Inclusivity, Diversity and Access in Blogging | Mediavine On Air Episode 41

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February is Black History Month, and for the next few weeks we want to not only share the wonderful work that Black and Brown creators are producing in the industry, but hear their thoughts at large on where we’re heading.

On today’s episode of Mediavine On Air, we’re not just hearing from one creator – but three.

In late 2019, Senior Director of Marketing Jenny Guy sat down with Beth Santos, CEO and Founder of Wanderful and the Women in Travel Summit, TaKenya Hampton of the website Kenya Rae, and Martinique Lewis of Audacity Fest and the Creative Lead of Nomadness Travel Tribe.

The three ladies told us all their thoughts on diversity in the content creator world, how we can better be advocates for inclusion and how we can share and spread the spotlight to marginalized communities, giving them the space to lead and prosper.

Make sure to listen to this episode and check out the transcript below!

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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hello, and welcome, everybody. It is Thursday, October 17. And I am so happy to be back with you guys for our first official fall episode of “Teal Talk.” I can’t believe it’s fall, y’all.

I am Jenny Guy. I’m Mediavine’s Marketing Manager and your host today. How is everyone doing? It’s been a while since we talked.

And it is now Q4, which is the quarter I feel like we all talk about until it is here. And then everything is so insane during that time, with all the personal stuff, that business is hard to come by. So basically, it’s already 2020, if anyone was wondering. It’s the end of the year. It’s a new decade.

But to get to the matter at hand today, I have got a super impressive lineup of guests with me today. As you can see, we’re doing three guests.

And they’re all incredible. They took a break from being industry leaders to talk about a topic that is near, dear, and very important to all of our hearts. We are talking about diversity, inclusion, and access within the blogging industry today.

I’m going to introduce our guests. But just to remind you, first, thank you for being here with us. Second, if you’ve got questions for us and the panel, please feel free to just post them in the comments. And we will make sure to get those asked.

So lots to cover today. I want to introduce everyone. First, I’m going to start with Beth Santos. She is the founder and CEO of Wanderful, a global community and lifestyle brand that specializes in helping all women travel the world.

Wanderful reaches a diverse audience of over 100 million each year through chapter events in 50 cities, an international home-sharing network, which is super cool, global summits, and small group trips– a thriving membership community and dynamic online content and forums. She is the creator and host of the Women In Travel Summit– which I’ve been to twice, it’s amazing– a leading event for women, travel creators, and industry, happening on two continents each year, and co-founder of hashtag At The Table, a national dinner series and community for female founders.

She lives in Boston. Hi, Beth. Thank you so much for joining us today.

BETH SANTOS: Hi, Jenny. Thanks for having me.

JENNY GUY: Absolutely. All right. Our next wonderful woman, TaKenya Hampton is the blogger behind Kenya Rae, an online food and DIY outlet where good food doesn’t take all day. And it sounds like some food is ready now, maybe, in someone’s microwave.

I don’t know. Could be something delicious. Dessert could be its own meal. And dessert is also in a war with breakfast for the meal of the day.

She has been in the blogging space since 2011 and watched it go through many changes. She also serves as a resource to fellow bloggers on the Mediavine Publisher Support team. Hi, Kenya. Welcome.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: Hi.

JENNY GUY: All right. And finally, Martinique Lewis is a diversity and travel consultant, content creator, and influencer manager. She’s trusted among her peers as a connector and is always connecting the dots to ensure the travel industry is mindful of diversity, not just as a buzzword but an action that produces results. Working with numerous tourism boards and travel brands, she is constantly strategizing ways to ensure travel marketing campaigns are inclusive and all travelers feel represented.

As an international speaker, her goal has always been the same– it’s a simple one, really– to change the face of terrorism forever. No problem. As the creative lead of Nomadness Travel Tribe, she produces content that resonates with travelers of color globally and is proud to be part of the team that plans and executes Audacity Fest, the first travel festival for travelers of color. Welcome. Hi, Marty.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Hi. Thank you.

JENNY GUY: OK, ladies. Well, thank you. Thank you all, first, for being here and taking time. I know all of you have crazy busy schedules.

But you guys know that this is an important topic to us. It’s an important topic to all of you. So I definitely just want to get the conversation started right away.

And let’s just start out with the fact that all of you have very diverse origin stories within the blogging industry. So I’d like to hear a little bit from each of you about how you got started with digital content creation and working with influencers. And let’s go ahead and start with Marty.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: So I got started probably about two years ago. I was working for a travel community. And I just was basically tired of not seeing everybody represented.

Sorry, you guys. I’m at work. So if you see this flash, it’s because there’s a photo shoot going on next door. But it’s so hard for me to try to find a place to actually go and just get time by myself. So sorry for that distraction.

But yeah, I was just tired of not seeing myself reflected. But then once I actually attended WITS, I realized that so many people who fit into different travel niches also didn’t see themselves reflected. And that was a problem. So I start advocating for all types of travelers and really started working with tourism boards and travel brands, in terms of placing different influencers in separate situations to make sure that their campaigns and all of their marketing was inclusive to everybody. So that’s how I got started in this.

JENNY GUY: Awesome. OK. And same question to you, Kenya.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: For me, I just started blogging as a outlet to continue writing once I finished grad school. It was just something I was like, I ah, I think I want to start a blog. And I got online and started writing, not really realizing what all could happen with blogging.

And then as I kind of emerged more into the blogger space and made connections with different influencers and things like that, I just started to see how big this thing really was. And that’s pretty much how I got started.

JENNY GUY: It’s pretty crazy. I’m always shocked by all the different niches and conferences and different little, like I said, yeah, niches, sectors of the blogging industry itself. It’s pretty incredible and very diverse. Beth, for you, please, same question.

BETH SANTOS: Yeah. And it’s constantly growing, which I think is just amazing. So sometimes I feel like a grandmother in the blogging world, because I started my personal blog 13 years ago and the what is Wanderful today, 10 years ago. I was doing a lot of travel on my own. And much like the two of you, actually, just blogging was the way for me to share some of the feelings that I was feeling and some of the experiences that I was having.

