Recently, Knotch has produced our ongoing series called Own Your Voice, which profiles and highlights the stories behind the storytellers at top brands. In honor of Black History Month, we’re launching a special edition of our series: Black Stories Matter. This will highlight Black storytellers and share the importance of their personal stories. Hear now from Caroline Clarke, SVP, Editorial Content Strategy at Nielsen.
I was born in Manhattan on a snowy Christmas Day, which automatically lends itself to a sort of storybook beginning. But as with most interesting stories, things were more complicated than they appeared and my story really begins in the Bronx, where I was raised.
Just before I turned 8, I learned that I'd been adopted as an infant. That changed my whole perception of who I was, where I was, and how I'd ended up there. I didn't talk about it much back then, but it changed my sense of self and embedded this big question at my core about who and where I might have been if not for a quirk of fate.
I grew up in a large, close extended family of great storytellers. As an only child and the baby among my cousins, I loved to sit and listen to our elders talk about their childhoods and paint pictures of long-gone relatives and events in ways that were so vivid, it brought them back to life. The beauty of older people is that they always have amazing stories to share. The tragedy of our society is that we are often too quick to discount them and too busy to pause, listen, learn and show them the appreciation they deserve.
My parents, and not by accident. They tried very intentionally to equip me with everything I would need to be whole. And, as a child who was given up at birth, they gave me a name, a family, a home, a history, a sense of belonging and being and becoming that I would simply not have had without them.
Some brands got it right, some tried and missed, some didn't try and didn't care. As with virtually all things, it's better to try and fail than to stand idly by and do nothing. The most crucial thing any brand can do this year and every year is care enough about diversity and inclusion to continually learn more about them. Additionally, to showcase the fruitful evolution of that knowledge and understanding, not only in February or in moments of racial strife, but with consistency, all the time. At Nielsen, we often encourage each other to be "learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls." Imagine a corporate universe in which that sort of boundless, ceaseless curiosity informs every aspect of our business interactions and goals!
While it's important, amplifying Black stories in 2021 is by definition limited. Finite. Incredibly inadequate. Optimal long-term success in this area will require a wholesale corporate commitment and cultural shift. Bandaids don't cure cancer.
Ben & Jerry's stands out for its forthrightness, but this company didn't just get woke in the wake of George Floyd's murder. The ice cream brand has been banging the equity and justice drums since its start (it was one of the first major brands to ever appoint a Black CEO - Robert Holland, back in 1995). As a mother, Vaseline's equity in skincare ads were beautiful, and pulled at the heartstrings. A number of media companies - i.e., Netflix, Disney and The CW Network - showed up in big ways that have continued to swell and reap tangible rewards. I hope that momentum only keeps building and signals other brands to do more.
I recently joined Nielsen, the world leader in measuring media consumption, after a long career at Black Enterprise, a Black-owned media company that I loved. I made the move, in part, because at a critical pivot point for this big data brand, Nielsen's entire organization has been empowered to make diversity and inclusion a pillar upon which the new Nielsen is built.
This year we are launching the Gracenote Inclusion Analytics product, which will measure the diversity of programming on-screen, and the crews behind the screen. Our goal is to help producers and distributors be more inclusive in their programming, supporting a broader narrative that breaks traditional stereotypes and opens doors to underrepresented talent.
In an industry where audience is everything, Nielsen has no rival in capturing the real-time choices and behaviors that define the constantly-emerging trends in media consumption, globally. Our relentless commitment to audience data that is unbiased and fully inclusive yields a vastly growing goldmine of future-shaping stories only Nielsen knows. Part of my team's mandate is to amplify those stories more clearly, more consistently, and more broadly, and not just in 2021.