Today not only marks the first day of February, but it also marks my first official day back on the blog. It is also the beginning of Black History Month and the revered Black Blogs Matter Challenge. Today’s theme is Black Blogs Still Matter.
Black blogs still matter quite simply because our silence as black people can no longer stand. By now, many of us have built our respective brands and rapport in various lanes. Even with the prestige, accolades, and recognition that comes with blogging for some time, there remains ignorance of epic proportions. Plainly, there are still people who like what we write about, will greet you with a smile at an event, but still lack the ability to hold space for you to be authentically, culturally and aesthetically who you are as a human and in word. How disheartening it is to realize that your ancestors were silenced or shunned for speaking their truths and here we stand in 2018 where not much has changed? The key difference is we will no longer be silenced, we don’t care what it costs us and we will be heard.
In the last year, I have learned it is more important than ever to speak up about matters that affect the black community and the society-at-large. I cannot afford the silence any longer. I cannot afford the silence any longer not because it is costing me money; on the contrary, it is still costing me, my soul. I don’t want to work with your brand if you want to censor me. There are plenty of bloggers happy to scoop up every dollar and coin of yours so long as they can say they worked with Brand “X”. I don’t want you as a client if you hold bigoted views, there is a special kind of consultant or small business out there to serve not only your business but satisfy your insatiable craving for racist banter. I am not interested in being your friend, colleague or online buddy if I’m only palatable when I meet your white standards or threshold for political correctness. I don’t want to attend your swanky event if you haven’t awakened to the fact that your speaker rosters and blogger teams need to be diverse. Inclusion at such events needs to look like I don’t sit through your dinners or group outings feeling like a foreigner in my own body. You may find my position unfair, but it is unfair to be held to standards that others never have to consider reaching. Yet, I smile, do the work and blaze ahead accepting those circumstances in which I am subjected to less than equitable conditions.
Almost 7 years into blogging, the beauty is I have no cares of who I please. I have learned if I please myself first I will attract the right people, opportunities, and clients. I would be remiss if I didn’t say, this mantra is already in play as many of you have written to me over the years expressing how thankful you were for my candor on difficult subjects. Thank you for holding space for me.
It was never the intention of this blog to “go lightly”. Whenever I tackle a topic it is with precision and the truth. I expect callousness from celebrities, politicians, and others who permeate the upper echelons of society. What I hadn’t expected to see was the lack of empathy, privilege, blatant disrespect that I have witnessed within our own HR community. Nonetheless, it is when you see what is wrong in the world that you have choices to make.
1) Accept that this is what it is and what is going to be and remain silent.
2) You can see it all as an opportunity to share a different perspective.
I have chosen the latter. If you learn from me during the next 15 weeks, I have done your job for you. If I have shared my truth unabashedly in the next 15 weeks, I have freed myself and empowered others like me to do the same. This is not Racism 101 or Diversity and Inclusion 19 at some university or Continuing Ed. Black blogs still matter. My voice still matters and it for that reason alone that I will continue to do the work and share what is true. I hope you will hang in there with me.
Yesterday was my 6th year blogiversary for this here blog. I am eternally thankful for the ride I have had to date with this blog. After 10+years of living HR day-to-day (6 of which I have spent writing about it too) — you have many a-ha moments.
This blog has spawned a business, speaking engagements, brand partnerships and more. I created this blog as a safe space for me to reconcile the things I was experiencing as an HR practitioner who struggled between being human and being in HR. I’ll explain more about that later. Ultimately, the more opportunities I garner to step outside of the traditional HR box the more I see both the potential and disarray of HR as a discipline. Both warrant our attention separately and collectively.
As such, I have decided to share 6 HR or more specifically business epiphanies with the lens of HR for my fellow practitioners to sink their teeth into.
Here we go…
1) One of the reasons that I struggled to find sustained success in my HR positions was I was always striving to be more “human” in Human Resources. That should not be an oxymoron, but judging by discussions I have had with friends who are practitioners as well as attendees of my workshops — there is almost always a moment or moments in which we all as practitioners need to yield more heart than head; less policy and more practicality. No HR practitioner should be working in HR feeling like they are at constant odds between their HR duties within their respective organizations and their own morals, values, and well-being. This needs to stop.
