Diversity in the Digital Age

March 17, 2011


Anne Hunter, VP of Advertising Effectiveness Products at comScore,Inc., leads the “Diversity in the Digital Age” session at SxSW 2011

Heading into SxSWi, there was one session which most struck a personal chord with me – “Diversity in the Digital Age,” led by Anne Hunter, VP of Advertising Effectiveness Products, comScore, Inc.

I must admit, were I not in PR, I would likely do something in the realm of sociology. The great variances of socioeconomic strata, ethnicities and ideologies that make up our world fascinate me. But as I gave this greater thought in the context of the digital realm and integrated marketing as a whole, I realized that diversity also has very real implications on our industry, our firm and our clients.

Diversity Defined
To begin, what exactly do we mean by diversity? Well, beyond the aforementioned differences in race, gender, socioeconomic standing and ideologies, Anne suggested that true diversity is only achieved when people actively explore and value these differences. Her assertion stemmed from a 1999 report from the University of Oregon, which claims that the concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect of each person's differences (no matter what they may be), understanding that each individual is a valuable human being.

So how is the Internet affecting diversity?
If asked this question, most answers would probably maintain that the Internet is a valuable tool for exploring new cultures and learning about new ideas. But how often do we actually take the time to step outside of our proverbial comfort zone and truly explore something completely new or something contrary to our beliefs? As Anne pointed out, the Internet allows us to self-select, which seemingly gives us the freedom to explore endless amounts of new ideas and new people. But thanks to smart content, platforms and tools we use on a daily basis often recommend “new” things or people we may like, but this is based solely upon our browsing or interaction history. Not evident in this convenience is the fact that we often remain within a bubble and do not step outside of the thinking with which we are comfortable. Are we reinforcing our own beliefs and ideas or really exploring those dissimilar to our own and engaging those who represent those ideas and beliefs?

So what does it mean for us?
During the session, Anne highlighted a couple of primary benefits that diversity offers, both of which I think are applicable to how we can approach our business.

• Diversity Prevents Vulnerability. In the animal kingdom, the more varied a species' genetic strains, the less susceptible it is to genetic illness and extinction. This concept can be applied to client service – keeping our eyes open for fresh new ideas and our ears tuned to new people and their points of view help us continually evolve and greatly diminish our chances of languishing in the comfort of antiquated thinking.
• Diversity Breeds Innovation. As Anne pointed out during the session, history shows that societies with diverse natural resources have flourished and remained on the leading edge of innovative discoveries.

Concordantly, by providing clients with ideas stemming from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise, we can ensure we will never stagnate and always innovate. This need should also inform how workforces and client teams are built. Both need diversity in gender, ideology, and ethnicity to help provide a more comprehensive view of our clients' industries, which they expect and deserve.

What are your thoughts on diversity and the role it plays in our industry? In your industry?