Kelsey D. Haynes


Important Takeaways From The ColorCommCon Virtual Conference

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Professional development is fun. I enjoy it because I want to continue growing in my career and taking this journey to higher heights. As it is, and I’ve blogged about this before, there are not a lot of Black people or people of color in creative fields — especially in Kansas City — compared to our white counterparts. Networks like MimConnect, The CCYN Network and ColorComm are all collectives I follow consistently to find resources for Black communications professionals across the country to continue growing and learning together. When I saw that ColorComm was hosting a virtual conference, I quickly signed up. More than 2,000 other professionals had the same idea and on Tuesday, June 30, we hopped on Zoom to spend a full day learning from a host of women in leadership about the climate of our country. It was the best 8-hour workday ever. Speakers offered up advice and shared resources on how we can take action and influence justice, equity, diversity and inclusion where we work. Let’s dive into the lessons I learned.


Speaker: Body Language Expert Linda Clemons

It’s important to note that the conference started at 9 a.m. EDT, so I was up earlier than I’ve been used to these past few months to be at “work” (or on my computer) by 8 a.m. CST.

Linda Clemons was the perfect start to my day. She taught us all about body language and how to show up online. I’m now questioning my posture and tone of voice during Zoom meetings. She also pointed out how to detect someone’s level of interest in what you’re saying through the nonverbal language of body posture.

  • If someone is engaged and interested in the conversation they’re at the edge of their seat.
  • If they’re shocked by something you’ve said they’ll lean back.
  • Clemons said your tone of voice, nonverbal communication and verbal communication must align or what you’re saying won’t be convincing.
  • She talked about imposter syndrome and what it means — sending out vibes and energy that are not congruent to yourself.

“When you show up truthfully you will appear to be authentic because you are your true self.”


Panelists: Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer — Google; Trisch Smith, Global Chief D&I Officer — Edelman; Soon Mee Kim, EVP & Global D&I leader — Porter Novelli
Moderator: Minda Harts, CEO — The Memo, LLC

The diversity panel discussed the importance of why we need diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It’s important to recognize that Black employees are traumatized. Leaders have to provide support for what we’re dealing with and meet us where we are. Before we had the realities of systemic injustice brought to light, we were dealing with the weight of COVID-19. The global pandemic has affected Black people at disproportionately higher rates than that of other groups — both in regard to health and employment.

  • There has to be a collective action. Speaking out is not enough, it’s what you’re doing daily that really matters.
  • Black employees must develop partners who can join us in speaking up and making suggestions on what our teams, leaders and organizations can do better.
  • There’s a retention issue in keeping young Black employees; we feel lonely and unequally sponsored. We won’t stay where we don’t feel welcome.
  • Diversity training should look different for every level of employee
  • Kim said if you’re going to do the work of JEDI — not as in Skywalker or Kenobi, but justice, equity, diversity and inclusion — you’re signing up for transformational change. Don’t just start a program through human resources, really take a holistic look at your organization.


Panelists: Nely Galan, best-selling author/media entrepreneur; Chrissy Rutherford, brand consultant/creator; Meredith Koop, stylist/consultant; Sharon Chuter, Founder & CEO — Uoma Beauty and founder — Pull Up For Change
Moderator: Michelle Lee, Editor in Chief — Allure Magazine

This conversation was about the need for representation at all levels of corporations and how it can be achieved.

Chuter said she looks at data. Data is a way to tell a story that even brand leaders can understand because “we’re dealing with an invisible enemy.”

  • Black people are the last to be hired and the first to be fired.
  • Do not buy where you can’t be hired.
  • Resist the urge to assimilate in order to succeed; Black professionals should stop feeling like they have to endure and survive in racist environments. Don’t be afraid to pack your bags.

Galan said it’s about money; women of color have the most purchasing power and we should use that to our advantage to ensure we are represented within the brands we support. She also said people of color need to buy more from one another.

“If we don’t understand the power of our purchase, we will go back. We have to be vigilant and speak with empowerment,” said Galan.

Koop said your personal philosophy should match your profession and how you want to make money.

Until we bring in the right voices on all levels, we will not fix the issues at hand.


