Firms led by Black and Latino consultants are pitching their diversity as a strength following a cycle that saw the “least white” electorate in history go to the polls.
“What we know from all of the data and all of the science is that diverse companies are more productive and more profitable. That’s part of both our art and science,” said Cheryl Contee, co-founder of Do Big Things, a Democratic digital firm.
Contee spoke with C&E in a joint interview with Henri Makembe, who joined the shop as CEO at the start of the year. (She’s taking on the role of chair for the company.)
“This is a team that is actually structured to do that,” Contee continued. She said that some firms have started to showcase diverse employees on their websites, but “if you really look at it, the people in charge, it’s three white guys. We’re not playing those kinds of games with our clients.
“For us, it’s a strategic imperative. We can’t be successful unless we have people from multiple backgrounds speaking to the communities from which they’re from.”
For years, advocates have highlighted a lack of diversity in the campaign industry — at the firm leadership level and among staffers at the committees that control party spending. Now, increasingly practitioners of color are turning their backgrounds into a selling point.
Democratic consultants Chuck Rocha and Kara Turrentine recently launched BlackBrown Partners, a full-service media, mail, and digital agency with the goal of focusing on work for Democratic Party campaign committees and PACs.
“We’re going to create a firm that gives Democrats a chance to have Black and Brown people at the table,” Rocha told C&E. “The country’s becoming more diverse and the leadership of the campaigns is becoming less diverse.”
There are certainly signs the party committees are open to the argument. At the virtual launch party for BlackBrown Partners, now-DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison spoke and the firm unveiled Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner, who’s running in the 11th district House special, as their first client.
Still, working with congressional candidates isn’t a given just because a firm boasts diverse leadership. For instance, Do Big Things has been cut off from DCCC business for working with Congresswoman-elect Marie Newman (D), who successfully primaried ex-Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D) last cycle in Illinois’ third district before going on to claim the seat.
Despite DCCC Chairman Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) indicating at the end of last year that he’s open to revisiting the committee’s blacklist, Makembe said they’ve yet to have a conversation: “We’re certainly open to a conversation whenever they want to sit down. This is a time when new generations are looking for new leadership,” he said.