Anyone who has lived through a crisis keenly understands the sharp focus needed to navigate successfully. Most recently, crisis has taken the form of a hyper-competitive environment, social unrest and uprising, and more throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are many ways to deal with a crisis one thing is clear -- it is best to lean on your strengths. Audacy is doing just that -- leading the way out of crisis with a focus on their best-in-class audio capabilities built on human connection and the value of community. This strength, coupled with its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is the foundation for Audacy's partnership with Clark Atlanta University (CAU), an example that creates a charitable path for others seeking to emerge from crisis with a strong business and tangible impact on the next generation.
Audacy, a scaled, multi-platform audio content and entertainment company, was uniquely positioned to respond and activate resources in an innovative way with the CAU partnership. "Internally we discussed what we could do to have an impact positively, as we knew this was a time for intentional listening that would catapult into meaningful action," says Rick Caffey, Senior Vice President & Market Manager at Audacy Atlanta.
Sarah Harris, Vice President, Social Impact was engaged as the co-lead of a DEI task force with Caffey. It was designed to directly and reflexively focus the organization to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, while meeting the moment of social justice. It was quickly apparent that there was a solid foundation to support meaningful work. Rather than start from scratch, Audacy opted to align with known entities, strengthening existing connections. "An informal relationship had already existed between our Atlanta leadership team and CAU," Harris explains. "We had a goal to formalize that relationship into a structured program that would more effectively equip the next generation with perspective needed to launch careers in audio, with the dual benefit of positioning Audacy as a great place to work."
CAU came with a prerequisite focus on youth, which prepares the next generation for successful careers in audio entertainment while sustaining Audacy's recruitment pipeline.
Audacy's organizational strengths make the CAU partnership possible and are linked inextricably with their core values. Known as "The Four AudaCy's," these values serve as an organizational compass in their DEI efforts: Community, Curiosity, Courage and Creativity.
"The commitment to step up to the plate and structure the CAU Partnership required a community effort and a genuine embrace of listening within the partnership to ensure its success," says Mica Alexis, Director HR, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. "Success of this work hinges on trust-based relationships within the partnership. Listening to the needs and interests of CAU students -- gearing our leadership team and conversations to address student priorities -- builds the relationship and creates value for both CAU and Audacy."
"I am a huge advocate of students learning inside and outside of the classroom," said Garry Yates, interim chair of Clark Atlanta University Mass Media Arts. "We are committed to preparing our students to excel; we are ecstatic to establish this partnership that gives them coveted access to a media powerhouse like Audacy."
The CAU and Audacy relationship personifies partnership in that there is a keen recognition that both institutions recognize the greater value created in coming together. The cultural relevance of audio in the African American community and a strategic commitment to access CAU talent is a win-win scenario. "We created a curriculum for dinner and learn sessions. In the Fall, we provided four sessions: The initial Kickoff with Audacy Chairman, President & CEO David Field and CAU President George T. French Jr.; Audacy Brand Managers sharing Stories from Broadcast Business; a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Podcasting, and On-Air Talent -- a collection of our influential voices from shows around the country sharing what they do and their journey of breaking into the business, including what advice they would give their earlier selves based on all they now know," says Caffey, explaining the depth and breadth of the partnership. "The Spring semester sessions included: 'Sales,' 'Live Events Team'and'How to Break into Careers in Audio & Media.' We also work with Clark Atlanta faculty to understand the student curriculum to share relevant solutions and content aligned with what students are learning in class."
Many students have since connected with Audacy leaders on LinkedIn, followed up with email conversations, and started to build their networks. The program is already bearing fruit as evidenced by Ashton Edmunds, a young emerging talent from CAU, making his debut at the NBA All-Star game.
The CAU Partnership pioneered by Audacy is a working blueprint for how the industry can lean on their strengths and activate organizational values in new ways that build bridges to advance DEI commitments and inclusivity in the industry. There is much progress to be made, as significant change is an evolutionary process. Yet, the CAU partnership is an important step forward with valuable lessons for the entire industry as we lead onward out of crisis.
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