Learn More About Kai D. Wright
“As we stand at an inflection point in the arc of history, we are experiencing another great awakening. All at once, institutions, companies, leaders, employees and citizens collectively recognize an urgent need for change. Now comes the hard work of depoliticizing conversations about race at work, applying systems-based thinking and committing to move from empathetic and active listening to swift and meaningful action.” – Kai D. Wright
Cultural change can happen quickly. While some organizations are good at responding to sudden changes, others may be less adaptive and miss new opportunities. According to global media executive, author and Columbia University lecturer Kai D. Wright, culturally fluent brands – those that understand and embrace diverse audiences – are much better at leveraging change when promoting products, services and messages, engaging audiences, establishing policies and practices, and managing related investments.
With expertise at the intersection of branding, communication, diversity and inclusion, and digital and consumer behavior, Wright helps companies actively incorporate cultural fluency into their internal and external messages and programs. In the process, he shows leaders where and how to implement diversity and inclusion policies not only to serve society, but to help them expand their brand reach, build customer and employee loyalty, and increase their bottom lines. In addition to designing bespoke education programs that offer deep learning, Wright – who was named by Business Insider one of 13 top consultants and experts helping advertisers address their longstanding diversity problems – teaches managers at all levels how to internally facilitate sensitive conversations around race, from the C-suite to the front lines.
In light of the current socio-political climate, Wright is being called on more frequently to advise brand managers and CEOs on how they can actively respond to calls for social justice by better serving their audiences and employees. In addition to managing broader advertising campaigns for companies including Bank of America, HP, McDonald’s, Bacardi, Ford, Walgreens, Merck and L’Oréal, Wright serves as an advisor to Fortune 500 companies and frequently speaks at major conferences.
“Cultural fluency is becoming increasingly important as the United States and the world become majority-minority,” says Wright, who hosts Ad Age’s new show System Overload. “My methods and results support research that shows diverse leadership and teams achieve better business results across the board.”
As an accomplished media executive and educator, Wright felt compelled to lend his voice to the racial justice movement that followed the murder of George Floyd and too many other Black citizens. In his open letter on race, he called on leaders to get on board. Many answered the call, including his own CEO at WPP where he initiated and now serves on its task force on race. Soon after, Wright successfully curated and launched blacklist100 – which includes an e-book and site developed in three weeks – to highlight extraordinary Black talent and thought leaders who speak at conferences and advise organizations across the world. He was also invited to serve on the newly created AdAge U.S. Diversity Council.
“I’ve been afforded the time and space to dream big. Many Black people aren’t as lucky to have that or able to take the career risks I’ve been able to take in pursuit of my dreams. That creates a heavy burden of duty,” says Wright. “Like most Black people who have experienced racism since childhood, I’ve become an expert at spotting when it’s both active and passive and I have a trove of stories. But rather than discussing those wounds, this moment in history is about what I/we can and must do to create lasting change.”
Wright’s primary goal is for individuals to move from “empathetic and active listening to swift and meaningful action.” Recently, he developed training materials and modules on how employees can have difficult conversations at work about topics like race by using systems-based thinking and communication principles including values, rhetoric, and framing. As a doer, Wright identifies gaps and fills them, helping organizations move from mission to movement. In step with that effort, he co-authored a new playbook on justice and brand accountability which was published in July 2020.
In his book, “Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World” (Wiley, August 2019), Wright highlights how successful brand building depends on value creation rather than business efficiencies. He cleverly uses behavioral science principles to highlight shortcuts of brand building based on lessons from fast-growing brands, from Aldi to Peloton. His powerful, standing room only SXSW 2019 presentation outlines the five principles behind LAVEC, his proprietary framework for building a powerful brand that capitalizes on human responses to lexicon, audio cues, visual stimuli, experience and culture. The book was recognized by GoodReads as a “must-have resource for anyone from C-Suite executives to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to unleash the full potential of their brand” and named to the 2019 Porchlight Business Book Awards Longlist (top five) in the marketing and sales division.
Many of the lessons and frameworks Wright shares in “Follow the Feeling” can be directly applied to his DEI work, especially the need for companies to listen to and serve a wide range of audiences that include everyone, not just a narrow segment of the population.
Wright’s engaging keynotes offer audiences an exciting opportunity to hear from a thought leader who not only has his finger on the pulse of what audiences want, but how they feel.
Kai D. Wright is a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum and was named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020 and shortlisted for the 2021 Thinkers50 Radar Award. He has also been recognized as a major thought leader by AdAge, Forbes, Inc, Adweek and the Advertising Research Foundation. As a leading voice for the racial justice movement following the murder of George Floyd, Wright curated and published the blacklist100 to highlight change agents and major talent in the Black community and was invited to serve on the AdAge U.S. Diversity Council as well as WPP’s Task Force on Race. Prior to his current roles as an author, strategy advisor and lecturer, Wright served as a vice president on the management team at Atom Factory (venture capital fund and music management for Meghan Trainor, Miguel, Charlie Puth) and REVOLT TV & Media (cable television channel founded by Sean Diddy Combs). Wright earned his Master’s degree in strategic communication from Columbia University and his Bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Chicago.
Kai D. Wright is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
Facilitating Difficult Conversations Around Race and Diversity Within Organizations
Companies large and small have issued public statements about their commitment to anti-racism, diversity and Black Lives Matter in response to the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. Cell phone footage of that and other racially motivated crimes against Black citizens have awakened people across the world to the blatant biases that people of color contend with every day, often in the shadows or in silence. But what comes next? Since most boards and C-suites lack Black voices, many leaders are not fully equipped to have tough conversations around race and inequality within their organizations – especially at the speed required to keep up with fast-moving cultural changes. Such key decision makers have been consulting with global media executive and Columbia University educator Kai D. Wright, who is increasingly lending his voice to the racial justice movement and sharing viewpoints and plans for lasting change with leaders across industries. During this enlightening interactive workshop, Wright outlines specific tools for sparking and sustaining such sensitive conversations within an organization, discusses the roles brands play in social justice and teaches participants how to approach culture ethically for brand accountability. He can also facilitate these conversations during confidential advisory meetings with leaders who want to encourage and sustain an atmosphere of open-minded dialogue throughout their organization – from the boardroom to the front lines – with the common goal of creating lasting, inclusive change.