2) Change is happening quickly. Innovation is the new buzzword we all love to hate. That aside, I’m not sure that we are moving quite as quickly towards innovation in our own discipline as we should. If we are the core or the heart of the organization, how well can the rest of the moving parts operate with a slow or non-existent “heartbeat”? Ponder that for a moment.
3) On innovation, we can not afford to have change happen to us, we must initiate and lead from where we sit. Forget “seats at tables” and our usual bouts of being “strategic”. When was the last time we shifted or pivoted for the sake of being a better industry without first being beat down in some doom and gloom article or being coerced by other elements outside of our sphere of influence? Don’t get me wrong, we are very much guided by what happens in our individual organizations and must keep an eye to that, but it is safe to say that we should have many ideas about how HR can be done better and be actively seeking to implement or experiment with them.
4) The truth hurts. That is if you are brave and bold enough you have to realize that speaking truths outside of the normal realms of compliance, strategy, and protocol will rub people the wrong way or they will pretend to not understand. I’d like to believe we have gotten smarter as a species, so it is a little hard for me to believe that people can’t or won’t admit to some of the harder truths working against us like: Why does Diversity & Inclusion exist? Is it because it is necessary for having a sustainable business or is it because there are systems beyond the scope of business and HR designed to marginalize groups of people who are now being “managed” and given “opportunities” under the guise of D&I? I’ll let that marinate.
5) For HR practitioners and HR Influencers alike, if you don’t have a zeal for improving lives, society, businesses — get out! There is a space for you in this world. You owe it to yourself to find it as there is a vast labor market of opportunity calling you to find your true passion and purpose and/or a tiki torch, but I’ll save that discussion for a different day. I have had my fill of HR practitioners who have fallen and bumped their heads on HR and do it with hate and disdain for the industry. As for the “influencers”, many are great, just as many exist to blow hot air about how terrible we are as a discipline while collecting checks from said discipline. There’s a difference between “tough love” and “snark for snarks-sake”. Know the difference. Evaluate yourself and if all outlined here is applicable– get out! As the saying goes, we can do bad all by ourselves.
6) Lastly, there is still hope for our discipline despite the calls for its obliteration. It’s called imagination, creativity, and humility. These three things are the foundation for what HR needs to be in the present and in the foreseeable future. These three approaches to HR and business are not to be seen as scary but are meant to excite, inspire and galvanize those of you who are ready and willing to face societal ills, digital transformation, and rapid growth head-on. The future is exciting and so is the work we have ahead of us.
So there you have it, my epiphanies on HR 6 years into blogging. I hope it sparks conversation, makes you think, and promotes change. After all, the initial intention of The Aristocracy of HR was to raise the standard of HR while always asking ourselves the hard questions about how and why we do what we do.
Thank you for reading, supporting and inspiring me through the years.
Janine a.k.a. Your “CzarinaofHR”
Image courtesy of Flickr.
I’ve been working for a few years now with multiple brands per year. I have worked with brands in the music industry to emerging technology companies. When I reflect on what has made for a great partnership in the past, there are several themes that crop up over and over again. Conversely, there are other trends that come to mind when I reflect on what has gone terribly wrong in some of these partnerships. I hope to illuminate both sides of the coin equally and vividly.
In my opinion, influencer marketing is still an emerging field. Like anything else, there is going to be a learning curve. There are brands that chose to take the time to get it right. Yet others, clearly rushed to adoption without putting the right infrastructure in place. The intent where influencer marketing is concerned is for brands to be able to identify and partner with people who have a significant social following and voice in their respective niches. This partnership is usually created to raise awareness, drive traffic and/or sales to the brand in question.
Did you know?
