Episode 3: Jefferson Darrell

Episode 3 March 21, 2022 00:09:56
Episode 3: Jefferson Darrell
PR: Shaping the Future
Episode 3: Jefferson Darrell

Mar 21 2022 | 00:09:56


Show Notes

Join us as we interview various BIPOC leaders in the public relations industry - why they chose PR, what their job entails and why BIPOC representation and leadership is more important than ever in this fast-paced, growing industry.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome to the Centennial college podcast series PR shaping the future. Join our team of post-grad students from the Centennial college public relations and corporate communications program who have partnered with the Canadian council of public relations firms to explore diversity and inclusiveness in the PR industry. This will be the third episode of a three-part series, where we interviewed diverse BiPAP individuals who have been making impacts in the world of public relations and communications. My name is Daniela and today I will be interviewing the founder and CEO of breakfast culture, Jefferson Darrell. He will be explaining a little bit about breakfast culture, what PR is and what skills you need to be a successful PR practitioner. So my first question for you today is just let's start at the beginning. So how did you end up in PR as a young adult? What raw skills did you have that made you gravitate towards a career in PR? Speaker 1 00:00:54 How much time do you have? So, um, my background, I say I went to school for applied science. So my first degree is in applied science and chemical engineering. Ironically, I was actually part of a PR campaign, got me into stem and my cousin who was a Marine biologist. And I was bombarded with messages of stem, stem, stem, get into science, technology, engineering, math, but my cousin was said to me, Hey, who's going to get the job when you graduate things major with the engineering major, I'm like, well, the engineering major. Exactly. So I went into engineering for fun while I was in engineering. I was, I was the PR director, um, at the engineering student society. I was editing the student newspaper. Um, the engineering student newspaper I was before I did that, I actually took over. We called it the engine newsletter. Basically it was a weekly one page eight and a half by 11. Speaker 1 00:01:50 This is back in the days of paper. And then I would get people to go to the lectures and we would actually write reviews of the lectures as if they were rock concerts. So it was kind of fun. And so I quadrupled the circulation, public relations kept coming up and I read what PR people did. And I thought, oh, so I was my fourth year for, I realized I want to get into PR. And then I found the Humber college PR program. And it was a post-graduate program. You had a degree. It was only one year. I remember going in with my portfolio, not realizing how strong my portfolio was at that time, because I had already was a graphic design assistant. I was doing writing. I had clippings under my belt. I had, I was a star student in terms of what they were looking for at that time. Speaker 0 00:02:31 That's amazing. Um, so what, uh, can you explain to our listeners what breakfast culture is like, what led you to create breakfast? Vulture? Speaker 1 00:02:40 Sure. So breakfast culture is actually a rebranding and repositioning of my former side hustle. So I used to run on a very boutique agency called Jefferson Darrell and associates standard public relations work. I'd say about just over 10 years ago. Now I hit a glass ceiling in my career. I was moving into the senior ranks of PR for me. The turning point was when I went to meet with Lisa Kimmo, who is the current president and CEO of Edelman Canada. And we had a chat and back then you could not discuss diversity inclusion, um, belonging privilege rep like Faber four letter words everywhere, not just in the corporate world, my strategy at the time. And that was a concern of mine at the time, because I didn't see people who looked like me in senior roles. So my strategy at that time was if the person I'm speaking with brings up diversity and inclusion, I will walk through that door. Speaker 1 00:03:32 Lisa brought it up. She had very rightly pointed out how in an industry that boasts 70 to 80% women, when you hit the C-suite, that number flips where at 70 to 80% men in the C-suite that's messed up. So she said, I went to find people who look like me. I went and found other women, you know, who were in senior roles, talk to them, to mentor, to sponsor to that's such a great idea. I, I wish I had thought about why hadn't I thought of that. It's the simplest idea in the world. It makes so much sense. I should've thought of that there on the seventh or eighth floor. I want to say in that building on the elevator ride from the seventh floor down to the ground, I'll be brutally honest. Daniella. I broke down into tears. I literally started to cry because I realized the reason why I didn't think about it. Speaker 1 00:04:17 There wasn't no one who looked like me. And that's when I started in my crusade. If you will, I would call it a crusade back then. Um, now I would say it's more, my activism work around diversity and inclusion and representation. So I started educating myself studying about this. The organization I was working in at the time was a government agency. And again, there were issues of anti-black racism, where I was there, issues of homophobia as well. And I started to educate myself. And then I took JDA, Jefferson, John associates, and I wanted to create an organization that would help people help workplace