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Saeyoung Cho


Saeyoung Cho: Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Creator Ecosystem

Saeyoung Cho: It’s important that players in the influencer marketing industry move towards walking the talk on DEI. They should push for diversity when advising clients on who they should be working with. It requires a commitment to making sure talent lists are representative of the population.”

As a minority owned business, Saeyoung Cho considers Captiv8 as being in a unique position to demonstrate and authentically advocate for diversity in the industry.

“Think about our leadership and that we have diversity within whether that’s female representation, people of color, LGTQIA. It is important to our core that as we make decisions for our company, it is representative of those varying perspectives. We are seeing many of our clients and brands wanting to dedicate more revenue or more investment opportunity to a minority owned brand. There’s a lot more work to be done.”

The Challenge of Finding Diverse Creators

Saeyoung says Captiv8 sees a lot of clients who are intent on having a diverse roster of creators with different representation but that their ability to achieve this is constrained by two main challenges.

First, the market place is inherently lopsided and this reduces the visibility of diverse voices.

“When you layer in brand safety, and how technology looks at that or performance metrics, it can sometimes make a diverse creator harder to identify and find. Because that also needs to be self-identified information. For example, on Captiv8, we allow creators to signal to brands how they want to appear in searches with a broader variety of terminology around gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, down to ‘Are your vegan or not?’” 

Second, how brands tell stories involving diverse creators. 

“Making sure briefs and creative don’t fall into stereotypes or tropes. How do you stay authentic to the audience talking you’re talking to and using their vernacular while also being sensitive to how you are representing those stories?”

Cr8 Change Program

Cr8 Change is a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) employee resource group that Captiv8 started in 2021. Saeyoung says the initiative was the result of many of the company’s employees wanting to contribute to a greater cause.

“It’s from all levels within the company. It’s an open forum. One of the values this group espouses is centered around action. We wanted to do more than just talk about some of these things that we’re seeing or educating clients. That’s all very important. But the big part of us was let’s launch this group with something that can really make an impact within our smaller communities.”

Incidentally, the business was also increasingly getting questions from clients who wanted to be more inclusive when choosing the talent they worked with or the stories they told. This only strengthened the group’s resolve in launching Cr8 Change.

Influence Change Grant

Much of the internal conversation during Cr8 Change’s formation therefore revolved around doing pro bono work.

“That’s how we came up with this idea for the Influence Change Grant. It was an opportunity for us to give back to BIPOC and LGBTQ owned SMBs who might not be able to afford a full influencer marketing platform solution but that are learning heavily into diverse creators that are doing good in their communities. And we wanted to provide that service complimentary and see if we can support their businesses with some additional services.”

The grant is primarily targeted at businesses that do not have the right tools to simplify their search for diverse creators.

“Because these are businesses that are scrappy, doing it themselves. They are using MS Excel sheets and trying to find people online. A tool can really help them scale that effort.” 

Who Can Apply for the Influence Change Grant

Eligibility for the grant is limited to businesses with annual revenues under $10 million. The application process involves gathering information on how the businesses are impacting the community as well as understanding what they are trying to achieve and how they are promoting diversity within their own communities.

“It’s about making sure that is in alignment. We want to make sure they are going to have the right resources and to also get the most out of the tool. We’re asking them to tell us a little bit about their influencer marketing experience with their key achievements or challenges and how access to our platform would impact their business. Other than that application process, we look at ownership by BIPOC or LGBTQ. We wanted to keep it open, inclusive, and also not overcomplicated.”

Benefits and Opportunities for Grant Winners

For those that that win the grant, Captiv8 will provide a deep dive onboarding into the platform, Saeyoung says.

“We’ll work with them side by side as they get up and running and understanding their goals, what their needs are and how they can navigate the tool to help them achieve those. We are providing free access for six months through which we will continue to do onboardings, check-ins and provide consultation.” 

Cr8 Change kept this open in recognition that different businesses will have different needs of the Captiv8 platform.

“For some, it might be providing guidance in putting together talent lists. For others, it might be to measure success of their campaign or establish what’s the best campaign strategy. What platforms should they be on? Where should they be focusing their efforts? What does that creative look like? We kept it open and broad.”

Saeyoung says they chose a six month for the program as that is the time it usually takes for someone to have a good understanding of the Captiv8 platform.

“It requires a little bit of time for people to lean in and get used to it and onboard and get the most out of it. So we didn’t want to just give it away for one or two or three months. We wanted people to really exercise the tool but we also wanted to maximize our impact. There are so many businesses in need so we thought to do this twice a year for six months. So it’s a full year round support for us.”

As this is the first round of the grant, she considers the initiative a work in progress.

“We want to see what the results are. What kind of interest is. What the response is. Does it really impact small businesses or do they need something else. We are really open to that constant pivoting. So our hope and goal here that we are going to get a lot of feedback as well from these small businesses and hear what they need. We may adapt as we go.”

Grant winners will be featured on Cr8 Change’s landing page and website. Saeyoung is also open to whole marketing opportunities if the winning businesses are open to it. 

“We can use our platform to help elevate their cause, their exposure. Hopefully there will be a webinar where we can feature these amazing business owners and how they are tapping into the influencer marketing channel to inspire others.” 

DEI Pitfalls Brands Should Be Wary Of According to Saeyoung Cho

Saeyoung sees two major hurdles to DEI in the influencer marketing space. 

First, she cautions brands against seeing DEI planning in influencer marketing campaigns as beginning and ending with creator selection. Rather, it should include how the minority stories are told and how communities are portrayed while recognizing how each audience is unique and different.

“We see so many briefs that treat it is a secondary audience. To reach, let’s say Hispanics, we’re not seeing people take an entirely different approach for that different audience. They try to take their general market approach and just pivot it slightly. And that is where we see start to see some of that content fall through, where creative just falls flat. You have the potential to not even speak directly to that group.”

Second, there is the risk of making lofty statements that are not followed through by the required commitment and actions that impact the community. 

More Cr8 Change Initiatives Planned for 2022

Apart from the Influence Change Grant, Cr8 Change is planning multiple initiatives through 2022, Saeyoung reveals. They span four major areas.

First, product initiatives designed to make products more equitable and diverse. 

“One of the things we are working on is something called ‘Creator of the Day’. It’s going to be a spotlighted real estate on our discovery page. An editorial placement on the homepage that’s changed daily where we are going to spotlight diverse creators. So when brands log in, it’s easier to find these creators.“

Second, internal initiatives designed to bring internal awareness and training to Captiv8 employees. 

Third, industry and community initiatives to impact the industry at large and the local community. 

“One of the things we talked about is creating a diverse creator squad that Increases the visibility with brand support. This might be like a think tank that we can tap into and survey and get unique insights from diverse creators to educate and help brands understand how to join certain conversations or sentiment around DEI moments.” 

Fourth, external education initiatives meant to educate customers, prospects and the industry at large.

“Publishing an aggressive amount of what we hope is helpful information that inspires and guides those that are looking to get into the space.”

Saeyoung Cho
Saeyoung Cho
Head of Strategic Partnerships at Captiv8

Saeyoung Cho is Head of Strategic Partnerships at Captiv8 where she’s tasked with fostering key partnerships across social platforms and data providers to drive growth consistent with Captiv8’s vision. Before she joined Captiv8, Saeyoung was director of digital experiences at Horizon Media, the largest independent ad agency. She has a decade of experience building a social first vision for Fortune 500 companies. Saeyoung has a bachelor of science in broadcast journalism, business administration and political science from the Boston University College of Communications. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.


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