Eight seconds. Frighteningly, a recent study from Microsoft found that the average human attention span has dropped by 25 percent over the last few years to only eight seconds. As this trend continues, businesses battle to capture the attention of potential consumers with captivating advertisements in a matter of seconds. Still, companies within the cannabis industry continue to downplay the contributions of Black content creators. A 2021 study from MSL found that the pay gap that divides white content creators and creatives of color sits at 29 percent.
Furthermore, research shows that the pay gap that exists between white content creators and Black creatives is at 35 percent. With U.S. businesses spending nearly $60 billion on social media marketing, it is more imperative than ever that Black marketers know how to advocate for their work and receive adequate compensation for their skills.
Having had the opportunity to create content for the Met Gala, Hall of Flowers, and several other events, I have gone through the ups and downs of being a marketing director, brand strategist, and builder. For all of my fellow Black marketers and content creators, here are three pieces of information that I’ve picked up along the way that may be helpful to you or someone you know in the future.
Know your worth
As a content creator, the only thing more important than knowing how to create content is knowing what the worth of your content is. To properly advocate for fair compensation, Black content creators must understand who their audience is, what their skill set is, and how it differs from their peers.
Having an understanding of one’s audience is extremely important because it will allow content creators to communicate better with potential consumers. Black creatives must gather data regarding the types of content that their audience enjoys, the times they tend to consume content, and where they tend to consume content. Once content creators understand who their work is being received by, they also have to gain a better understanding of how they plan to market to them.
With a variety of tools ranging from Instagram to YouTube to TikTok and beyond, it is important to understand where their skills can be best applied. For some, video editing comes naturally. For others, their strength and creative skills shine through their writing. Self-identifying strengths and weaknesses will go a long way toward maximizing their content-making abilities. Among the strengths and weaknesses that have been identified, it is important to highlight the particular things that you do as better or differently than your peers.
What is the one thing that separates you from other content creators in the marketplace?
Being a unique figure in a competitive field like marketing will enhance your ability to negotiate your pay with brands. This is incredibly valuable because some brands will still try to lowball talented creatives or even exchange services in exchange for “exposure.” Low pay and exposure do not adequately compensate for the time spent planning, storyboarding, reshooting videos, traveling, or any of the other tasks needed to create quality content.
More importantly, exposure doesn’t cover rent, health insurance, electric bills, or student loan payments. Thankfully, some brands have made a consistent effort to acknowledge the worth of Black content creators and the material they develop. For example, Relva DC, a Black-owned dispensary in Washington, D.C., has always acknowledged my worth and paid me accordingly. Not only is this good business practice, but it also adds an extra piece of motivation when the going may get tough. Everyone works harder when they know there is something worthwhile on the backend.
Marketing your worth
Knowing your worth is one thing, but being able to market it to brands is something entirely different. As two-time BRIT Award winner Dave once said, “What’s the point in me being the best if no one knows it?”
Too often, content creators have great track records of developing content, but fail to put it all together in one easily identifiable place. When conveying your talents and services to potential clients, it is helpful to have a One-Sheet or EPK that lists all of your best work. In addition to listing previous work and projects, it’s also essential to understand how those particular pieces of content performed. Metrics are power! Having stats regarding how many views a piece of content generated or the amount of income it created for a previous client will go a long way in landing future clients.
Similar to Relva DC, there are businesses that will put you in a position to succeed and market your talents as well. Recently, I have had the opportunity to work with Cannaclusive, a Black-owned organization designed to facilitate inclusion for both business owners and consumers in the cannabis industry. Not only am I able to create content that uplifts Black leaders in the cannabis space, but Cannaclusive also helps position me as a thought leader in cannabis content creation. By doing so, I can offer advice to other marketers and advocate for change within the industry. Having a partner like Cannaclusive help position me and my work in this way ultimately helps elevate my profile and market my skill size to other clients in the future.
Protecting your worth
Establishing yourself within a marketplace is difficult, but is equally difficult to maintain your position there. After conducting a self-assessment and advertising your skillset to potential clients, several steps need to be taken in order to continue advancing in your career journey.
While marketing and content creation can be analytical fields, they are also people-driven businesses. It is not only important to build relationships with clients, but it is also helpful to build relationships with other Black creators. Establishing friendships with fellow Black content creators can lead to referrals from others in the same space and allow you to understand how others may be treated well or mistreated by certain companies.
Meanwhile, developing strong bonds with clients will ensure that you and the company remain on the same page regarding your current projects and keep you in their minds for future work. In my experience working with brands such as Garden Society and Potent Goods, my working experiences were enhanced because there were always clear expectations set and open lines of communication.
After establishing relationships within the business, it is also important to set boundaries within your relationships. Setting firm pay rates, work expectations, and other guidelines will help deter businesses from treating content creators like last-minute resources.
Leverage your work. Unfortunately, several cannabis businesses and brands have reportedly been shadow banned on various social media platforms. As a result, tagging certain brands or cross-promoting with certain brands can occasionally hurt your social media presence. In these situations, it is important to identify the potential risks and rewards of taking on certain jobs while also understanding what you may bring to the table for your client. By doing this, Black content creators can properly leverage their work. Above all else, don’t compromise your work or your authenticity.
In a crowded marketplace, marketing and content creation are more important than ever as cannabis companies hope to distinguish themselves within the marketplace. To elevate their position within the marketplace, brands need Black content creators more than ever. Unfortunately, many companies and brands will underpay creators of color who are unaware of their true value.
Still, it does not justify the act of lowballing a marketer and it is time that more Black content creators take back control of their place in the market. Using the aforementioned methods above, content creators can combat these trends by determining, marketing and ultimately protecting their value. Not only will advocating for adequate pay increase an individual’s compensation, but it will also set a standard for how other Black content creators are treated across the board.
Jordan Watson or AceKing on Instagram, is a creative marketing director, brand strategist, and business builder based in Southern California. He’s the owner and creative force behind Get Rock’d Media which specializes in compelling, unique, and captivating high-quality brand content. Not only has he been able to create content that uplifts Black leaders in the space, but Cannaclusive has helped position him as a thought leader in cannabis content creation.