And I think now being a business owner, I realize that that was kind of my way of solving a problem that I had seen. And in ways where other people start businesses, I kind of started a blog. And I think even then, so we grew in our content and eventually launched the Women in Travel Summit, which Jenny was so kind to mention and Marty’s been to, which initially started in 2014 as a “how to blog” conference.

And what we found was that there were a lot of women who, like us, had created blogs and were looking to share their voices and voices that did not receive enough representation, especially in the travel industry. But I think what was even interesting then was that blogging, as an industry, was not really even as mainstream as it is now. And so it’s just been so incredible over the years to watch it grow, where women who are coming up to us that very first year are going, I’m thinking of starting a blog, now have a million monthly readers and are building really incredible businesses. And it’s become a whole new market that we’ve all created together, which is really so exciting.

JENNY GUY: It really is such an incredible– the blogging industry, I think, has undergone so many incarnations, changes, adaptations over the short lifespan that it’s had as a viable career option for people. So I think it’s incredible to watch. It’s never dull. That’s for sure– never a dull moment.

So I wanted to also then talk about, now that we have a little background from each of you on how you got started– and Marty talked a little bit about this already– but is there anything about each of your experiences, quote unquote, “breaking into the industry” that you felt was directly impacted by your own personal demographic, like race or sex, orientation, or any of those individual markers that you felt impacted your beginning?

And like I said, Marty talked about it a little. And I heard both Marty and Beth talk about travel being a specific barrier in certain ways. So I’d like to talk about that, if you wouldn’t mind. And we’ll start with Beth. If you’ll start this time, that will be great.

BETH SANTOS: Yeah. Well, speaking from the travel perspective, the one fact that I often tell is that 80% of travel decisions are made by women. Two out of every three travelers are female. But at the same time, if you look at senior leadership in the travel industry, you find a lot of white men, frankly.

And the proportion of women as decision-makers in travel is not at all related to who the decision-makers are at the top. And I think we’ve actually talked a lot about that in the blogging industry, too, that you see a lot of influencers who are women but, at the same time, are not given quite the same gravitas as they build their businesses.

And so I don’t think I could ever separate any of the things that I identify as from the growth of my business and the growth of my blog. I think all of that is related to whether it’s the way I’m perceived, the way I talk about myself, the way I’ve built things. I think age is something that has stood out for me, especially in blogging, as a positive and as a negative, honestly.

I think as a blogger who’s a millennial, it’s kind of expected, in a lot of ways. But as a business owner who’s a millennial, I find people who are kind of looking over my shoulder to find out who the boss is. And so I think that’s something that I’ve definitely noticed. But certainly, I think that we’ll go into just a lot of different layers that have changed my experience over the years that I don’t think I could ever separate from.

JENNY GUY: I think, yeah, you’re definitely right in that separating those things out, and especially for a content creator, because with blogging so much– because we experience it in all levels of the professionals sphere that when you go in, you’re experiencing it differently, based on who you are. But with blogging, you’re sharing your own personal story.

That’s so intricate to what the job is. It’s in the job description, is that you’re basing everything on your own experiences. So that’s intrinsic to what what your experience is in that way. So fantastic.

I don’t know if that made sense. It did in my mind.

BETH SANTOS: It did to me.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: It totally made sense.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

JENNY GUY: I felt like I spiraled there and then tried to pull it on back in. It always happens a little bit. Corey Lee just made a comment, said, “As a blogger that focuses on wheelchair-accessible travel, I love that Mediavine is doing this talk.”

Awesome. I love that we’re having Corey. We would love for you to share your website in our comments so we can share that out. Kenya, to you, please, talk about how you experienced breaking in.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: For me, when I started, like I said, it was just a hobby. So I really wasn’t looking to find a tribe or anything like that, which is a really big buzzword now– “find your tribe.” Yeah, it’s this big thing.

But when I got started with blogging, I was just looking to have a space to share my thoughts on the internet and really wasn’t even thinking about it as being on the internet. It was more so just a writing outlet. And then when I started finding different blog groups and things like that, I just noticed that people kind of stuck with people that looked or were like them.

And so joining certain groups, I could go in and ask questions or try and find out information about different things and not get responses. And it was kind of frustrating to feel like the only place I did get a response or did fit in was in a group full of people that looked like me. And that’s what happens, then, in real life.

But I don’t know why I thought being on a blog or being online that it would be any different. I think that it has gotten better over the years, because there are people who really speak out about those things. But you always kind of wonder what the consequences are of speaking out about it, too, on your own platform. And I think that’s something that we probably will go into a little bit deeper in this conversation. But that was kind of my initial experience in starting out as a blogger.

JENNY GUY: Awesome. And yeah, I think definitely talking about– it’s super important to talk about the consequences of addressing these things head-on. I think that that’s definitely something I want to circle back to. But first, let’s hear Marty. Same question to you– what barriers might you have experienced breaking in?

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Yeah, mine was actually the complete opposite of hers. I was just tired of going to places, and there was nothing about the black history that were in so many places. And historically, we know that so many people were taken from Africa and spread out all across the world.

So it’s like, why am I going to Amsterdam, or why am I going to Paris, and there’s nothing about the black history here, even though I’m looking around and I see the black people? So it wasn’t enough for me for them to say, oh, because they only came here during the slave trade, or they didn’t get here till the 1960s. And I’m like, no, they’ve been here since the 1700s.

Your portraits show it. Your buildings show it. And I was like, this has got to stop.

And I was like, there’s a reason that this narrative is not being shared. But because I knew how much specifically black travelers spent, I was like, you’re really missing out on an opportunity to get these people to come to your destination, whereas they might not have known there is this presence here. But you are failing to show it. So that was what sparked me into this actually a lot more.

And then when I started speaking about it over and over again, then people– the light started to go off in their head. And they’re like, yeah, actually, they’re right. And especially since travel right now is so accessible– there’s so many low-budget airlines. There’s so many gray OTAs that give you so many good deals.

People are traveling. But they do want to know more about themselves when they get to a destination. So that’s what it was for me.

JENNY GUY: I love hearing that you found a way to express the need for diversity and inclusion in a way that actually would have an impact on the decision-makers, which is the bottom line– that you’ve got to put it in that context to affect real change. And you did. And I think that that’s so impactful.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Thank you.