Panelists: Glennon Doyle, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of UNTAMED and founder of Together Rising; Melissa Urban, co-founder and CEO of Whole 30; Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO and President of WE Communications; Jenny Mollen, author, writer and comedian; Barb Schmidt, Founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life

  • The real work of an ally begins when no one is watching
  • Being an ally is about building relationships with people who don’t look like you
  • Allyship should be a verb, something you continually work toward rather than a badge of honor.
  • Allies have to get beyond talk and into action.
  • An ally’s actions need to match their intent. That’s how you build trust.
  • It’s important to listen to Black voices and believe that they are true.
  • Silos break when we have conversations with one another.
  • Allies should be open to learning and hearing what people have to say.

“Stop asking why no Black people have applied for your jobs and ask yourself ‘why don’t Black people feel like they can apply for your jobs? How are we coming across?’” — Melissa Urban

Doyle said an important lesson she learned is that white women often settle for fake peace and don’t speak up in moments when white men are exuding privilege in what should be inclusive spaces. She said not to be afraid to speak up and use your voice. “White women have underreacted, or not reacted, for 100 years. It is okay to overreact for 100 years.”


Lauren Ash — Founder of Black Girl In OM

After everything we’ve been through these past few months, we could all use a little self-care and meditation. Ash said we should normalize anxiety and normalize managing it. Healing requires doing the work and getting to the root. When we recognize and identify the limiting beliefs within ourselves we’ll be able to work toward healing.

  • Gratitude creates space for our next blessing.
  • Meditation takes on many forms. There’s no one way to meditate.
  • Move in the direction of your curiosity.
  • When you wake up in the morning, do something for you. Create a time for yourself that work can’t touch.


Panelists: Brittany Packnett Cunningham, activist and MSNBC contributor; Stephanie Young, managing director of When We All Vote; April Ryan, White House correspondent — American Urban Radio Networks; Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change

Moderator: Valencia Johnson, founder and chief impact officer — 1036 West Broad

This was by far my favorite session and not because I’m a huge April Ryan fan. The panelists featured in this session dropped so many gems that communications professionals, especially, can take away.

“We talk about the systems that affect Black people in passive voice but we don’t talk Black people in active voice.” — Robinson

  • Without citizen journalism, we would have never witnessed the death of George Floyd
  • The biggest piece of misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus comes, first, from social media, followed by the president and the media

Media is supposed to shine bright lights in dark spaces. You can’t just rely on sources anymore. It’s up to the audience to search for truth and find credible sources. — Ryan

  • We should demand that the media represent us so that we can get our story straight.
  • We can’t settle for charitable solutions to solve structural problems

“If Black Lives do not matter where you lead, don’t post it on social.” — Cunningham​

  • Make sure things that we are communicating outwardly are reflective of what’s happening internally.
  • The first step is doing the internal work. Your PR campaign should be the last step.


Speaker: Trudy Bourgeois, founder and CEO of the Center for Workplace Excellence

With the uncertainty triggered by COVID-19 and its effects on the global economy, none of us know whether or not we’re on the chopping block. How do you know if you’re valuable or dead weight?

“If you’re not working on the growth part of the business, you’re at risk,” said Bourgeois. Leaders care about people, performance and profit. If you’re contributing to those things, you’re worth saving.

Corporate America’s love language is money and relationships. We could have conversations with our managers on where we stand, but it’s likely they won’t even know. We need to assess ourselves.

Everyone needs an internal strategy and an external strategy. Bourgeois shared the five-five-five rule. We need:

  • 5 people on the inside that know our value and can speak to our work and who we are
  • 5 within the industry with title authority and money to create opportunities for us
  • 5 people globally who can do the same

We have to be intentional about building relationships; “don’t go to get, go to give.” Extend the olive branch in meaningful ways.

Spend time working on your personal plan of action and not leaving anything to chance.


Speaker: Tiffany Aliche, founder and CEO of The Budgetnista

What steps should we be taking to be financially secure in the middle of an economic crisis?

  • If you have excess money, now is the time to invest
  • Investing in your retirement is non-negotiable
  • We should save at least 6 months of our living expenses, then we can tackle debt aggressively
  • Be mindful of your credit score

​”It is the obligation of your younger self to look after your older self. Debt freedom means nothing without context.” — Aliche

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I’m a strategic communicator by day. And by night? I help create magic for brands and blog about my life experiences navigating adult life as a millennial.

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