Stay true to your values in turbulent times: meet Collette Philip
As we write, the US election result hangs on a knife edge and a divisive campaign has highlighted how fractured the country is. Reflecting on events here in the UK, our thoughts turn to ‘what can we do to come together?’
Focusing on the change we can make in our own communities and networks is a powerful way to hold true to our values and stay resilient through difficult times. This advice was shared by Collette Philip – Founder and Managing Director of marketing agency Brand By Me – at a recent Women in Advertising and Communications Leadership anti-racism group, of which our CEO Jennie Cashman Wilson is a fellow member.
Over the last few weeks Collette’s been supporting us in focusing in on the Foundation’s purpose and values to helping us strengthen and grow our mission and impact into 2021 and beyond. So Jennie caught up with her to talk more about her work building anti-racist brands plus leading through challenging times.
Jennie: What role do you think brands can play in tackling structural and systemic racism?
Collette: Brands have a huge role to play. Brands, through the power of technology, data and insight, have unparalleled access into the lives of consumers and that comes with a responsibility to make sure that they are using this power for good – versus merely making sure they comply with the minimum requirements to do no harm. By, for example, proactively increasing representation and inclusion of minoritised communities across everything they do; creating commercial opportunities for communities of colour and partnering with grassroots organisations and black-owned businesses; breaking down stereotypes and modelling positive change and tackling the very systems that promote and reinforce inequality and injustice within specific industries, brands can take direct and indirect action that drives short term change and long term impact. And they need to take this responsibility really seriously, because consumers are demanding this and won’t tolerate or buy from brands that operate in a values vacuum.
Jennie: What advice would you give someone reading this on where to start with building anti-racism into the heart of their brand?
Collette: I have a whole blog post on this exact topic! It’s really important to listen for and to the lived experiences of racism around your brand and wider industry. These aren’t always immediately obvious, so make sure you actively engage with people of colour and create space so they feel safe to share their experiences. Make sure that you understand the nature of racism – including the root causes and the many insidious ways it infects society. Check your privilege and leave your saviourism at the door so that you can use your learning to understand what needs to change without centering your brand in the activity. And link anti-racism to the purpose and values of your brand, so it becomes part of the driving force behind your actions. Finally get external help – this is not something you can do alone (as you’re just too close to it).
Jennie: Why do you think anti-racism is important in the music community?
Collette: The music industry has long profited from the influences and excellence of black people, black culture and wider communities of colour too, whilst simultaneously managing to reinforce, uphold and exacerbate unfair systems of power and privilege that prevent people from those communities reaping any benefits of this. These systemic issues cannot be addressed unless there are sustained and proactive efforts and action to tackle racism in all of its forms – across the music industry and wider community too. Charities like Abram Wilson Foundation can play a key role in spearheading this movement and harnessing your networks to act too.
Jennie: Is there an example you can share of an action that you’ve seen someone take in their community that’s inspired others and created a ripple of change?
Collette: Well the most obvious example I can think of is footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign against food poverty. It started with a simple but powerful call to action to stop the government cutting free school meals and has now rallied the public, restaurants, celebrities and politicians to address the impact of food poverty on children, forcing the government to U-turn on several attempts to remove this support. And he hasn’t stopped even in the face of these short term wins. And on a local level, there are so many examples of community action at this time e.g. people coming together to produce protective equipment to donate to local hospitals, creating phone trees to support the most vulnerable and isolated and volunteering to get food deliveries to people who cannot get out and about.
Jennie: 2020 has been a year of crisis in so many ways, what have you learned about leading your own brand consultancy business in tough times?
Collette: I did a whole You Tube series about leading through turbulent times based on my experience! My biggest learnings were to really understand and focus in on my purpose so I could understand where I add value and the impact I want to have, especially in tough times. And I never stopped prioritising social justice and tackling inequality, even when I was advised (poorly) that other activities may be more lucrative. This really kept me motivated and activated too!
Jennie: Do you have a favourite quote that inspires you?
Collette: One of my best mates said to me, ‘running your own business is all about holding your nerve’ and it’s still the best advice I’ve been given. To hold your nerve when the going gets tough and it would be easy to give in, is essential!
Jennie: Finally, what’s your favourite feel good tune and why?
Collette: Any song by Stevie Wonder is guaranteed to make me feel good. He recently dropped a couple of new tracks and ‘Can’t Put It In The Hands Of Fate’ featuring Busta Rhymes is like the theme song, anthem and call to action for these times – I think they should have played it on loudspeaker in every voting booth in the US tbh.
You can follow Collette @brandbycollette on all social media and visit brandbyme.co.uk to find out more about building anti-racism into your brand.