JENNY GUY: Of course. Yeah. OK. So we’ve got a lot of buzzwords and a lot of somewhat controversial words in the title of this live, which are “diversity,” “inclusion,” “access.” All of those are words that get bandied about a whole lot in not only the blogging industry, but in the world as a whole. So can we talk about how you see those words directly manifested in the blogging industry, both from your personal experience and what you’ve seen through observing other people as you’ve gone through your journey?

Obviously, Beth and Marty have devoted a significant amount of their career focus to these topics. So why are those so important? And I’m actually going to start with Kenya on this one.

I’d love to hear how you’ve seen those. Talk a little bit more about that in your experience as a content creator for nine years.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: Well, first of all, I want to say that they’re extremely important, because it is very important that all people of all communities are represented, especially with blogging going more towards a very common form of advertising now. Just like when little kids sit and look at a commercial on TV, they should see people that look like themselves, that they can connect to, relate to, whatever. It should be the same thing in terms of blogging, because, essentially, blogging is becoming a form of advertisement.

But I see it transitioning a lot. And I see it being discussed a lot more, which I think is important. But I think that we have to keep it constructive in how we talk about it and also figure out how to shift things when we see a need for a shift, as opposed to just yelling out into the internet, which happens sometimes.

JENNY GUY: Stop. Are you saying that just randomly sharing memes and yelling and making comments in Facebook groups doesn’t affect change? I’m shocked. I would never have guessed that–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

JENNY GUY: I love it. Can you talk about a specific example, just to redirect on that before going to Beth and Marty, about a way of keeping it constructive? Can you talk about that in a little more detail.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: So yeah. It’s funny because probably within the last year, this was a discussion in one of the groups that I’m in– the Courage to Earn group, where we talk about earning as bloggers and the different things that are happening within the blogging community. And one of the things that came up was, when campaigns happen and there’s a group filled with people that all look alike in these campaigns, and there’s no diversity in them.

And so the conversation was started on, well, how do you make change? What do I do? If I’m in a position to be in this group, how do I make change? How do I make a difference?

And it’s just as simple as, if you notice that there isn’t diversity, pointing that out. And you don’t have to do it in a rude way. You don’t have to be a jerk about it.

But you can point it out and say, hey, I noticed that this isn’t a very diverse group. If you don’t know where to start, where to find some people, I can pull together a list, because I know plenty of people that create great content that are out there. Or saying, hey, next time that there’s something, I can provide you with a list– or things like that, just speaking up about it to the decision-makers to let them know that it is something that needs to be addressed.

JENNY GUY: Love that. I also love the idea of so much doing the work for somebody makes it a lot easier. Just saying, by the way, if you were curious, I have a list, just right here, ready, just in case you– you don’t have to hunt. I have it. It’s done.

All right. Marty, same question to you.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Yeah, I agree what she’s saying 100%. But I also do not want people to think that they should just be going around giving lists, because this is people’s jobs. And they should be hiring people as consultants to create those lists. You cannot have my resources for free when I’ve done the work when you have people on your team who could do the work.

But additionally, if you have nobody on your team internally, it’s going to reflect that externally. And that’s another reason that we’ve seen influence their trips or press trips or media, anything. It looks very much so like one person.

So I am very vocal, if you guys haven’t been able to tell yet. And I do call tons of people out. But I do it in a respectful way, like she said. But also, I let them know.

Maybe on the post, I might give you five people. But then when they inbox me, then I let them know, these are my rates, because this is the research that I’ve done. It’s been this important to me, I’ve sought out these many different people that come into this many different groups.

And here’s my consulting fee, because it’s not fair to you to continuously give a company all of your resources when they can do the same work. And it’s actually their market that they should be doing, as well. One thing that we’ve heard plenty of times is a lot of brands say, I don’t know how. And that’s fair.

And then you have things like this that they need to be tuning into. You make sure that there’s places like WITS, where there’s that programming, or it’s people teaching you how to connect with inclusive markets. But they have to do better, just in general. It should be top of mind.

It’s 2019, almost 2020, like you said. There’s no reason that we should look to the left and right and we shouldn’t see a wide range of people. You know what I mean?

Corey, my guy, he shouldn’t have to fight so hard for accessibility in travel. You should already be thinking about that. That should be top of mind.

Is my destination, or is my brand inclusive to every single person who’s going to come around it? It’s a serious issue. So now, since 2017 maybe, we’ve been hearing diversity inclusion so much more now. But now it’s time to take action. It’s not just about saying it anymore.

We’ve had enough time to do that. There’s plenty of ways. You’ve seen campaigns that do it.

So now it’s like, all right, everybody else get on the board. It’s not about rocking the boat anymore or if our brand does this, are we going to lose travelers? No. People are looking for places to go. You’re not going to lose travelers.

You’re going to gain more people, because they’re going to see themselves reflected. So it’s no longer a thin line. It’s no longer a tippy-toe. It’s no longer bloggers or people in this space being afraid.

Speak up. Definitely speak up, because we’re all advocates for each other, also. We’ve got to be advocates for each other, because if we don’t say anything, nothing’s going to change.

JENNY GUY: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I found this more and more in the blogging industry, that attitude of abundance and opening your mind and not being afraid I’m going to lose something if I then share this opportunity with other people. I love seeing bloggers lifting each other up and helping other people, giving them a leg up. That’s excellent.

You’ve got a lot of yeses– yeses from many people. I want Beth to answer. And then I want to go to some of the comments we’re getting. Beth, same question to you, please.

BETH SANTOS: Yeah. And so I have so many ideas swarming in my head. I’m like, I hope I can answer these all in one go. So when we’re talking about diversity, and particularly inclusion and particularly access in blogging, there’s two different angles that I’m looking at here.

First, there is inclusion and access in the act of sharing your voice, like sharing something that you’re thinking in blogging. And then there’s also diversity and inclusion and access in blogging, as an industry, as a business, and as a marketplace. And so to comment on the first thing, I think over the years, one thing that we’ve really failed as a society is, we tend to think that blogging is very democratic, that everyone has a free play in blogging, that voices are all equal, and that the best voices are going to rise to the top.

And unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that stereotypes still play into who’s getting to these top ranks. And in fact, there is a– so I went to a conference a couple weeks ago. And they were talking about travel and responsible travel.

And they specifically said, in order to travel more responsibly, you have to get past the first page of Google. And I think this is very much the same thing in blogging, too. If you want to read responsibly, you have to get past the first page of Google, because those are the up-votes of things that unfortunately fit into a lot of stereotypes– a lot of just what we expect a traveler or a chef or whatever– anybody– to look like or to be like. And we really need to make sure that we’re being thoughtful about, who are the voices that we’re taking in, and who are the voices that we’re lifting up?

So then there’s also inclusion and access as an industry. And I think the thing that I want to keep in mind there– and actually, I know, Jenny, when you and I were first talking about this, this is one of the things that really fueled me up– is, I think about my own identity as a mother. And I think about when I was building my business and had a two-month-old baby at the same time, realizing how little time I had and how there are so many privileges involved in time, in money, in building a blogging career, because those are things that most of us have to bootstrap for a long, long time.

You don’t usually start with a big pot of money and an investor and all the time in the world. You start just doing this as something that you feel really passionately about. And because of that, it takes a lot of time. And you opt out of a lot of money.

And there are a lot of people who cannot afford to make those decisions. So I think just in itself, blogging as an industry is something that it is a lot easier to do if you have those privileges than somebody who’s going in who’s got other people to take care of, jobs to work, that can’t just be investing their time and resources into this for what’s going to happen years down the line. So I think those are things we really need to be more thoughtful about when we talk about blogging.

JENNY GUY: Very true. It can have that reputation of, anyone can do it. It’s easy to do from home. You can start this career.

And I think it is for a certain sector. And it gave voice to a sector. Marty, you’re shaking your head. Jump in.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: No, I just was thinking, like, people, if they only knew. It’s not easy at all. Gosh.

BETH SANTOS: And it takes a lot of time.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Oh, my gosh. So time-consuming. Yeah. Sorry. That’s all. I was like, mm-mm.

JENNY GUY: No, but you’re so right. It’s this, anything can do it. It’s easy. And we all know, from the inside, it’s not.

And I totally agree. And we could have, like, a 75-hour live where we talk about how it’s not easy. But in addition, I think that what Beth was saying, that it is easy– it’s much more accessible for a certain percentage of the population to do. And that’s what we’re working to talk about today.

OK. I’m going to scroll back through some of these comments. Here we go. There’s a lot.

Patricia King said she would love to see more 50-plus travel bloggers represented. Our perspective is relevant. She’s got a site called Savvy Traveling.

I totally agree. Beth, you mentioned age. If you’ve got thoughts on age, anyone on our panel right now, please toss them out while we’re talking about Patricia’s comment.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Yeah, ageism is totally real. There are so many niches within this, but ageism is totally real. And it’s crazy, because these people have more money than anybody else. They’ve worked. They’ve saved up.

But also, multi-generational family travel is big right now. So why aren’t you doing stuff for grandparents with the kids? Or women will retire and just want to go somewhere by themselves for a while.

Kids are out of the house. They’re empty-nesters. Or one of my favorite people is a traveling black widow.

And her husband died. And so she just decided to travel the world. And she’s like, there’s nothing that looks like me out here, but I’m out here living my best life.

And I’m like, I know. I’m like, yes, Miss Char. We going to get you what you deserve, because it’s true, though. There’s so many other people out there like her.

My mom has been living her best life since I probably left for college. And she travels at least six to seven times a year on seven to 14 international day trips. She’s like, I don’t ever see myself, either.

And Patricia is so instrumental in this community. And she shouldn’t even have to say this. Patricia has been around for years. And she’s completely right. So yeah, there’s so many different niches to tap into.

JENNY GUY: Any other thoughts on age before I move to another amazing comment from the audience?

BETH SANTOS: Yeah. No, I was just going to agree– agree up and down. And one of the things, actually, so Wanderful has a creator collective. It’s called the Wanderful Creator Collective, surprise, surprise.

And it’s a community of content creators who are committed to changing the travel industry. But also, we have a lot of people from lifestyle, food, as well. And one of the coolest things was that when we first launched, by far, the first users that we had– and still, actually, the majority of our users– are boomers.

And they joined us and found– and seniors. And I know some people don’t like being defined as boomers. But I think one of the things that I noticed from that feedback was just that they feel like they are overwhelmingly the minority in the content space.

And that’s not true in terms of the consumers. So kind of thinking about the consumer side of the house versus the decision-making side of the house, again, I think there is a lot of under-representation. And there’s also a lot of bias.

I think a lot of these women have come across people who just assume they don’t know how to use technology, or they’re not going to be able to be savvy enough to do something when the user, whether it’s careers they’re building or just hobbies that they’ve gotten really good at, that’s not the case at all. So yeah, completely agree.

JENNY GUY: Lizzie Calder said, quote, “So they know more about themselves when they get to a destination.” She loves this, Marty. Thank you.

She’s working on a new travel startup, launching in Central America, which focuses on human-centered travel. It’s important to think about who’s missing from the history that is being narrated and who is in control of telling that story. Totally agree, Lizzie.

Yes. I wish we had little emojis that we could just pop up. Or just do it ourselves, like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Ironica Bell Cole said, “Yes, yes, yes, Marty.” — “Yes Marty.”

Danielle Johnson– “Yes, exactly.” Corey Lee– “Yes, 100% agree. We have to speak up and have each other’s backs. If you see no diversity, say something.”

Awesome. Brandy Riley– “Yes, if your business is influencer marketing, knowing about diversity is your job.”

BETH SANTOS: Amen.

JENNY GUY: “Quilt it on a sampler.” Thank you, Brandy. We’ve got “Preach it.”

If you’re not a sewer, you could probably get it screen-printed. Relax. Nobody is saying that you have to be a stitcher to be able to do it.

OK. Adrienne Brown says, “Thank you, Michelle.” Phil Bowen says, “Amen.” Adrienne Brown says, “Yes.” Ironica says, “This is a great conversation.”