According to Huffington Post, 65% of marketers are participating in the influencer marketing space. Many recent statistics also indicate that companies increased budget for influencer marketing campaigns in 2016 and plan to do so going forward. In addition, a few brands who are reaping the rewards of this kind of advertising are making a play for separate budget to fund influencer campaigns apart from all other advertising and marketing efforts.
It is safe to say, that influencer marketing will be sticking around for awhile longer. With some tweaking, planning and synergy between brand and influencer – this kind of marketing becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Here are the five things that brands need to know before getting into the influencer marketing game:
1) Make sure you have the right people handling your influencer outreach and engagement. Influencers are people. In particular, they are people who either hold a 9-5 job elsewhere or have multiple business endeavors. In other instances, it is their only business or if they are like me – it is a part in a larger consulting business. Imagine receiving tons of inquiries for sponsored posts, vlogs, events etc. per week. What will make your inquiry more compelling than the others? The way your inquiry moves to the top is by having competent and knowledgeable people on your frontlines. For example, I had a brand representative reach out to me for sponsored work. Over 10 plus emails or so she asked me a battery of questions about my influence to determine if I was right for them. The reality is: she should have done her homework and came to the table with less questions than more. She found me and my page which means something stood out in her searches. I run a business that doesn’t afford me the time to go back and forth over email with your representative that is doing this all for the first time. Turned out to be a troublesome partnership for me in the end and it was evident from the first engagement. Pay attention to who you have representing you.
2) Start small and have clear goals for your partnership. There is nothing more frustrating to influencers than you engaging them with great enthusiasm and no plan. Let’s flip it for a second, how likely is an influencer to garner your attention if they reach out to you with an informal email that indicates no real plan for their enthusiastic pursuits of a partnership? I am pretty sure that email will be deleted. The same holds true when you reach out to influencers. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect, but you should have some plan and/or idea for moving forward with a partnership. Serendipity is fun as you move through fine-tuning the ideas for partnership, but please have some framework or foundation for us to work from.
3) Influencers are not an extension of your internal marketing or pr department. The reason why influencer marketing is all the rage is because it differs from the “buy me because we’re great” sales push that is synonymous with traditional marketing and advertising. Influencer Marketing is like hearing about that hot new product, event or service from your best friend. While not all people have bought into believing influencers – there are many who have followed the climb of their respective influencer or community of choice and therefore respect any recommendations coming out of those camps. To that point, you partner with influencers for our unique voices and perspectives in the market. The moment you decide to control or censor the voice our communities are accustomed to hearing; you have undermined the entire partnership. This isn’t to say that you can’t have a say or editorial influence to ensure the sponsored material meets your standards, but realize the whole point of this is not to be like your traditional marketing copy. If this is a sticking point for you, you may want to reevaluate.
4) Compensation matters. Whether you are a startup or a Fortune 500 should not matter. If you want someone to pitch your business or service to a community/following they have spent countless hours building- you have to pay for that. There are many ways to compensate influencers that don’t always involve dollars leaving your bank account for ours. For instance, I had a pretty well known accounting system vendor reach out to me to do sponsored work. Funny enough, I happen to use them for my own accounting. I simply asked for a year of free service in return for my sponsored content. Their representative returned my email with a “sorry, we don’t do that.” I bid her adieu and never looked back. Besides the poor judgment of not working with a current customer who enthusiastically would have promoted their company- it was clear they wanted my endorsement for free. Testimonials are one thing and sponsored content is something altogether different. You need to be able to compensate influencers. I’m personally tired of feeling like I have to pull it out of the company representative as to whether they intend to compensate or not. Expect to pay and be upfront about your budget. Some budget is better than nothing.
5) Etiquette and Business Protocol are welcomed. As mentioned above, influencers are either intrapreneurs working for someone or entrepreneurs in their own right. We do not exclusively work for you nor do we operate in accordance with your sloppy protocols and corporate practices. If your company is the sort that has a great idea one day and abandons it the next, you had better figure out some streamlined way of communicating in a timely and consistent manner where it concerns influencers. This may be a small line item in your marketing budget, that doesn’t mean that you fail to communicate when a campaign idea has been abandoned or in other cases when you are no longer manning a community of influencers. I surely hope you would not leave other business deals/partners in limbo – why would this seem like a reasonable way to operate with influencers?
