The Work Continues...
I have tried to sit and write this at least three times this weekend, but I haven’t been in the right mental space. However, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t let too much time pass before I documented at least some of what this shift for the better in our country has been like from our perspective. Be forewarned that I’m not certain what direction this will head in, but likely will focus most of all on our Bring on the Ballot initiative and some takeaways from this election.
October, as tends to be the norm in my life, was another busy month. On the Music Forward side, as Forbes, the New York Times, and others previewed, we launched our “Diversify the Stage” initiative, in partnership with Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums--an initiative that we hope will provide more opportunity for young women of color interested in pursuing a career in the music industry.
In the middle of everything, I also ended up speaking virtually at the American Marketing Association’s Western Regional Conference with colleagues from Google and Instagram. The latter really made me think about how we’ve evolved marketing and audience engagement for this new digital and virtual era--although, for me it didn’t require as much adjustment perhaps as for other marketers as I, in a sense, helped pioneer the digital space over the course of my career, so I’m pretty familiar with how to pivot in that space. Where I do spend more time these days mentally though is on content strategy, which has always played a significant role in my career, but especially now with audiences suffering from an over-saturation of content and virtual fatigue. Discoverability of content is a larger issue than finding a platform to serve it from is.
A cohort of the attendees were also college students that took me back to the start of my career and even pre-college days via their questions that they asked me during the Q&A. As they get ready to enter the workforce, they of course are uncertain of what their futures hold with companies not doing as much hiring as in the past. I tried to give them an optimistic outlook and offered tips for ways that they could distinguish themselves or stand out. Which resulted in an abundance of follow-ups post-event that I’m still trying to make my way through weeks later.
One of the things I did revisit with them was the fact that it was ok to feel like they didn’t have a full five or even ten year plan when it comes to their careers as it is highly likely that they won’t settle into what is truly the right path for them until they actually enter the workforce full-time and get hands-on experience. In fact, I know many people who are currently considering shifting to a different career path, given the current state of different industries. One of the things that I did appreciate from my fellow panelists was that we were all involved in various initiatives, not just my role at Live Nation/House of Blues or theirs at Google and Instagram. We all lead other passion projects as well, which I thought was a good example for this next wave of our industry leaders to see. You no longer only have to restrict yourself to one career or pathway. For me, I have always enjoyed marketing because of my well-documented creative and analytical sides. I most often lead with my creative side as that’s where the ideas spark from, but bring them to fruition or optimize them via the analytics side. Most everyone that I know personally knows that I initially thought I’d go into fashion, which is where I learned that I actually really enjoyed marketing. However, what only most of those closer in my friend’s group know or sometimes attendees of conferences like these know was that the initial career path that I thought
I would pursue was that of practicing law. Through my junior year in high school that was what I thought I wanted to become, an attorney. A curiosity for the Civics space and a love of history were leading me there, with a plan to attend Stanford initially, I also attended a youth immersion on U.S. Law and the Constitution in D.C. my sophomore year. An experience that I still look back on fondly and that I wish more people had access to, but that also showed me that I don’t think I’d ever really want to be a politician (I recently was asked if I would consider running for a city office or if I would consider heading up a commission -- the first not so much, the latter I’m a little more open to but I’d have to be able to define that role). Anyhow long story short, I lost a close friend to a car accident that junior year of high school that made me reconsider what path I really wanted to take. I realized that I enjoyed being creative and definitely wanted to keep that as a part of what I did in life. I’ve never regretted that decision, and that is how I know that it was the right one for me.
I shared this with the college students, as I did want to reassure anyone who was reconsidering what path they would go down. I also share that because of all of the young people that we met, engaged, and worked with on our Bring on the Ballot, youth vote initiative as many of the true organizers once you got past layers of the shinier names like “When We All Vote” and “Rock the Vote” (which are both great organizations that we worked with closely on our Music Forward youth vote initiatives) to the more region-centric ones across the U.S. actually doing the heavy lifting are actually heavily powered by the youth--as well as other demographics of course. Most of these young people are still in college, most not majoring in anything related to government or civics but still passionate about retaining democracy and changing the country for the better. I really am so proud of Gen Z, as our Bring on the Ballot firsthand got to lead, collaborate with, and help empower to help contribute greatly to this weekend’s Biden/Harris win, one so crucial for us as a country, but also globally and for our planet.
Aside from our own content generation to engage voters, we were also collaborating with campuses and organizations from across the country as many of them had people-power but on the digital side and marketing side they were lacking in strategy and cohesion. We are so proud of all of them, ESPECIALLY those in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. However, across the U.S. we were proud to see that youth were in fact voting blue, it was all of the older generations that posed the larger challenge of making this the too-close-for-comfort race that it never should have been. I’ll do a write-up on that later in the week.
I of course know that the votes of other generations mattered as well (we didn’t end up with such a close race without all of those other votes), but the focus of our campaign was on the youth vote and so that’s what I’ll keep my remarks mostly limited around. Come January, if efforts can persist and the GA voting population can continue to run on the momentum that was created, the democratic side could pick up an additional much-needed senate seat or even two. With Stacey Abrams at that helm, via her own Fair Fight, and the support of the rest of us once more, there is indeed a fighting chance.
In October, we were also interviewing Gen Z voters from across the country for our My Vote, My Reality digital IGTV series and in these intimate conversations that we conducted with a skeleton crew due to the current pandemic for continued post-election, pre-inauguration roll-out as we shift the focus from getting the youth vote, to holding the newly elected officials accountable for what we voted them in to accomplish.
I knew well over a year ago that the youth vote would be a big deciding factor in this election as I walked my Consciously Studio team through the math and hypothetical outcomes with and without the Gen Z vote.
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I kept repeating to our Bring on the Ballot team and shared more broadly was to stay focused. We were committed to driving the youth vote, by leveraging our creative and strategic minds and that meant empowering others who were on the same mission, I advised them not to get distracted by other generations, news headlines, and especially not 45, we had one goal to pursue and a plethora of ways to get there, but none without the Gen Z vote. I also early on told them that this was not a competition and that to win we’d all have to work together. That was another area in which I have a lot of pride in our Gen Z team of Bring on the Ballot, that they were willing to share our resources and sometimes themselves as a resource for some of those with more limited capabilities on their teams--especially in the swing states.
There is a lot of data to share from the Gen Z Vote side that we and others have collected and been analyzing. From the broader variables that we’d hoped for like the Black Vote in the southern states (90% in GA!), the Native American votes in Arizona, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and the Dakotas (their vote as a whole reached almost 100% pro-Biden for AZ and WI), to the Asian Youth Vote which is one of the hardest won for any party. After I get a chance to review it with my teams and we have a chance to draft our post-mortem we will share some of it here on Consciously Studio and on the Bring on the Ballot website as well.
While this journey of the Gen Z Vote for us began as what we imagined would be a marathon, it quickly sped up to a sprint come August, but I’ll go more into that later this week.
For now, as I continue to make my way through all of the congratulatory and thank you emails from our partners, collaborators, and other orgs and send off my own, I am just so glad that the hard work and effort of so many worked and that Democracy remains another day. As one of founders of another organization we collaborated with stated to me yesterday,“In the toughest imaginable circumstances, together we all got to be part of saving America’s life. We toppled a tyrant and made history.”