Brandy– OK, this is kind of what I wanted to get to. She sent in a bunch of comments. Brandy said, “Unfortunately, there is still a backlash for speaking out. Folks don’t like to be called out.”

OK. Let’s talk about that a little bit and how we might combat that. Kenya, do you have anything you want to share on that topic?

TAKENYA HAMPTON: I think that that is the thing. And people think, well, what if I say something? Will this put me on a blacklist?

Will people not work with me anymore? Will it affect my income? And some people, this is their livelihood. This is what they’re doing full-time.

There is no 9:00 to 5:00 and this is the side hobby. This is their bread and butter for how they feed their families. And so there is that thought of, if I speak up, will there be a problem? Or will this affect my family’s ability to go on? And I think that something needs to be done to remove that so that people can speak about things and so that the conversation can continue to be had so that changes can continue to be made.

JENNY GUY: Love it. Anyone else want to share on that? Marty, Beth, weigh in, please.

BETH SANTOS: Many great minds have once said that the more haters you have, the more that means you’re doing something right. And I think we all have to commit to doing that, not letting one person speak up and then get shot down, but then being that second person that speaks up after them. And I think we all have to take that responsibility.

JENNY GUY: I think that’s a hugely important step there, is that being that second person, the third person, the fourth person– one of the people who makes it OK when someone says something, as opposed to, even though you didn’t say it and even though it may not be directly impacting you at that moment, giving people the space to express their opinions, even if they’re counter to something that a brand wants or that a brand is currently doing. So important. Marty, anything from you before we go on to more of these great comments we’re getting?

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: No, I think they summed it up. So it’s about the advocacy and finding your allies. I think right now all of us are in a space where we agree diversity and inclusion is important. And anytime there is a issue, I feel like we all band together a lot now– a lot more now.

And people are so much more aware of it that they do use their voice in the correct way. To the person who asked that question, use your resources. And use your community.

If you’re a part of Beth’s Facebook page, that’s specifically for the group. Or if you’re a part of the media one, post it in there first and ask somebody. And you could say, I don’t feel comfortable doing this, but who else can?

And when you do it, like Kenya was saying, you do it in a respectful way. And then you also kill them with the stats. Always kill people with the stats.

This is how much the people are spending in this community. This is how many people are affected in the world by it. This is how many people travel to your destination that is not right now getting any type of love from you. What are you going to do about it?

And when you make it mess with their money, they’re more likely to do it. But definitely use your voice. And use the people’s voices around you.

JENNY GUY: You got a good spot to go get those stats? Or is it just the Googles? Or do you have any specific loving websites that we can share for people to grab those?

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: So I tell people all the time, Pandora music has a Pandora for brands. And they conduct so much research. Laura Fernandez, she came to WITS with me this year. And she sat on my panel.

And they have so many stats about all different types of travelers. Mandala Research does the one specifically for black travel. But also, if you’re a part of a overall group, ask them to conduct research, as well. Ask them to send out– they have email lists.

We do it all the time at Nomadness, just trying to see what people feel or just trying to see where people want to go or how much they spend on every single trip, whether domestic or international, and come together with your own results. I know right now there’s nothing out for a plus-sized traveler.

I don’t know if Jeff Jenkins or anybody else from that group is on the phone. But I’m sure they’ll come out with some stats about that, because nobody’s done it. Never be afraid to be a pioneer in that, and never be afraid to reach out to somebody like a Beth and ask, how can we partner with the WITS community to try to figure out some of these numbers? Because these are people who have access to all of those travelers.

JENNY GUY: I love that. Go ahead, Beth.

BETH SANTOS: Can I add something, too, Jenny that you got me thinking about? It was to the point of speaking up. I think sometimes, especially in the world that we’re in, where people have these beautifully written-out opinions and really strong voices– and I think sometimes for myself– and speaking as a straight, white, able-bodied woman, sometimes I hesitate to speak out, because I know what I’m going to say, I might say it wrong. And if I accidentally say it wrong, then I’m going to get crucified. And what’s going to happen?

And I think, first of all, we can’t shy away from that. I think the first thing that I’ll do is ask somebody I trust. And I’ll say, here’s what I want to say.

I’ve written it out. What do you think? Tell me, from your perspective, does this sound right? Is this communicating how I want to communicate it?

But I would also say that there is something to be said– and I hope that the people listening and agree with this– there is something to be said for, after being wrong, just standing up and apologizing and saying, I made a mistake. My intention here is to grow this and improve this. And the way I said it wasn’t the way I meant it.

And I think we need to start getting into a habit of encouraging that dialogue, because if we’re too afraid that we’re not going to say it the right way, then so many people aren’t going to say anything. And then we’re not going to get to the root of these problems. So I think there needs to be a lot more where we’re saying, let’s have the discussion. I’ll call you out when you say it wrong.

And you apologize. And we’re going to keep the conversation going. And that’s what needs to happen more.

JENNY GUY: I think that that is also– yeah, I think that that’s on both sides of maybe sensitivity and telling someone that they didn’t say it the way that maybe you should– again, not making someone feel like you need to go throw yourself off of a bridge right now, because we’re trying. And if it’s not exactly right, but just being open.

And maybe even saying that, adding that into the comment. I don’t know if I’m saying this right. My intention is good. I’m not sure.

But I want to try to express something here. Forgive me if it’s not exactly the way it needs to be said.

BETH SANTOS: Totally.

JENNY GUY: Karen– I’m going to butcher her last name. Again, on apologizing and saying it upfront, I am doing it right now. I’m probably going to F this up. Karen “Me-ed-hard”– “Marty is such an amazing voice in this space. Seeing her stand up in conferences and ask the hard questions but, at the same time, make everyone think.” Love that.

Brandy Riley, again, said, “We need diversity in leadership. That’s where it starts.” Very true.

Everyone’s now, we got our emoji hands here. Patricia King– “Wanderful is a pioneer with age diversity.”

BETH SANTOS: Aw.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: For sure.

JENNY GUY: That’s awesome. Elle M. said, “I think people hire who they know and are comfortable with doing that. So sometimes under-representation is a reflection of decision-makers’ comfort zones.”

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: For sure.

JENNY GUY: I agree. Lisa Sharp– OK, we’re getting to another question. “Something that really bothered me last week”– is it this week? I don’t know. “–is all the affiliate companies telling me about Columbus Day sales.”

