The first day of the 26th Annual National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) convention greeted its attendees with a vibrant and lively atmosphere filled with upbeat songs and even more energetic participants. More akin to an awards show than a traditional conference, NAMIC offered a much appreciated break from the norm on an otherwise ruminative September 11th in Midtown Manhattan. After a somber moment to reflect on the September 11, 2001, tragedies, NAMIC organizers revved up the crowd with rousing opening addresses. As a result, media and communications professionals from across the country filled the Hilton Americas Grand Ballroom ready to engage in frank discussions about diversity and multiculturalism in the industry.
The theme for the conference was Diversity4, a clever mathematical play that, according to NAMIC’s President and CEO Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, celebrated multiculturalism as a vertical exponent. Dr. Turner-Lee quipped that she envisioned the concept while tackling homework with her son. In creating the conference, Dr. Turner-Lee wanted to stress that multicultural content, diversity, and inclusion are becoming the most valuable entities in the communications industry. This is evidenced by the fact that media companies are finally not only acknowledging that they must adjust to the changing demographics of the nation, but they are also actively courting a panorama of viewers. So the four exponents of diversity – culture, audience, innovation, and leadership – were explored and celebrated.
Sessions ranged from creating original programming for multicultural audiences to evolving markets, customers, and employees, and it was almost impossible for an attendee to walk away without useful gems of knowledge. The conference offered a wide range of topics and discussion pieces that not only invigorated the audience’s desire to improve the industry, but also gave practical advice on how to succeed in this ever-changing industry. Some of the best takeaways from the conference were geared toward entrepreneurs:
- “A good solid business plan, sharpened by diversity, is good for the business, industry and country.” – David L. Cohen, EVP, Comcast Corporation
- “Touch consumers whenever they expect your brand to be. A company’s success is tied with consumers’ expectation of where they expect the brands to be.” – Ken Lowe, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO, Scripps Networks Interactive
- “Understand what is possible and what is useful to people. What they want. The sweet spot is creating a business model that you can make money doing just that.” – Glen Britt, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Cable
- “Enable consumer access to all of your content. Make sure that they have physical access to your content in any way that they choose.” – Hernan Lopez, President and CEO, Fox International Channels
Before discussing his experience in building radio, broadcast, and digital platforms, Alfred C. Liggins, III, president and CEO of Radio One and chairman of TV One gave a nod to David Honig and MMTC for personally giving him; his mother, Cathy Hughes; and his stepfather, Dewey Hughes, “help with the FCC rules in 1980, thereby bringing Radio One into fruition and getting a foothold into the radio business.” From its inception that same year to today, the company now owns and operates 53 radio stations in 15 cities and holds 51 percent stake in its cable and satellite TV network-sister TV One. Liggins offered this advice to burgeoning broadcast owners: “As advertisers demanded to go with the audience, Radio One had to go to TV and then to the digital space. Broadcasters need to follow the audience, who will be then followed by advertisers and the dollars that come with them.”
The conference and what it achieved can best be summed up in a statement by Dr. Turner Lee. “In one’s career, there are teachable moments that either make us stronger or take us off our path,” she said. “In the end, as Commissioner Michael Powell stressed in his address to the attendees, we must not forget that WE belong.” Current FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who spoke to the attendees regarding the role of the FCC in this diversification process, also provided a startling point. “It will likely take 70 plus years for the industry to reach parity with diversity of the nation.”
However, from the attentiveness, commitment, resolve and enthusiasm of the panelists, organizers and attendees, it is quite clear that we are embarking on a more inclusive and diverse time for the communications industry.
- Latoya Livingston is a Washington-D.C.-based attorney with years of legal experience working in the private and public sector. Currently, Attorney Livingston serves as a Senior Attorney and the Earle K. Moore Fellow at MMTC.