Diversity in media has received significant attention in 2020 with many companies increasing their efforts by working with more diverse models, influencers, and celebrities. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, behind the scenes the way people are treated hasn’t improved with complaints about feeling like the ‘token’ model due to a trend rife. A marketing executive and influencer who has set up an agency to work with brands and influencers to make what goes on behind the scenes and not just on the covers inclusive is Charlotte Williams, founder of SevenSix Agency.
Williams grew up in Hertfordshire just outside London and went to a school where she was 1 of 4 black or mixed race people in her year which meant a lack of diversity was something she noticed from a relatively young age. This theme continued at Nottingham University where she studied Spanish and Portuguese and was one of the few black or mixed race students in her year. On leaving university whilst many friends pursued graduate schemes Williams “was always a creative and not an academic” she recalls so sought experience in fashion and journalism. She was fortunate enough to land a role working as an apprentice for a fashion brand which gave her free reign to figure out how she could add value. She decided to focus on social media, which at the time was in its formative years, with Myspace and traditional blogs the main platforms. She set up both for the fashion brand and spent time documenting the company’s works and the fashion industry. “I was paid pennies at the time but loved the job and felt it was something I could do long term” she says.
A Career In Marketing
Williams’s next role was working for an e-learning company in marketing where once again she was thrown in the deep end which provided an opportunity to learn about digital marketing. Her time was focused on building a community through events and content marketing “this experience was more corporate than my previous role but provided great training” Williams says. She would go on to be promoted from assistant to manager within a couple of years before taking up a role at Japanese retailer Hello Kitty who were moving from using an agency to having an in-house marketing team. The brand wanted to increase their reach and Williams utilized her social media and content skills as the lead for European marketing lead to build out their digital presence and ended up working on several successful partnerships with well known companies such as Asos, Topshop, and Converse. Her next role would take her to Wah Nails, an award-winning nail brand. It was at Wah Nails working alongside their founder, Sharmadean Reid where Williams would get an introduction to entrepreneurship.
Launching SevenSix Agency
After some time at Wah Nails Williams opted to take on clients as a marketing consultant with her first one being Wah Nails. She enjoyed consulting and it was going well as she neared 30 she “wanted to figure out what she would devote her life to”. Concurrently, during this time in 2018, there was increased attention on diversity in campaigns, particularly in fashion and beauty. It had been pointed out that many companies lacked diversity and as an influencer of color this was something Williams was all too aware of. However, whilst she started to get work something which did not sit right with her was that many influencers, arguably more deserving than her were being overlooked. She asked her colleagues in the PR and marketing space and the answer she constantly received was “we don’t have access to those types of influencers”. This lack of understanding of the diverse influencers being recruited for the campaigns caused a second issue as many businesses which appeared in their campaigns to be progressive and exhibit diversity actually treated diverse influencers who fronted or participated in these campaigns different from their peers behind the scenes. This included things such as being paid less than their counterparts or even being spoken to in a patronising manner. Williams constantly found herself being asked by friends for advice given her experience on both sides of the table and decided to start SevenSix Agency to contribute to solving the issue.
Today SevenSix agency represents many well-known influencers and has worked with brands including Bacardi and Depop. The agency prides itself on “representing diverse influencers in the right way and ensuring when they have conversations their talents are not exploited”. Whilst things are improving there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes to get true equality and Williams’s experience and passion make her well placed to help change things.
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This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. If you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released get in touch via Twitter @TommyASC91