That was last week, because we have to start immediately. We are marketing for things that are 75 weeks in advance. “I’m Choctaw, and I feel uncomfortable promoting that. Any thoughts on addressing things like that with businesses?”

Guys, what do we think? It’s a tough one.

BETH SANTOS: Marty’s got a thought.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: –often [INAUDIBLE]. If you’re uncomfortable with it, then figure out the way to say that you’re uncomfortable with it, where it matters. And maybe it’s still promoting the sale but saying that this could be better marketed as, or whatever, and starting that conversation so those brands see the conversation and see that people want that change to happen.

So when they go to do their marketing for next year, that’s in their thoughts. But if nobody ever opens their mouth and says anything, then they don’t know that they’re doing anything wrong. Or we can say they don’t know that they’re doing anything wrong. But it’s nothing that’s going to change it.

JENNY GUY: Yes. Anyone else, thoughts on that one? OK. Clarissa Lasky said, “Yes, Marty. Kill them with the stats. Over here clapping during this talk.”

Courtney Lee– this is a great resource. “The Open Doors Organization did a survey for accessible travel. People with disabilities spend over $17 billion per year on travel.”

You can’t argue with that. You cannot argue with that money. That’s money that you’re arguing with. You can’t.

Lisa Sharp said, “Yes, don’t justify when you were wrong. Just apologize and learn.” That’s all we can do, guys.

We’re all on the journey. We’re all wrong. And when we’re wrong, I think–

BETH SANTOS: We’re all wrong. We’re all wrong.

JENNY GUY: True. And embracing it– and I think if you’re genuinely trying and you’re coming from a good place and (QUIETLY) you fuck up, it happens. I’m sorry I said the F word. But it’s the truth.

We all do. And we just got to say I’m sorry. That was wrong. I’m wrong.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: I think in addition to apologizing, people have to be willing to accept people’s apology, because if we’re being honest about it, the internet just breeds really mean people. It can bring out the worst in people. And we all get behind the perfection of our keyboards. And so we have to also be willing to accept people’s apology and realize the imperfection in others, in that same token.

JENNY GUY: Totally right. Yeah. Even if we’re totally offended, you’ve got to be willing to– they are genuine. They want to get better, on both ends of the spectrum. Totally agree on that. OK.

What do you guys feel is the biggest barrier when it comes to those words we’re discussing and our buzzwords, our topics– diversity, inclusion, access within the blogging industry. What’s the biggest barrier that you guys are currently seeing? Do you want to take a second to think?

We can also say that Lisa– poor Lisa. Her internet broke while the question was being talked about, said Lisa. “I will have to watch the reply. Stupid internets.” Man.

BETH SANTOS: Wah, wah.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. Does anyone have anything on that that they want to share? What is the biggest barrier? Anyone want to go first?

Raise your hand if you would like to go first. No one’s hand is up. Yes, Beth. Go.

BETH SANTOS: I feel like I’ve said mine already. So I’ll just talk while you guys conjure your thoughts. But I think in my space, a lot of this has to do with time and with money.

I don’t know if it’s the biggest. But I think it’s the one that’s most relevant to where I am in my life right now, and seeing some of the women who are building businesses right now, is the fact that– as you say, blogging as an industry. If we’re talking about blogging as an industry, then I think there is a lot of time and a lot of money that goes into building up a blog and sustaining it while no money is coming in.

And I think when we talk about building a blog, what people often say is, grow, grow, grow your community first before you monetize. But if you don’t have the time to do that and you don’t have the money to do that, then how do you do it? So I think we do want to be more thoughtful about how much more difficult it can be for people who don’t have those resources available at their disposal.

JENNY GUY: Totally. Marty or Kenya?

TAKENYA HAMPTON: I think that kind of sums it up. Like she said, I don’t know if that’s the biggest, but I definitely think that those two things play a part in everything, because everyone just doesn’t have that same access to time and money.

JENNY GUY: So all we need to do is give people more time and money. I’m kidding. Sorry. Yeah.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: It’s nothing.

JENNY GUY: Yeah, I think that we all talk about the biggest SEO strategy we can give is creating more content and posting three times a week and doing all the things that it takes to build a blog. And that is all true. And we know it’s true.

There’s no magic button. But beating the algorithm is about creating more content. And how do you do that when you’re working two jobs and 12 hours a day and you don’t have time to create?

Yeah. I don’t have an answer on that one. Marty, anything from you on that? Oh, Beth had something.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: I agree with what they’re saying. Yeah. We’ll listen to them.

BETH SANTOS: I was just going to say, have you seen the article circulating about all of the prolific writers of the 19th century, like Henry David Thoreau? And the reason why Henry David Thoreau was able to publish these prolific pieces of writing were because while he was stowed away in his solitary house in Concord, Massachusetts, writing, his mom was doing his laundry. And his wife was cooking for him.

And so no offense to any people who have mothers cooking for them and wives doing laundry or whatever or to the men here who are listening in, because I think right now I’m talking about sex. And I’m not talking about other intersectionalities. But I think that there is something to be said for the quality of content that you can produce when your mind is focused in many directions. And if you have children or if you have people that you’re caring for or if you have other jobs or if you have things that are vying for your time, your ability to sit down and write a beautifully crafted blog post is so much harder, because you’re not able to have the luxury of focus.

JENNY GUY: I worry all the time, and not even just for– talking about everyone, that I’m not doing anything really great, because I’m so busy doing 75 other things at the same time. And it’s frustrating. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that, other than doing less things. But I don’t know that that’s an option, again. Marty, what about you?

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: No, I think what you just said was a legit point, too. You always feel like there’s not enough time in the day. But no, like I said, I agree with what they’re saying, honestly.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. OK. This is an important question. And I definitely want to get this and have plenty of time to discuss this and hopefully have viewers weigh in with their opinions, as well. But how can other influencers help with advocacy and visibility, even if they don’t necessarily feel that they’re personally impacted by these issues? What is the best thing someone can do to be an effective advocate and be an effective ally? Marty, will you start?

