Collective Intelligence: Marketing Insights & Ideas to Help Brands Thrive

Creating A Culture of Diversity, A Talk With Tierney’s Tracey Santilli

February 20, 2024 Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) Season 2 Episode 16
Collective Intelligence: Marketing Insights & Ideas to Help Brands Thrive
Creating A Culture of Diversity, A Talk With Tierney’s Tracey Santilli
Show Notes Transcript

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[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to the Collective Intelligence Podcast from IPG. We deliver marketing insights that help modern brands thrive. In this episode, you'll hear about the latest perspectives featured at Listen then log on to find new opportunities for your brand to stand out. 

[00:00:22] Jennifer Sain (Host): Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of CI Conversations.

[00:00:26] Jennifer Sain (Host): I'm your host, Jen Sain. And I am so delighted to be joined today by Tracey Santilli, president at Tierney. Tracey, would you mind introducing yourself, telling us a little bit about you and your role at Tierney?

[00:00:37] Tracey S: Sure, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me today. I'm really excited to be able to speak with you. I am the president at Tierney as you just shared, and we are a full service agency headquartered in Philadelphia. I have been at Tierney, I am coming up on 22 years. Hard to believe time flies when you're having fun and certainly probably a bit of an anomaly in today's day and age to stay with one company for so long. But I really think it's a testament to the people and the culture at the agency. I've been in this market now, as I mentioned, for a while, but prior to I grew up in North Jersey and, uh, came from Ketchum. Out of New York and, uh, their consumer brand marketing practice. So had my start in public relations and helped grow and, uh, start up our social media practice with several colleagues. And then over time was asked to wear lots of different hats, um, ranging from our paid [00:01:40] media to helping to, uh, expand our creative practice. Uh, to running new business and now here really responsible for all the operations internally at the agency, as well as maintaining client relationships at the highest level.

[00:01:55] Jennifer Sain (Host): Wow. And 22 years that that is a long time at a, you know, at a particular company. So congratulations. And, you know, and to that point, I imagine being somewhere being at the same place for such a long time, you see major shifts, both, you know, the world at large and within the industry and within the company. So one of the major, I mean, I think companies have always strived to include diversity and inclusion into their work. But I think in recent years, more than ever, because of increasing polarization and societal movements and all the things we've been witnessing over the last several years, I think diversity and inclusion has been kind of brought to the fore. So in terms of you at Tierney, how are you ensuring that you're always building an inclusive environment?

[00:02:39] Tracey S: Yeah, sure. So I think you're right. I, our world has changed significantly over the past 20 plus years that I've been in the business, but I think most notably over the past three to four, right? So not just with, you know, COVID, uh, and a pandemic, but also the height of, you know, social and racial injustice in America and how our workforce has evolved in terms of the different generations that are in our workforce.

There are a lot of variables. That factor into creating an inclusive and diverse workforce. And for us, I think we've always had the belief that, [00:03:20] you know, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and access are really not just top down, but it's bottom up. It's peer to peer. Everybody has to play a significant role.

And for us, I think it really starts with talent. First and foremost, we look at finding different perspectives that perhaps May not fit that cookie cutter mold of growing up, looking at communications or advertising as the track, but really looking at different types of perspectives that bring diversity of thought. So, for us, you know, we often like to think that it's better to look for culture ads versus culture fits when we're looking to add or build, um, our staff. And I think from there, that gives us the foundation to think differently. To stay curious. And for us, you know, our theme has always been around education for progress.

[00:04:16] Tracey S: So long before the pandemic, we actually had created what we call a DEIBA pledge. So one of the things that bubbled up from our team at Tierney was this idea to establish a pledge. And the pledge was really around DEBA efforts. And that pledge is voluntary. I'm happy to say that 100 percent of our team has signed it, and it really is our commitment as individuals and as the agency at large to stand up against biases to serve as allies and advocates for those that may not have a voice or need help in sharing and elevating that voice. And that is something that [00:05:00] we started probably four years ago and have just recently adapted and evolved it to come up with even stronger and more powerful language that drives accountability, but also really gives runway for all of us to not only just feel included, but also have a sense of belonging and to make sure that those voices are heard and considered.

