Marketing Interview South Africa

EXCLUSIVE: Conversation Lab partners with Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network

Uyanda Manana, managing director at Conversation LAB shares more about the partnership with Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network.
Uyanda Manana, MD at Conversation LAB and Black and Brilliant SA Chapter Head
Uyanda Manana, MD at Conversation LAB and Black and Brilliant SA Chapter Head

Can you tell us about the partnership between Conversation Lab and Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network?

The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network was founded in New York in June, 2020 by Tony Effik and Perky Noah-Effik to challenge the misconception of many corporate leaders that there is a lack of Black talent. Through its various partnerships, Black and Brilliant provides personal development tools, networking opportunities, and mentorship programmes.

The group has since grown into a network of talented professionals from all backgrounds and industries with chapters in the US and the UK. Conversation LAB has partnered with Black and Brilliant to launch the South Africa branch.

We’re marking the launch with an inspirational panel discussion on 7 October called #NextUp. The line-up includes digital industry leaders from SA, UK and the US who’ll be sharing their career journeys and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. That the Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network is able to assemble such a heavy-hitting panel of black leadership – all of whom are at the top of their game – bodes well for the network’s success and growth both globally and locally.

It’s an honour to be leading the SA chapter, and working with such inspirational global leaders who are willing to give of their time to further the cause of true upliftment in SA. I’m incredibly excited about our #NextUP event, our first session of many to come.

How did the partnership come about?

The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network is founded on the principle of the power of networks, and in particular, global networks of people and entities. Kevin Power, Group CEO of Conversation Lab worked with Tony Effik in London, initially as agency competitors and then on the same team at Publicis London. They forged a strong friendship with shared values, which has endured over the last decade even while living in different countries.

Kevin introduced me to Tony as a candidate to collaborate on Black and Brilliant and to lead the charge in SA. Coincidentally, I am also a Publicis London alumni which underlines how small the world really is and how critical networks are in all our lives.

With this partnership, what do you aim to achieve?

Advertising in South Africa is often a career option reserved for the elite few, especially considering the cost of our feeder colleges. Very few South Africans can afford these sort of fees, which means there’s a level of exclusivity from the get-go. We can’t hope to achieve true diversity in the boardroom if the cost of walking through the boom gate eliminates the majority in our country.

Our aim is to find collaborative and innovative ways to connect South African and African talent with global industry leaders and networks. We want to open up opportunities for young South African talent, not just to the SA market but to a global market.

You'll also be launching the #NextUp sessions. Can you tell us more about this?

The #NextUp event is targeted specifically at young people aged between 16 and 20, who wouldn’t have necessarily even considered advertising or digital marketing as a viable career option. Or if they have, have no idea where to start.

We believe succession is the most powerful way to sustain a movement. Unless knowledge, thoughts, ideas, and ideals are deliberately passed on, then they will never find expression beyond those who currently believe and practice them. The purpose of the #NextUp sessions is to inspire those next in line. And we have an incredible line-up of people who’ve volunteered their time for the event:

  • Tony Effik: managing director at Google (NYC), adjunct professor at Columbia University and founder of Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network
  • Ranga Muvavarirwa: director of engineering at Google (USA)
  • Ete Davies: CEO at digital creative and media agency Engine (UK)
  • Prakash Patel: CEO at digital tech company ForKeeps (RSA)
  • Luzuko Tena: paid social media specialist (RSA)
  • Leila Fataar: founder of creative and cultural platform, Platform13 (UK)

What are some of the things young people can do to connect with global digital industry leaders?

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We have some very exciting plans for next year, looking at various initiatives to help connect young people with digital leaders and on-ramp them to the industry. Things such as running bespoke academies around specific disciplines such as SEO and AI.

The key for young people is to join these sorts of forums that offer opportunity to network and connect. Our job is to give of our time and expertise.

How can the young get involved with the #NextUp sessions?

It’s an hour-long session taking place on 7 October from 4-5pm. All you need to do is register and log on.

How can industry leaders get involved?

We are on the lookout for volunteers for the SA chapter, people who are interested in mentoring, participating in panel discussions or running modules.

Those keen to get involved can get in touch with me at moc.balnoitasrevnoc@ofni.

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