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Yeah. I would say, write about it or create content. But I literally, right before I got up here, I posted something about me and Sassy Wyatt. For those of you who don’t know, she’s a blind traveler. And we just went on a trip. We visit England this past Saturday.

And I grew up with a blind grandmother. So I understand that my grandmother has never seen my face. But I would have to describe to her how my hair looked and what type of dress I had on. So if you can imagine, you have Sassy, traveling throughout a destination.

And we’re on a graffiti tour. We’re on a graffiti tour, where we have to look at murals. And we’re on a graffiti tour, where we actually have to paint.

So for somebody who’s creating content, how can you make that destination come alive for her? Because she can’t physically see it. So of course, the tour guide was awesome. But he’s like, and right here to your right is this mural done by such-and-such.

But he’s not talking about the colors. And he’s not talking about the claws that are coming out of the hand, the expression on the cat’s face. And how is she supposed to talk about any of that if you don’t describe it to her? So I described it to her.

And I was telling them, we have to also understand that people with disabilities are not incapable. They can do exactly everything we can do. So that was another point that I made sure to speak about.

But also, we can be descriptive, as well. You say how to do things to a blind traveler by using direction and motion. So while she’s actually spraypainting, it’s like, all right, Sass, hold out your arm maybe half a person in front of you and move left to right, and that’s where the paper is.

So she was still able to fully function and stuff, but only because I was describing it to her. So if she went there by herself, how was she going to do this? So it’s just being top of mind to people, but also sharing your experiences, giving bullet points.

Give people a 1, 2, 3 on how to do it so that when you travel someplace or when you see that somebody else is going through something, you can offer up a solution, and not to put anybody down, but to make sure that every traveler feels appreciative, that every destination is for everybody. And it’s just really speaking up. Use the voice that you have.

And your niche follows you, regardless of what you’re talking about. So I’ve never talked about blind traveler before. But I guarantee you, all of my followers will now go to destinations in mind, describing things that much better, because I talked about that one time. So use your platform and use your voice and offer solutions.

JENNY GUY: Love it. Kenya, same question.

TAKENYA HAMPTON: I just want to say that I think what she said she did is huge. She took and stopped what she was doing to help somebody else. And that’s kind of what it boils down to.

She could have just went on and experienced it for herself and let the other girl figure out how to experience it, because that’s her problem. But she stopped to help. And that’s what it boils down to.

And what we were talking about before is just everybody kind of banding together and also advocating for each other. So the tour guide didn’t describe things for her. She noticed that that was an opportunity. And that could have been a barrier to her being able to experience fully, so she stopped and described it to her or gave her instructions or whatever.

And I think that’s huge. It just boils down to being a good person. At the end of the day, I think that’s a big part of what it boils down to. So I think that that was huge that she just shared.

JENNY GUY: Looking outside yourself and your own problems, which can feel overwhelming so many times, and actually seeing that somebody else might be struggling with something fundamental that you can, without doing too much of a disservice to yourself or without really having to do that much, you can help somebody, just by looking outside of our own circle of misery or whatever we want to say– our own thoughts. Beth, same question to you.

BETH SANTOS: Yeah. So there’s two other things I would add. And I think, Marty, that’s such a brilliant answer. And Kenya, to add onto that– absolutely.

And I think so the first being, if you’re brought on for a project or a press trip or an activity, I think one of your first questions should always be, tell me about who else is participating in this, and how can I make sure that there is representation across the board here? How can I connect with my network?

Because I think it was a commenter who mentioned that network has so much to play into this. And sometimes people aren’t being intentionally discriminatory. They’re not trying to be like, I only want it to look this way. They’re just kind of thinking, OK, who do I know, for the most part. Sometimes people are just awful.

But I think that if we’re able to really use our networks and say, let me help you with the people that I know, and is there good representation here, because I don’t want to participate if there isn’t– I think we do need to stand up for each other in that way. And then the other thing I would say is actually a piece of advice that we got from one of our keynotes at WITS this past year– the Women In Travel Summit– Deesha Dyer, who was a former social secretary for President Obama.

And she made a great point and said, if you have something to say and it’s about somebody else’s culture, then let them say it. Even though we’re building these blogs on our voice, sometimes we need to step aside and give a different person a voice so they can talk about their experiences, rather than you attempting to talk about them. And so I think it’s really important for us to sometimes take a step back and say, what is the message we’re trying to convey? And who is the right person to actually speak that message? And sometimes that person might not be you.

JENNY GUY: Absolutely. And I think that’s great. All of those were amazing. And Deesha is our guest on Teal Talk in two weeks.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Love her.

JENNY GUY: I acted like a total douche-magouche in Portland, because I was so excited about meeting her. I acted like an idiot. Anyway, OK. But I think, yeah, and getting– like you said, Beth, it doesn’t mean it can’t be on your blog.

It just means that maybe you go out and find someone else to write it or ask them to consult or interview them, help facilitate them to have that voice. There’s more ways to help. But yeah, I think that there are times when we all just have to look honestly at ourselves and say, that needs to be said. I’m not the one that needs to be saying it.

That’s great. OK. We are running low on time, which is very upsetting to me, because I want to keep talking about this all day long. But I really like this question. These two kind of feed in together.

And it’s talking about content creation. And how can bloggers think about their content in a different way that is more thoughtful about some of these issues? And we were talking about asking people in, and that’s a great way to do it.

And then when something happens in the news that content creators feel a need to respond to or want to respond to or share, what is the best way to do that sensitively? And so let’s everybody think about that. I’m going to read a couple reader comments.

First, Lisa Sharp says, “I’d love more resources on how to make our sites more accessible.” God, accessibility is so important. “I know I have some blind readers. And I do a good job with alt text, but not sure what else I need to do.”

We actually have a session about that at MVCon Austin. We’re going to talk all about accessibility there. And we will then– we know people can’t all come. We have a couple tickets left.

But we can share a ticket link in there. But if you can’t come, we will then edit that session and put it on our YouTube channel so that resource is available to everybody. I think accessibility is huge.

Adrienne Brown says, “I’ve been trying to build a blog for a while now. I’m a 57-year-old boomer, homeschooling parent, mom who has adopted four young children, starting over again, author, and trying to break into blogging.” Holy crap, woman.