[00:05:23] Tracey S: We often like to bring in outside speakers and content to help people think differently. We have a consultant that we brought on a couple of years ago to drive what we call community corners and it's completely voluntary, but each quarter. There's a topical interest, either something that's happening in our world, something that's happening that's of importance in our workplace. And she comes in and she helps guide the discussion free of judgment, fosters conversation, allows people to ask questions. Those are the types of programs that we hope allow people to really share their opinions and also provide perspectives that can push us to think differently. 

[00:06:09] Jennifer Sain (Host): Yeah. So a lot of the things that you just said, I mean, obviously I've talked to a lot of folks, you know, particularly in the IPG network about their, as you said, DEIBA initiatives. But there were three things that you just said that I thought were particularly unique. You mentioned generations, which, although it seems obvious, I don't know if that's always talked about is the diversity between generations. You also mentioned hiring to add and not fit, which I think is, you know, that really kind of was like a little mind blown moment. I'm like. Yes, that, you know, that is such [00:06:40] an amazing way to like, even look, you know, to people from other disciplines and other just expertise and all that good stuff and the community corners, which I, which sounds very, very unique looking at all those moving pieces. How then do you bring them together within the workplace to meet a common goal? Cause you have all this diversity and all of this diversity of thought. So how do you bring them together?

[00:06:59] Tracey S: I think that there's probably 2 different ways to answer that question in terms of bringing our people together. I think that as a leadership team, it really is contingent on active listening. So many times as leaders, you know, we are marching towards different business imperatives. And we have goals that we need to meet and we're advancing those and we're communicating with our staff accordingly. But what's most important, I think, is making sure that the conversation is two way and making sure that we're listening to what our teams are hungry for and what is important to them. And that is going to change over time. It's going to change dependent upon As you said earlier, you know, the generations that are in the workforce. And for us, I think it's not just finding opportunities to allow our teams to be heard, but also to consider those perspectives. So great example right now, as we wrapped up our belong survey results.

[00:08:07] Tracey S: Not only did we. Share those results out with the staff, but in order to get more specific in terms of some of the areas for growth for us and the opportunities we have embarked on what [00:08:20] we are calling a listening tour. So we have given kind of smaller focus groups across the agency to allow the teams to come in and really share more detail in terms of where do we think we need to improve? What are some of the things that we're doing really well and how do we continue to advance? Those initiatives based on meeting our employees where they are and knowing what's important to them. So, I think from that standpoint, fostering a culture of active listening is critical and not just listening and considering, but then, of course, taking the time afterwards to synthesize that feedback and then put it into action. With some, you know, key performance indicators to help us measure the impact over time, too, because we can talk and we can listen. But if we don't thread that through to outcomes, then we're just going to be running in place. I think to the other. Piece the other pathway that's important for us is making sure when we bring people together, you know, we really do operate as one team and that may sound cliche.

[00:09:26] Tracey S: But for us this year, in particular, we used to have committees, if you will, around culture and learning and development. But there was such overlap. And what we were realizing was not only was there overlap in terms of what we were trying to accomplish, but we were also creating mini silos. Unintentionally. So now we've rolled all of that up to create kind of 1 team, and that really helps us to create initiatives that cut across all of those same areas, but does it [00:10:00] in a way where it's. It's happening as a more unified front than perhaps we've, you know, done previously. And I think that's really important for us to demonstrate to our teams that we're not only listening to them, but we're also working together in order to accomplish those goals as well.

