I’ve only recently gotten to know Tru Pettigrew, although a stellar reputation in youth marketing at agencies such as Alloy and Mr. Youth preceded him.  These days, he’s putting his 20+ years of corporate brand marketing experience towards growing Tru Access, the consultancy through which he focuses on diversifying corporate organizations, both in terms of talent and perspectives.

After many years in brand marketing on the agency side, you’re now much more focused on organizational diversity and mentoring.  How did you come to this?

It was a pretty natural transition for me to go from brand marketing on the agency side to mentoring millennials and helping organizations develop D&I (diversity & inclusion) strategies. I spent 20 years in the advertising and marketing world with a focus on young adult and multicultural marketing. It was my job to help clients understand how to effectively connect with young adult and/or multicultural audiences. I essentially spent my entire career garnering insights on these audiences and translating those insights into strategic solutions.

Over the course of my career I noticed that a lot of brands and agency partners relied heavily on me and eventually me and the team I was able to build because they didn’t have the cultural or generational diversity within their organizations to effectively connect or resonate with the very audiences they were targeting. It appeared that these agencies and brands were more comfortable making money “off” of these audiences than they were making money “with” these audiences.

As I began to diversify the organizations where I was employed, from both a cultural and generational standpoint, I realized that there were a lot of opportunities to ensure that multicultural millennials entering the workforce were better prepared and equipped to thrive in corporate environments.

Tru Access was essentially born out of a need to provide insight, perspective and access to multicultural millennials who may not otherwise receive the benefit of the years of experience and leadership that Tru Access offers. I also recognized a need to help brands and agencies create stronger climates of inclusion to help ensure the success of the diverse talent walking through their doors.

Beyond the obvious demographic shifts, why is diversity becoming a competitive advantage?

Diversity is becoming a competitive advantage because of the innovation that is born out of diversity. Organizations that can avoid “group think” and leverage diverse perspectives generate more innovation, creativity and originality. Diversity also breeds cultural competence in an organization, which makes that organization more appealing when recruiting top talent.

In our discussions, you’ve indicated that the keys to successfully diversifying an organization is both a commitment to diversity and mentoring. Please explain.

The interesting thing about diversity is diversity is taking care of itself. The changing demographic of America is evident and well documented. The real focus needs to be on inclusion. Mentoring young talent is a great first step towards being more inclusive. It’s important for brands to understand that diversity is not limited to race, ethnicity and gender, but there is also tremendous value in generational diversity. Many organizations are struggling with millennial integration and a big part of that struggle stems from lack of mentoring and/or coaching. There’s a big difference between managing and mentoring. Managing is more about providing directives and timelines. Mentoring is more about nurturing and developing. Mentoring is much more empowering and inclusive and thus much more beneficial for the employee and the organization.

You mentioned this concept of “cognitive diversity”. What is it and why is it important?

Cognitive diversity is about having team members that think differently. They don’t just differ in opinions from time to time, but they actually take a different approach to processing information and problem solving. This gives you a variety of ways to approach issues and challenges and come up with solutions that you would have never even considered. Many organizations focus on identity diversity, which is based on visible differences such as race, ethnicity or gender. The challenge with focusing on identity diversity only is you can have someone of a different race who has a similar educational background and upbringing as everyone else in the organization and thus think like everyone else and you lose the benefit of diverse perspectives and fall victim to group think.

So, it’s s step beyond organizational diversity?

Cognitive diversity should be an element of the total organizational diversity. The same holds true for just generational diversity.

What organizations are good examples of the level of diversity you’re trying to drive?

The level of diversity that I am focusing on is what I have labeled as “Culturational Chemistry”.

“Culturational Chemistry” is the bond that is established among team members and colleagues of different cultures and generations that allows for a productive and harmonious work environment.

When looking at brands that do a good job of integrating cultural and generational diversity it tends to be organizations in the technology industry or technology based businesses, although not exclusively. Organizations that come to mind as good examples of achieving Culturational Chemistry are Google, Apple, Zappos, Nike and Zumba Fitness.

Additional links:

  • Reach Tru via email at info AT tru-access DOT com
  • Follow Tru on Twitter at @truaccess

Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.