To start off this conversation, I’d like to say that I am so grateful to have a mentor/boss that gives me insight and allows me to lead with my convictions.
I had the privilege of marketing for a company that I believed in for some years. I thought they were honest, hard-working people that had a fantastic product that was helping others. Their employees felt comfortable calling me for advice, and I loved helping them bring ideas to fruition.
Every marketing consultant knows that at the end of the day, clients want to know how their marketing activities are translating into sales. Expecting sales is reasonable and valid. Dollars out should eventually convert to dollars in.
During the client’s last quarter of the year, we were in heavy communication with our strategy for the new year. Our goal was to utilize new platform capabilities and shift our message. It was typical for me to receive up to 2 phone calls a day. However, one day the conversation changed.
I picked up the phone on a busy Wednesday afternoon when I heard something that literally made me shake. The client that I loved asked me NEVER to show photos of interracial couples in my marketing material. They said, “It doesn’t fit our values”. It felt like someone punched me in the stomach.
We do our best to show diversity through imagery in the client’s social media. Naturally, photos of interracial couples fall into this effort. I don’t believe VALUES had anything to do with their request. I said that I needed to inform my superior of their request and hung up the phone.
This was not an independent consulting project. I had a consulting team that I needed to represent and knew we need to come up with the proper response together. When I hung up I wasn’t sure if I handled the call correctly. I wondered (and still do), should I have told them right there that their “values” were not correct? I always want to confront racism.
We all know that racism exists, but the challenge is responding when we see or hear it happen. I am Hispanic, but I do not navigate the world as a person of color as I am very fair skinned. No one knows I’m Hispanic until I speak Spanish. My mother is Latina, and my Dad is Anglo. I wonder if my parent’s relationship doesn’t fit this former client’s “values”. Who knows…
This experience taught me a lot.
Our team decided that terminating service was the only response. When I sent the letter to discontinue service, I HOPED the client would say that their eyes were opened or apologize. I was naive. The response I received was, “I’m sorry to hear this.” True to form, they never paid for their last month of service. We were okay eating this cost.
Doing the right thing put me and others at a financial loss, but our action in this situation was important.
Our actions set a precedence.