[00:10:18] Jennifer Sain (Host): Oh, I love that. You know, it's so interesting because IPG in general, you know, the commitment to diva at the, you know, top level is so strong, but I just think it's so interesting how each company and each agency within the IPG network approaches it in a different way that works for them and their culture and what's important to them. And there's just so many unique things that I'm, again, that I'm hearing from you that are specific to tyranny. And that's just all those parts to the whole really speaks to having diversity and inclusion initiatives baked into the DNA at IPG and then also at other, you know, the, the independent units like, like tyranny. hearing about the community corners and this listening tour, again, it's specific to you and it just really speaks. To your culture and what you're creating at Tierney. So again, you know, looking at it, that we have this commitment on the cold and company level, but each agency, each brand kind of aligns sometimes with its own social impact initiative. Is there a particular initiative that is kind of near and dear to Tierney?

[00:11:22] Tracey S: There are quite a few and but I'll, I'll talk about 1 today in the spirit of time. Yes, I would say that there are several over the past couple of years, but most notably, we started a partnership this year with Mastbaum School, which is a public trade [00:11:40] and technical high school in North Philly. And for those that aren't familiar, North Philadelphia is a pretty challenged neighborhood within Philadelphia. And Mastbaum offers really strong traditional trade and, um, technical programs like plumbing and carpentry, but they also offer programs for students around graphic design and video editing.

[00:12:05] Tracey S: So. Through our partnership this year, we were able to bring our creative team to the school to talk to the students, not just about the craft, but how they could take that passion and, you know, convert that into a career over time. And the flip side was, we also brought the students to the agency and allowed them to shadow our creative team members, ask questions, spend a day with us to learn. More about the agency and more about the discipline specifically, and to really see all of the different opportunities and avenues, um, as it relates to a professional track for the students over time. And what was so unbelievable about the program was not only were the teachers and the students thrilled about the opportunity and really appreciated the content and what it meant to them for their future. I think our teams were almost more excited about it. There was an energy in the office. It was also a really strong reminder about the importance of why we do what we do and how it can have meaning and how you really can take a passion and turn it into a career. And it [00:13:20] was so successful on both sides that we are entering into year two of the partnership.

[00:13:25] Tracey S: We are currently in the process of adapting and evolving the model to think about different ways that we could level up, if you will, the experience for both the students and for our teams. Another example that I'd be remiss if I didn't share would. Was also our black business market this year. This was truly an idea that came from our team members in terms of putting a spotlight within our own community in Philadelphia and looking at some of the black owned small businesses and how do we, you know, fuel those businesses and create some visibility. So we truly set up a marketplace in our office. We invited several black owned businesses to come and we created, like I said, this marketplace where we not only had it open to our team members, but we invited clients. We invited partners and vendors. We invited other employers within our building. To take part, and it was so wildly successful that we are also planning to do it again next year, but even opening it up to other diverse communities.

[00:14:34] Tracey S: So L. G. B. T. Q. own businesses, Hispanic or Latino businesses, so on and so forth. So those are 2 initiatives that. I think we're so incredibly meaningful for us, but also for our partners in terms of sharing and elevating the work that they're doing. And also us playing a role in helping to fuel the greater community as part of that. And 1 thing I [00:15:00] also wanted to talk about a little bit. You mentioned it earlier around and how we are. Part of this larger community, and we all have our different programs and initiatives. But what I would say that has been really important and meaningful for us is the ability, uh, under the banner that we do get to collaborate with each other. So much more than you would. Possibly imagine we are part of IPG's collective network. So for us, you know, being able to talk to Campbell Ewald or Martin or Carmichael Lynch and talk about their best practices as it relates to DEBA or culture, even just knowledge sharing what's working for you. What's not working for you being able to have that smaller community of sharing and collaboration has been really invaluable to us.

