micro-aggressions to imposter syndrome, and to champion people from diverse backgrounds to share their experiences with others which also helps to raise awareness. 

I recently shared my experience of racism that I faced in school with my colleagues and it really shocked them. I felt that sharing this information with them and hearing about other’s experiences helps shed light on the topic and encourages people to have these uncomfortable conversations. As an industry it’s important we highlight these issues at industry events and raise awareness within our own organisations and be accountable as a collective group to help bring about this necessary change as we strive for a more equal workplace. 

Another key focus point is how we hire within the industry. Historically, we have predominantly hired University graduates for entry level roles. Many a study has shown that if we were to open up more; to employ apprentices from all walks of life and give them an opportunity, we would likely see a positive effect in our overall business. This would allow individuals from more diverse and multi-cultural backgrounds to give affiliates marketing a new way of thinking and operating. All those in the affiliates space should embrace a fresh approach when hiring to avoid constantly having employees with the same personalities and help the industry to evolve. At Spark Foundry, we have introduced apprentices over the last few years and are proud to say that since 2017, 43% of our intake has been from more diverse backgrounds.

As media agencies, brands and advertisers, we are looking to sell to such a broad range of consumers, with different personalities, wants and needs that we need to make sure we’re representing each of these differences in the boardrooms where we come up with our marketing plans.

What can companies do educate this within their practices?

Within my agency, I’m part of The Collective – our D&I initiative that aims to help educate people about these topics. This has really helped with opening up communications and provide useful information on these sensitive topics. The industry needs to get behind more of these types of groups and have them integrated within organisations. Working with more diverse entry level groups can really help agencies and brands bring in more diverse talent to the workplace.  Recently we’ve seen great examples of this with programmes like Brixton Finishing School, Bauer Media Academy and White Hat Apprenticeship schemes championing people from diverse backgrounds to get into the media and advertising industry. 

Other key tactics to help your company become more diverse are:

  • Unconscious bias training
  • Reverse mentoring
  • Ongoing self-evaluation for your company with measurable actions 
  • Regular check-ins with Black/Asian/Ethnic team members to see how they feel about the progress being made  

And why not start local. To improve their diversity, companies could do more work with local institutions to raise awareness of the types of media job roles that are available to those about to leave school and get more people involved from the outset. We’re currently working towards launching our School partnerships programme with our local council, which aims to integrate our agency within our local community. This will provide the younger members of the local community with a better insight into the media industry and what we do. This should create an in-road to and encourage people from a more diverse background to think about working in media. 

Embracing diversity will help drive better creativity and will ultimately result in moving the industry forward in a positive sense. As a collective group, if we action change within our space, this will filter into other parts of society and move us one step further than we were before.