Back in The London Calling Issue, we went backstage with Dallas native, L. Michelle Smith, a classically-trained mezzo soprano, author, speaker and marketing leader with over 25 years of experience as a communicator and integrated marketer. In this issue, Ian Truscott hops on the tour bus and catches up with this executive and business coach and entrepreneur.
Hi Michelle, we went Backstage with you back in January, since then you seem to be conquering the world – what’s new with you?
Hey, Ian… A lot has happened since we last chatted. I left AT&T and am now on my own as the CEO and Founder of an exciting venture. My company, no silos communications LLC has six brands, all of which are fuelled by tech and are committed to developing rock star leaders and brands that thrive at the intersection of tech, culture and business.
You are familiar with my podcast, The Culture Soup Podcastâ, which has now been in the Top 10 on Apple Podcast Business/Business News consistently since May—thanks to Rockstar CMO readers too, no less.
I also have talent and leadership development platforms and consulting with 30MinuteMentor.com, my professional business & executive coaching practice: NSC Coaching and NSC Strategic Consulting. The last brand also handles strategic communications. Of course, there’s my personal brand as a professional keynote speaker and author—yes, I’m working on a book or two.
And finally, there is no silos communications group which is all about public relations, integrated marketing and brand management for blue-chip companies and high-profile individuals. I’ve been approached by a couple of brands to go in-house, but I think I’m more impactful outside the corporate structure at this point in my career.
Wow… that sounds exhausting, yes, we love your Culture Soup podcast, you have some great guests – what inspired the name?
Thank you, Ian! The podcast name is based on one of my keynotes that was very popular in 2017. I make the statement that “social media is culture soup,” and it is based on real research that shows the many of the popular hashtags, emoji usages and trending movements and topics can be traced to various cultures, especially underrepresented groups.
At the beginning of each episode, every Thursday, we tee up every conversation with a “Culture Soup Moment”, where I look at the threads on social media and select a hot topic that will kick start our conversation for that show.
You’ve also broadened your podcasting with a new episode on the show?
That’s right! I also have another episode of The Culture Soup Podcast ®️, that airs every second Tuesday called “The Coaching Corner,” where I address pain points of leaders in corporate and small business with topics that are important to their success.
You’ve been busy! From our last chat, I know that the theme for this issue, diversity, is a passion of yours from your corporate roles – how did you start? I presume that at first organizations needed to be convinced to think this way.
First, if you talk data and money, any smart businessperson will hear you. But, you know, that’s one of the interesting things about my career, my first diversity role was at AT&T, and came way into my career.
While I’m passionate about the topic and loved that work, creating the capability of diversity in corporate communications and inclusion marketing programs, which were both highly recognized and regarded in the industry – that role was the culmination of 20 years of experience before that of doing everything else in integrated marketing and PR.
However, diversity and inclusion does inform my current work, as it should everyone’s in marketing and business in general. With a massive shift in demographics happening in society today, its nearly a death wish for you brand not to engage cultural nuance in everything you do—to reach new audiences and avoid huge cultural faux pas in your content.
So, attitudes have changed today?
Change is inevitable. It is a constant. Which means brands and leaders have to be on their toes and pivot with the cultural context. Right now, if you don’t have a D&I chief or someone handling it, you’re likely in the minority and about to make the shift.
So, I believe companies are headed in the right direction. That’s largely HR and workplace, though that shift is slowly but surely translating to ad/marketing/PR departments. It will take a bit of time before most companies realize that they can’t throw diversity marketing efforts out like the baby with the bathwater in favor of total market or nothing at all. I’ve seen that happening, and it’s troubling.
They need to take a new approach to mass marketing and nurture diverse segmentation marketing—because that is where the real knowledge center and core for these growing capabilities to reach these populations resides. To do this, every room where a marketing decision is made needs to have a cultural awareness, else they will indeed lose money—be it missing key opportunities or getting hit by backlash for tone deaf marketing content.
How do you engage with these brands, to make that happen?
Depending on which client I’m serving, I do it with my coaching & consulting as well as with PR and integrated marketing services. Bottom line, the entrepreneurs I coach want to know how to fill their pipelines with qualified customers and clients, how to keep that sales cycle alive and close good deals quickly, how to scale—and how to market and brand effectively.
As for corporate, I’m sharing my knowledge of these segments with those who are focused on building leaders, brands, reputations and workplaces, together or separately. After all, a complete shift of strategy to address this must begin with the people inside—and while my focus isn’t specific to diversity, inclusion and equity, you will note that my practice has a heart (and the strategic know how) for these leaders and companies who want to get that right. My PR & integrated marketing offerings along with leadership development services is a powerful combination.
This is my full experience as a professional. In business, I’ve lived it. Having scaled my first agency to 7-figures in 5 years after launching with only 2 pay checks in the bank and making VP at a global firm before the age of 30. I’m credible as a serial entrepreneur, a former intraprenuer and what I also call an “extrapreneur” and I can share my knowledge when people are open. I’ve found that a little bit of information goes a long, long way.
Aside from working with the big brands, I also have services that are more accessible, aimed at corporate leaders that can’t rely on their companies to pay for a coach, or small business owners and entrepreneurs, to help them reach their goals.
Who do you think is doing a great job at engaging diverse communities with their marketing?
Disney has my heart right now. Wow. Besides the fact that my daughter and I raid the parks twice a year, I just love the cultural nuances and messages throughout the storytelling that permeates every platform—from franchises like The Descendants to Doc McStuffins, Marvel’s Black Panther and even Raven’s Home on the Disney Channel. Even Disney’s parks are super accessible, and there are cultural shout outs throughout the parades and merchandise.
What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give to marketers that are currently missing this opportunity?
Do it yesterday or pay a hefty price in missed opportunities or costly public missteps.
Do you think this is just for B2C or does it equally apply to B2B?
It’s Human to Human, Ian. So, where does that leave
So, It applies to every way we
I completely agree, it’s all about people. In your conversations with entrepreneurs, what other trends are you seeing?
I have a heart for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups and it’s an incredible opportunity, both for marketers wanting to engage and for the entrepreneurs themselves.
Many women are opting out of the corporate BS, read: microaggressions, unconscious bias and in some cases downright sexism. And, despite black women in the U.S. holding more degrees and advanced degrees than any other one group (according to the U.S. Census) the pay gap with white men is 61¢ to every dollar, black women remain the “double outsider”, simply because of our gender and our race.
Therefore, and data on new start-ups shows this, women are flexing their credentials to be the bosses they are entitled to be and saying enough is enough and are outpacing men across all segments in starting businesses. Black women specifically are starting businesses at a rate much faster than any other group.
But access to capital, mentorship and sponsorship leaves many of these businesses struggling to make it to viability and yet, this group in particular, brings incredible resilience, creativity and innovation to the table consistently.
We have shown time and again that we can make something out of nothing, and alley-oop when most are still playing Hoosier basketball.
You mean, for those that don’t know basketball, to pivot, be aggressive and not just conform, the very traits we admire in all entrepreneurs?
Yes! Together with authentic leadership, we make a powerful case to lead more and lead often at the highest levels. The book I’m working on touches on these themes, and I’ll be on stage next week keynoting at a tech conference, PluralSight LIVE in Salt Lake City, UT, on exactly this topic.
Remind us, where can people find you?
You can find more about my company at nosiloscommunications.com; learn about me and my happenings at lmichellesmith.com; follow me on Twitter & IG: @lmichellespeaks Linkedin: in/lmichellesmith: subscribe to the podcast at theculturesoup.com.