[00:15:54] Tracey S: And I think a great example, too, is Mullenlowe recently had gone through an inclusivity training. We are now adapting that and customizing it for Tierney. And next week, our coaches are rolling that out to our staff as well. So there's a lot of opportunity, I think, within our own network. For us to glean best practices and be able to say, Hey, let's take this without reinventing the wheel. Yes. You may have to customize it here and there, but be able to apply some things that are working in other areas, um, for our own business. And I think that's the beauty of IPG in that respect. Oh, I love that.

[00:16:33] Jennifer Sain (Host): I love all of that. And also, can I have an invitation to that marketplace? Because that sounds incredible. I think that is such like a hands [00:16:40] on boots on the ground way to make a difference. And also. It just sounds awesome. 

[00:16:44] Tracey S: It was really cool. I will tell you from, you know, small owns like candle, um, making companies to jewelry, to plants and other succulents that were available for sale, like it was just a really great experience for, for all of us. And again, a way for us to also give back to the small and parochial community that is Philadelphia.

[00:17:09] Jennifer Sain (Host): Yes. Oh,  I love that. And from that, like you said, all the way up to the quote unquote corporate level where, you know, that stuff has to come from where that's baked in and it comes from collaboration and not keeping those things proprietary, but rather collaborating and thought sharing, like you said, and, you know, so it can really be propelled forward for what it is. So, you know, hearing this, hearing this from an IPG level and from a Tierney level, it seems like it's all really dialed in. But the thing is the culture at large tends to evolve quite quickly, and there just seems to be something new every day. So how then do you stay adaptable in this like constantly changing cultural environment and work environment as the talent changes and all that good stuff?

[00:17:51] Tracey S: Sure. I think, you know, one of the things, as I just articulated, Staying ahead of, you know, what's happening in other agencies, uh, within the network, having those conversations, what are some of the, you know, challenges that we're facing? How are you tackling them? Um, being able to problem solve together has been really helpful. I also think that, you know, keeping a finger on the pulse of what's happening in our world, right? So we're constantly looking at. A lot of [00:18:20] what's happening in our news cycle right now, you know, whether that's related to macroeconomic uncertainty, or even just some of the, the wars, the geopolitical issues that we're facing right now to back to how are people still feeling about a hybrid work environment, you know, everything in between as well, you know, those are all factors, um, that.

[00:18:42] Tracey S: Are going to keep people up at night and are going to give people, you know, sometimes pause or areas for concern. So making sure that we understand what's happening in our world and then being available for support and having the resources to support. So, whether that's in a more structured sense through making sure that we have tools and resources through employee resource groups. Or making sure that our HR teams are available or even equipping our managers without a hat with, you know, how to have some of these conversations is critical for us as well. And then I think it really also comes back to consistent and frequent communication and listening. You know, what is the concern that your staff member is having today?

[00:19:26] Tracey S: You know, as I mentioned earlier, we're a business and we know that we have to operate. As such, and we have goals that we need to work towards, but we're also a people business. We're human beings. And at the end of the day, you know, we're sisters. We're brothers. We're moms. We're dads. We're children. And we all have to navigate that work life integration. And I think if we could remember that. Empathy is the great equalizer. We will be in a much better place to tackle some of these issues and create a culture [00:20:00] where people not only feel included, but they also have a sense of belonging in that. They can ask questions. They can share concerns and know that they are going to get the support from all of us to be able to help surround them and get through it together. So I think those are some of the ways that we are able to adapt and evolve with our changing times and just making sure that we're able to meet our employees where they are. 

[00:20:26] Jennifer Sain (Host): Uh yeah, that's incredible because, yeah, I mean, you can look at strategy and you can look at best practices, but at the end of the day comes down to the individual and the fact that you're looking at that. I mean, that's just the best place I think you can start as you know, the next crisis rolls in or the next, you know, issue that causes the polarization runs in. I mean, when you're just looking at the human and the individual, I think that's great. And at the end of the day, it's, you know, it is a business, so it's good for business operations as well as just creating an environment where people want to come to work and want to, you know, or feel safe enough to share what's on their mind. And that just makes the work better, the environment better, and we're all just better for it.

