The American Advertising Federation, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Elon School of Communications sponsored a March 14 panel with professionals working in the television and advertising industries, as well as higher education.
By Sophia Ortiz ’21
The Diversity in Reality Television panel began as a discussion about diversity in the entertainment industry, but the March 14 event eventually pivoted to the difficulty minority communities have on and off screen.
Led by Communications Dean Rochelle Ford, the panel discussion brought together executives with extensive knowledge of the television industry, particularly the reality television genre. These panelists included Carol Cunningham, vice president of consumer insights and business strategy for BET; Constance Cannon Frazier, COO and acting CEO of the American Advertising Federation; Kendra Hatcher King, global strategy lead for Publicis Groupe; and Kari Taylor, deputy chief of staff at Elon University and former director of development of Red Bandit.
In an informal Q&A setting, the panelists discussed the evolution of the industry and its effects on each branch of reality television. A member of the School of Communications' National Advisory Board, Cunningham explained how BET Networks, a division of Viacom, focuses on “engaging, entertaining and empowering” audiences to better represent the communities they entertain.
“The reality that we do has a purpose … it has to be inspirational and aspirational,” Cunningham said.
Students asked several questions about difficulties the panelists have faced as female minorities in a primarily white, male industry. While a few panelists shared insistences of workplace discrimination experiences, they all encouraged attendees to maintain confidence in their abilities and conduct their job responsibilities with justice.
King explained that she is vocal and outspoken when the situation calls for it, and won’t participate in projects that target minorities unethically.
“You want to be on projects where all ethnic minorities have a space,” King said. “It is an opportunity to create positivity or even just to be seen and represented on television.”
During the group conversation, each panelist emphasized their identities as African American females encouraged them to use their skills to help their organizations better understand multiracial identifying consumers.
The panel gave constructive advice when addressing Joyce Choi ’19, an aspiring talent agent who hopes to bring more inclusivity and diversity into the entertainment industry.
“Own your differences,” Cunningham said. “No one else in the room who is going to think the way you are thinking.”
Each panelists encouraged the students to develop friendships and not isolate yourself, even if they are the only minority in the room.
“If you’re not in the room, you are not going to be a part of the conversation,” Taylor said.
The panel concluded with words of encouragement and an emphasis on collaboration with all branches of the entertainment industry in hopes of cultivating more diversity and representation.
The event was presented by the American Advertising Federation, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the School of Communications.
In partnership with the PR Council, the School of Communications also hosted a PR Agency Careers Diversity and Inclusion Panel Discussion on Feb. 25. The wisdom session and ensuing networking reception featured strategic communications and human resources executives from several of the most prominent agencies in the world.