Like many of my peers, I pursued a career in media with a desire to tell the stories of thriving, diverse communities while also being a voice in the room when a unique perspective is needed.

With that desire also came the understanding that it’s my responsibility to constantly pitch stories that resonate with multicultural audiences. And with the recent #PepsiFail, I think it’s safe to say that many global brands prefer to make cultural assumptions, rather than allocating resources to help gain a better understanding of how to meaningfully connect with people of color.

They need that one (preferably multiple) person in the room who has the wisdom to say, “Actually that’s not how we see ourselves,” or “That’s really offensive, so why don’t you consider my ideas. My experiences.”

In the world of marketing, it’s no secret that companies like Google, Apple, AT&T and Hewlett Packard “get it.” Game changers like Bozoma Saint John and Travis McPhail represent two of the aforementioned brands and have become icons for the next generation of Black, tech and marketing thought leaders.

That’s why I was shocked to discover that a national media organization was hosting a PR and Digital Media conference and there was not one Black representative among the more than 20 speakers. I was able to get in touch with one of the organizers and found myself going down a list of dynamic, Black experts that I know and admire.

Which is what inspired the below list.

There’s always been a woman of color who reached back for me, challenged me to go harder, and demanded that my voice be heard in the room. Many of them are included here.

Follow them, “Like”, subscribe and share. Chances are they are the voices behind some of your favorite organizations and brands around the world.

1. Iesha Reed, Swarovski – Iesha Reed has sailed her way to the top in PR roles at major fashion and luxury brands in New York City. After stints at Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, Swatch Group, and Montblanc, Reed was more than ready to fill the director of communications role at luxe brand Swarovski. Reed has been successful in developing and executing a range of marketing, public relations, and advertising strategies that build brand awareness.

2. Amber Morse, Black Girls Code – Amber is a mentor, self-motivated professional pursuing her passion for tech diversity and inclusion with a strong sense of creating positive change in the world through social impact work. At Black Girls Code, she combines hands-on experience with leadership by example to build and mentor client-based relationships.

3. Christina Rice, Luxelife Media, Inc. – Christina is a communications and marketing professional with over 12 years of experience. She founded LuxeLife Media Inc, a full service boutique PR and marketing agency, based in New York City, in April 2010. Prior to launching LLM, Christina served as the Director of Public Relations for global fashion brand, Akademiks, and preceding that position, a Senior Account Executive at 5WPR.

4. Crystal Washington, com – Crystal is a technology strategist and professional speaker who works with organizations that want to leverage technology to increase profits and productivity. Crystal’s clients comprise Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, and General Electric and she has headlined conferences across the globe. She is the author of One Tech Action and The Social Media Why.

5. Dreena Whitfield WhitPR,- Dreena Whitfield is the principle of WhitPR, a New Jersey based boutique strategic communications firm. Whitfield is the former Press Secretary to Cory Booker during his tenure as Mayor of the City of Newark. Her diverse career has led her to spearhead the communications and marketing efforts for leaders in the nonprofit, corporate and political sectors, as well as small businesses throughout the TriLState Area.

6. Kristal Howard, Kroger Co. – Kristal has been in the PR industry since 2005 and she has experienced three sides of life–corporate, agency, and freelance. Presently, she is contributing her leadership, brand marketing, publicity, corporate communications, business development, executive visibility, activation, reputation management, social media, budget management, amplification, event planning, and community relations talents to a Fortune 25 company.

7. Renae Bluit, Crush Media- Renae Bluitt is the founder of Crush Media and creator of In Her Shoes, the one stop blog for women committed to being the captain of their own ship. Pairing her love for Black women with her gene for business, Renae has helped shape the face of some of your favorite multicultural beauty brands. And when she’s not busy shaping, she’s sharing – introducing In Her Shoes readers to other fly female entrepreneurs like herself.

8. Tami Latrell, Radio One – Tami joined Radio One – Houston in 2009 and was promoted to National Producer in 2013 managing digital content for #1 Syndicated morning show, The Rickey Smiley Morning Show. She was later promoted to Regional Online Editor to oversee the Radio One – Atlanta local radio station brands,,, and acquired Houston, Charlotte, Raleigh and Richmond markets. Tami also manages a content management and social media marketing agency.

9. Zakiya Larry, Quest Media Training – Zakiya Larry is an award-winning, PR professional and media coach based in Dallas, Texas. She is the CEO of Quest Media Training a strategic communications firm that provides media coaching, public speaking preparedness, strategic messaging, crisis communications and public relations for faith leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, non-profits, corporations and rising political stars.

10. Ameena Rasheed, University of Houston – Ameena is digital content strategist who excels at both online storytelling and social media management. After working in the news industry for a little over three years, she decided to transition into higher education. Currently, she is a social media coordinator at the University of Houston.

11. Ashley Joy Sutton, Ashley Joy – As a non-profit and communications professional, Ashley has a deep rooted passion for community development, entrepreneurship and social justice. Previously, Ashley taught business communication skills to youth in Oakland, California and worked in development at a homeless shelter focusing on women and children in Birmingham, Alabama. Currently, Ashley is the Director of Communications at the Birmingham Business Resource Center. She is set to launch her communications boutique Summer 2017.

About the Author
Ashley-Small-New-HeadshotsmallerWhether working with a local business, a national brand, or a prominent political figure, Ashley Small’s proven PR and digital marketing strategies have helped her clients expand their reach and increase brand awareness. Ashley founded Medley Inc. in 2009 with the goal of marrying traditional PR strategies with the latest technology.

She’s since been named a “Face of Houston” by Fast Company Magazine for her entrepreneurial spirit, and she’s been identified as one of Houston Business Journal’s 40 Bizwomen Mentors. Prior to Medley Inc. , Ashley worked with top national brands, political figures and non-profits such as Nintendo, Chilli’s, former Houston Mayor Bill White and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Recently Ashley completed the prestigious Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program.