[00:21:02] Tracey S: Yeah. I mean, no one wants to live in a sea of sameness. And I think that for us, you know, think unalike is a really good theme for us in that we want to have that diversity of thought because that's going to, you know, push the status quo that's going to breed innovation. And that's also going to make us better, faster, stronger as individuals and being able to then contribute collectively as well. So I think, you know, being able to, again, put yourself in someone else's shoes too, and to be able to [00:21:40] understand where they're coming from and appreciate that perspective along the way, just ultimately makes us all, all better as a culture and then as a business, as you said, 

[00:21:50] Jennifer Sain (Host): Um, so Tracy, you mentioned earlier about the hybrid work environment, and I think that's kind of. Getting lost in the sauce a little bit these days because you just see it everywhere. It's in all the headlines and it's, Oh, the hybrid work environment. But I think that's actually a really, I don't think it's given enough attention as it's a really big shift, not only in the way we work, but how we work and how we work with each other. Um, would you mind going back and talking a little bit about that, about how you're kind of looking at and handling this new hybrid work? Well, not so new anymore, but hybrid work environment. 

[00:22:20] Tracey S: You know, it's interesting. I think we, we still say, you know, it's, it's not that new, but it is right. I mean, if you think about decades of, you know, hundreds of years, you know, of us working in an office environment, 5 days a week, and then to be able to make this shift, I see. Still think it is relatively new for us from the standpoint that we are still trying to navigate it. I think for us at tyranny, it comes down to whether you're in the office, out of the office, it really comes down to finding meaningful moments to connect and to collaborate that there is something to be said for. We are better together because of the very nature of our business is collaboration, right? So for us, it's not just connection for connection. Say it's about finding meaning behind it. And for us, we had a lot of success this year in hosting an agency retreat. We took ourselves [00:23:20] out of the office environment.

[00:23:22] Tracey S: We actually hosted it at the Please Touch Museum, which is a national children's museum that happens to be headquartered in Philadelphia. And their focus is learning. Through the power of play. So, for us, it was just a perfect supplement to bringing all of our agency together and to find opportunities to get outside of the day to day and to think about. How can we stay curious? How can we innovate? How can we collaborate and continue to build a camaraderie and a trust to elevate our work and our culture? So we spent a day there. There were lots of team building activities. We actually spent a good bit of time talking about the work that we have done around DEIBA education and where we need to continue to grow. We had an outside speaker come in. And I think the, at the end of the day. What everybody walked away with was the importance of that human connection and being able to find those opportunities to do it. That's meaningful for everyone and, um, also getting outside of ourselves to do it. So it was incredibly powerful for us and something that we will continue in 2024. We'll probably tweak it a little bit again in the spirit of adapting and evolving, but something that we think is. It's really important for us to do as, as a team.

[00:24:52] Jennifer Sain (Host): Oh, I love all that. And I'm going to wrangle for an invitation for both your marketplace and this amazing outing. But seriously, it's been so wonderful [00:25:00] talking with you and it's always just so encouraging to hear these conversations and what's happening kind of behind the scenes and on the ground level. I mean, it's just, it's encouraging. And at a time where. We all need every encouragement that we can get. It's really, and it makes us, well, for me anyway, it makes me really happy and proud to be part of this network where things like this are happening. So thank you so much for coming on and telling us all about all the things and sharing all that with us. I think for our listeners, it's going to be a little silver lining that we all need right now.

[00:25:25] Tracey S: Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me. And again, there's not one of us that has all the answers. I think it really is in the power of the collective in coming together to not only stay curious, but help tackle some of the challenges together.

[00:25:42] Jennifer Sain (Host): So I love that. Well, thanks again for being here. 

[00:25:44] Tracey S: Thank you so much.

[00:25:46] Outro: Thank you for listening to the Collective Intelligence podcast for more marketing insights and ideas Please subscribe to this podcast or visit