BETH SANTOS: You’re busy.

JENNY GUY: Are you OK? I feel like that’s a lot. “All of this is relevant to me.” Wow. Great. Well, first of all, thanks for being a frickin’ rock star. That’s amazing.

OK. Thoughts on what I just said? Anything on the question, how we can think about content and share things from the news sensitively and with awareness? Let’s start. Kenya, you have anything there?

TAKENYA HAMPTON: I think, again, I’m just going to go back to saying, you need to be authentic. But you also need to remember that you don’t have to knock one thing down to promote or build something else up. So there is a way to address things without saying, this is wrong and this is right, because that’s what can happen sometimes.

And that’s what, I think, fuels the arguments and things that happen on the internet. And sometimes it doesn’t have to be that. You don’t have to knock something else down to make something else seem to be right or better than.

JENNY GUY: That’s awesome. Both two people can be right at the same time, even though their opinions may differ. And I don’t know that everyone– the internet seems to somehow breed that that is not a thing that is possible– that something is either wrong or right. And that’s not true a lot of the time. OK. Marty, to you.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Excuse me. Yeah, I agree with her, also. And when there’s something that you don’t necessarily agree with, I always say, put your opinion in it, but not your opinion to a negative way.

Just talk about how it made you feel or how it made somebody you knew feel so that whoever is reading it can now put themselves in that person’s shoes and understand it from a different viewpoint, because we all have different perspectives. A person’s perspective– gosh. A person’s perspective right now who’s going to Israel that might have absolutely no idea what’s going on right now, and then people attack you because you say you’re in Israel, and you love Israel.

And you don’t even know why they’re attacking you, because you just are not up on the news. You don’t know about some of the terrible things that are going on there. But should that make you scared to even post your content because you’re afraid of the backlash?

It’s just, no. But just talk about, I went to Israel, and this is what I chose to experience. And these are the parts about Israel that I chose to speak about, because these are the positive things that are going on. And make no mistake, it takes no shying away from anything negatively that’s going on.

But understand that how a group acts or how certain people act is not a reflection of the whole place. And this is the experience that I had. And sometimes you have to do that, too.

And like you said, everybody is not going to agree with you. And that’s OK. But stay firm in what you want to say.

But do it in a way for people to understand from your viewpoint. And also, tell them, and I understand where you’re coming from, too. But this is just how I choose to deal with the situation.

JENNY GUY: Fantastic advice. Beth, same to you.

BETH SANTOS: I would also advise content creators to be thoughtful about how they respond to something on the news, and specifically just doing your research. I think virality and drama are cousins. And a lot of times, it’s so easy for us to just see something, and we’re like, oh, my gosh, that’s so crazy.

And then you share it. And then it’s two days later, you realize it wasn’t even real. Or it was an Onion article or whatever.

And so we just want to give yourself that extra breath to look into it, to look at another source, because you are a voice. And if you’re building a content-focused company or hobby or platform, then people are listening to you. So make sure when you’re saying something that you’re thoughtful about it, that you’ve kind of done your research, that you’re representing yourself well. And I think completely everything else to what Kenya and Marty said, too.

JENNY GUY: All right. All of this is amazing advice. And this has been a really, really incredible and enlightening hour for me. I hope that it has been for our audience, too.

I knew you all were rock stars. And I knew all of those things. But I love it when it’s just reiterated over and over again.

Phil Bohn, who is our Senior Vice President of Sales and Revenue, said, “What a great, smart discussion. Well done, everyone.” We appreciate it.

I’m going to make a couple of announcements before we end. As I already mentioned, in two weeks, which will be Halloween– Thursday, October 31, the amazingly incredible Deesha Dyer will be on Teal Talk. She turned her White House internship at age 30 to becoming the Obama administration’s social secretary– no bigs– and is currently the co-founder and executive director of Be Girl World, a Philadelphia organization that empowers teen girls through global education and travel.

We’re going to talk career pivoting, giving back, and, obviously, we’re going to be talking about the Obamas and bringing Hamilton to the White House for a private concert for local teachers, because it’s me. And I’m going to talk about Hamilton when I can. All right. Ladies, it has been incredible.

I have one more thing I want to mention before we sign off. And it’s an incredible partnership that I’m very, very excited about bringing to fruition. We are teaming up with the amazing team at WITS and in a new way for 2020.

Mediavine and WITS, we’re introducing the Mediavine Scholarship for WITS Kansas City. Beth, do you want to talk about it a little bit? And I’ll give the particulars. I’m so excited about this.

BETH SANTOS: Yes, I know. And I’m so glad to be announcing this right here and now. So in talking about access and in talking about time and in talking about money, Jenny and I and so many of the amazing people on your team, Jenny, are really talking about, what can Mediavine do to make it easier for people to come and learn? Because the reason why people come to WITS is to build potential partnerships, often in the travel industry– but again, we’ll get others from other industries, as well– to grow their brand, to build their content, and make it stronger.

And from time to time, we’re able to offer free ticket giveaways and that kind of thing. But that doesn’t include the fact that it costs money to get yourself there. You have to fly there. You have to get a hotel. You have to get food.

And so we teamed up with Mediavine. And Mediavine is actually sponsoring one person– flight, hotel, ticket, plus a food stipend, so you don’t have to spend a dime when you get there. And I mentioned the Wanderful Creator Collective.

You’ll get lifetime access to the Wanderful Creator Collective, which is worth thousands of dollars. So it’s an incredible scholarship. And we’re opening it today.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Woo.

JENNY GUY: We just posted the link in the comments. So please, guys, share this far and wide. We would love it if you would. We want as many people to have the chance to apply for this as possible.

And we’re starting out. And we want this to be something that continues and grows as we move forward. We’re so honored to be partnering with WITS and the work that they’re doing. And we look forward to seeing everybody there.

Ladies, thank you so much for being here and taking time out of what I know is a busy schedule and having such an insightful and sensitive discussion. I appreciate it. You guys are amazing.

MARTINIQUE LEWIS: Thank you.

JENNY GUY: All right, guys. Thank you, everyone. Have a great day. We’ll see you in a couple weeks with Deesha.

ALL: Bye.

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