cultures. Cause I didn't want anyone to go through what I went through. So breakfast culture now works at the intersection of marketing communications and diversity equity, inclusion, and belonging. So we work to cultivate very diverse and inclusive workplace cultures where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Speaker 0 00:05:06 So along this journey, um, what experiences led you to focus solely on diversity, equity and inclusion work in the industry? Speaker 1 00:05:16 So my last employer, many, many issues happened at my last employer. I was there for eight years. I always say I was there seven years, too long, Monday mornings 3:00 AM like clockwork. I would always wake up in my bed in a cold sweat, dreading going into work the next day. Um, so my department of marketing communications department, there were four of us who were parted into a director of communications. We were all, I was the only racialized person, a white person left, and another black person came on board. I'd been there eight years now. I was the most senior in terms of time seniority within the organization, but also in my career, a brand new policy came down from the director when she said from now on, I'm going to change the means to protect, um, people's here, but I'll keep my own name from now on Rachel's work will be reviewed by Amanda. Speaker 1 00:06:05 Amanda was white. Rachel was blocked. Jefferson's work will be reviewed by Victoria Jefferson's block. Victoria is white. Here's the thing about Victoria. She had just graduated maybe two years ago from journalism school. And for yeah, before this, um, policy came out, my manager had asked me to have the courier take a look at a news release that I wrote. I was a media relations officer there. They were the writer editor, and they even looked at it and said, look, I don't really know how to comment. Cause I don't know how to write a news release. I'd never really written a news release. And here I am teaching her how to write a news release yet. Now she is being asked to review my work. This is exactly what I said. The white people have to review the black people's work before management will look at it. The management team, there was entirely white. It was told to racialize peoples, you will not get into management even if you want to. And you're qualified because you are not white, but I mean, I don't want other peoples have to go through this, whether they're women, whether they're racialized, whether they're queer, whether along the disability spectrum, that's really what motivates me for this work. Speaker 0 00:07:04 Such an amazing story. And it's so inspiring and you do amazing, um, diversity, equity and inclusion focused work at breakfast culture. So we want to know what are some of the PR campaigns you're most proud of? And um, once you've created, which have this like a strong social impact Speaker 1 00:07:23 To mine is the step forward project that we created for interior aids network. Basically we want to examine the fact that anti racism work anti-oppression work, especially anti-black racism and anti indigenous racism is HIV aids work. So what we did was we brought together a speaker series, five different racialized speakers, black and indigenous to talk about various aspects of anti-black racism, anti indigenous racism. And the goal was to spark this uncomfortable, difficult conversation. The speaker series we brought in, we partnered with condoning Messiah, 54 lights. We brought basically a podcast and he would meet with all the speakers afterwards and develop a podcast. The speaker series, that was one aspect. You could go listen to the podcast. Once all that was done and the podcast was ready to go out. We sent a newsletter. That was the third aspect, the fourth aspect my team got together. And we came up with them. We researched a number of different, um, best practices for anti-black racism, anti indigenous racism, especially as it relates to HIV aids. As I said, there were about 600 people in the sector. If this newsletter from initial mailing list of just over 60 people, six zero, if this got shared with 600 plus people, we considered a success because that means we pretty much saturated the sector. It got shared with over 6,900 people. Speaker 0 00:08:43 We have a lot of aspiring public relations professionals tuning into this podcast. So what advice would you give them? Like what steps should they take to break into the industry? Speaker 1 00:08:54 Curiosity, be curious, Jen, the industry liaison for the Humber college PR program. And so through that, it's funny. I got a lot of questions from my students. I actually set up a little Facebook group. Um, my caught my little PR flat Crip. They basically just my friends and colleagues who work in PR top three skills. Most of them stated was again, number one was curiosity, like be curious. They, they like to look for people who are just curious in general about the world, about what they're working on. Writing was a really big skill as well. Yeah. And then, um, a desire to learn. Speaker 0 00:09:29 We have come to the end of our segment and would like to think Jefferson Darryl for being on our podcast today and sharing more about breakfast culture, his story, and some insight on the PR industry, make sure to follow breakfast culture on both Instagram and Twitter. This is Daniella and this is PR shaping the future presented by Centennial college's public relations, corporate communications program partnered with the Canadian council of public relations firms. Thank you for joining us.

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