My name is Ben Finzel. I’m president of RENEWPRin Washington, D.C. and founder of The Change Agencies. The idea for The Change Agencies was mine, but the execution of the concept belongs to all of us: my five extraordinary colleagues and me. We’ve been working together for more than a year to bring this idea to fruition. Our commitment to this idea is rock solid and we’ve all invested a great deal of time and energy in building it. So why have I spent so much time and effort on this idea? What does this new effort to change how the industry engages with multicultural and LGBT communities mean to me? Why am I here?
I’m here because I understand that it is long past time for communications agencies owned by and working in diverse communities to lead the conversation about issues related to them. Yes, many fine specialty agencies focus on one or two of these communities. And yes, many respected global PR firms do some of this work at some level. But there is no one network of independent firms owned and operated by people in these communities focused on authentically engaging with them. I didn’t see anyone else addressing this opportunity, so I decided to do it myself – with a lot of help from smart people I know and respect.
I’m here because I acknowledge that the world has changed and communications must change as well. For too long, authentically engaging multicultural and LGBT audiences has been an afterthought or a “we’ll do it later – if we have time and budget” consideration. That’s never been good enough. Now, that attitude isn’t just bad, it’s the equivalent of communications malpractice.
I’m here because I understand that the national dialogue on a myriad of issues is not just incomplete without these audiences shaping it, but there is also an opportunity for multicultural and LGBT audiences to own parts of it in ways they haven’t in the past. That means giving a voice and the power to use that voice for positive impact to those who are already influencing popular culture, politics and society at large but who aren’t getting the credit for it and who aren’t being given the opportunity to wield the power that comes with it.
In politics, the adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” is often used to describe why every community must engage in the political dialogue. That holds true for communities engaging with society at large as well. The Change Agencies exists because we know that our communities are at the table. We’re going to help ensure they have a voice and can use that voice to drive the conversation.