These are just a few of the many considerations that should be driving your conversations about influencer programs internally. As I was writing, I realized there is far more to share. I truly enjoy partnering with brands to help illuminate their newest services and projects. The point is for this to be both fun and beneficial to both parties involved.
Brands: Share your best practices with me in the comments. Influencers: Share your tips for partnership improvement in the comments as well.
September 13th will mark the 5 year anniversary of The Aristocracy of HR. I certainly never set out to become a blogger, so reaching this milestone is pretty darn special. There were quite a few people who gave me a chance and supported from the very beginning. I’ll give them a shout out next week as well as address how I stumbled upon blogging; but for the purpose of this post I want to explore what I have learned over the past five years.
The first lesson is: Honor your writing process.
Don’t get me wrong consistency is a huge factor in achieving and maintaining traffic to your blog, but you want to know what is even more damaging than consistency- forced content. I have never been able to write under duress. Like a true artist, I need the spirits to move me or something to inspire me to write. Luckily, I have been inspired on more weeks than not these past five years. However, there have been a few weeks in which nothing I thought to type was worth your time.
I often had this aching feeling like I needed to put something out for the sake of not losing readers. I used to sit in a bit of my own purgatory, until one day I learned to honor my writing process. I write what inspires me. The only other writing I know how to do is to introduce a product, service or event which is a bit more technical. Outside of that, I am not a content calendar gal. It just isn’t helpful given the way I write.
If there is anything that I have learned, it is that you will churn out the worst content – if you don’t recognize what kind of writer you are and honor it. Planning a content calendar may help some organize their thoughts – while others may be more free-spirited like me. Do what works for you.
The second lesson is: Write what you know.
I’m not sure how many blogs I’ve read over the years, but I am certain it’s in the thousands. That said, there is nothing worse than reading something that seems forced or isn’t based in fact. There is of course satire, but I am talking about the group of folks who are professionals, experts, gurus, ninjas in their own right yet, their story and/or style of writing leaves much to be desired.
Part of how you succeed as a blogger is to write what you know. The things that are like second nature to you, but still a mystery for the right audience is where the magic happens. I’m not saying pick easy topics to write about all the time, but do yourself and your readers a favor by knowing what you are talking about. Lack of acumen can plague even the best writing. It’s kind of like an unwanted zit – it’s grossly noticeable, unnecessary and bothersome.
Lesson three is: Be humble.
When I started blogging in the HR niche, there were a lot of cliques and elitist personalities in abundance. I’ve since learned that many of the other blogging niches suffer from the same problem. Many of the bloggers who were prolific five years ago have either fallen off the blogging scene and faded into obscurity. Some have moved on to other endeavors. Yet there are still a few plugging along like me. You never know where your next opportunity is coming from. Treat new bloggers the same as you would a blogger with thousands of followers or readers. That newbie blogger with a rather scant reader base and social media following can sky rocket to notoriety in the blink of an eye. Focus on being better at your craft, but never count a lesser-known blogger out.
I believe one of my keys to success with The Aristocracy of HR is that I am humble and welcome connecting with my readers and followers whether online and offline. It may seem as though this would be simple for most bloggers to follow through with; but I have seen many let the pomp and circumstance of blogging success get to their heads. Don’t let that be you.
There are so many other lessons I have learned in five years. There are far too many to share in a mere blog post. When I got clear about how I wanted to celebrate this occasion I realized the best way to do so is to give my time and ear to those thinking of dabbling in blogging and/or those who are bloggers but need a fresh perspective to continue.
As such, I am holding a free Q & A call on September 13th to answer questions about blogging, business, and how becoming a blogger has transformed my career and life.
If this is you, register for my call below. Conversely, if you know someone who could benefit from this call, please feel free to share the call information.
Stay tuned here as there will be many more celebrations of my 5 year Blogiversary and announcements in the coming weeks!