It Shouldn’t Take a National Uprising: Alexis Davis Smith on Multicultural Marketing

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks in the United States. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police unleashed weeks of street protests and have caused many Americans to reflect on the role they play in perpetuating racism and inequality. This unrest and collective soul-searching have also reached the business world. Major brands across the country are now taking a hard look at their internal practices and realizing they’ve come up short in their inclusion and outreach efforts towards minority communities.

In this episode of the PR Talk Podcast, host Amy Rosenberg chats with Alexis Davis Smith, CEO, and president of PRecise Communications in Atlanta, Georgia. Alexis and her firm specialize in connecting leading consumer brands with multicultural consumers, focusing on African American and Latinx consumers. As a Black woman, with over twenty years of multicultural marketing expertise, Alexis offers unique insight into how companies should approach this historic moment.

An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Alexis began her career at Ketchum PR in Atlanta, working with well-known brands like Delta, Nokia, and BellSouth. During her tenure, Alexis was also a founding member of the African American Markets Group, the first in-house multicultural team created by an international PR agency.

In 1999, Alexis left Ketchum to launch PRecise Communications because she wanted to practice PR on her terms. Although she initially planned on being a solo practitioner, her company grew quickly. Today, PRecise Communications provides strategic multicultural marketing counsel to brands like Toyota.

 

The Case for Multicultural Marketing

Too many brands treat multicultural communities as a marketing afterthought, or worse, ignore them altogether. However, the work Alexis has done proves there’s a strong business case for engaging multicultural communities. African Americans have $1.3 trillion in buying power alone, and by reaching out in the right ways, minority groups can drive profit, sales, and growth.

However, successful companies need to be doing more than just marketing to multicultural communities. Instead, they should be leading the fight to address racial inequity.

As Alexis pointed out, it shouldn’t take a national uprising for corporate America to want to step in and address societal and political issues. It’s simply the right thing to do. A critical part of leading in this area is for companies to examine how they promote diversity and inclusion throughout their organization. Companies that drag their feet will be challenged in the marketplace by consumers who increasingly make buying decisions based on how organizations interact with the community. It won’t be just about what these companies say, either. Consumers will also be making buying decisions based on what’s happening within a company.

 

Multicultural Marketing vs. D&I

This led Amy and Alexis to discuss the crucial differences between multicultural marketing and diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. As Alexis explained it, multicultural marketing focuses on consumers and external stakeholders, while D&I is about a company’s internal audience as well as recruiting and retaining. Both approaches are very important, and there is some natural overlap between the two focus areas. That’s why, over the last few years, PRecise has moved into the D&I space, to advise on rules and best practices.

Amy added that she believes external marketing is talk. While companies that are doing the real internal D&I work are walking the walk. As this issue continues to grow in importance in the culture and for consumers, Amy believes PRs need to flag D&I as a PR issue.

Towards the end of their talk, Alexis reminds us that the United States of America has a rich history of oppression, and for many people, those experiences are not that old. Corporate America is a microcosm of the country at large, so people bring their biases into the office with them every day. D&I and multicultural marketing are about being courageous and stepping out of our comfort zones to find something new and better that we might have otherwise missed.

For marketing and communications professionals, these issues should be at the forefront of their work. Alexis reminds us that if you understand your client’s consumer face and recognize that they’re not 100% caucasian, but your marketing strategies don’t include a nuanced approach to addressing those issues, then you’re not doing your job.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the PR Talk podcast on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play and Spotify. There’s more great content on the way that you won’t want to miss.

 

More From Our Guest

Listen to the entire episode for the full conversation between Amy and Alexis, including Alexis’ career advice for young, multicultural PR professionals. If you’d like to hear more from Alexis, subscribe to her podcast, Culture & Convos. In upcoming episodes, Alexis will cover the intersection between politics and black consumers. Follow @precisecommAtl on Instagram for more information.

About the guest: Alexis Davis Smith

Building on more than 25 years of experience, Alexis Davis Smith has established a reputation as a respected communications strategist and leader in the PR industry. She is president and CEO of PRecise Communications, a 20-year-old, award-winning Atlanta-based marketing communications agency.

Connect and follow Alexis on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

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Josh Friesen
I'm a writer and content marketer at Veracity, telling client stories one post at a time.