Torod Neptune, CCO, Lenovo and 2019 Paladin Award Honoree spoke with Douglas Simon, CEO, D S Simon Media at the Paladin Awards. Key points included steps being taken to improve D&I at their organization, among partners and how individual employees can make a difference. Later that evening, Torod accepted the Paladin Award. Speaking to those in attendance, he explained that he owes the honor to all those in his life who have supported him. He also emphasized the progress made in PR industry on the D&I front, while energizing the crowd to continue to take action and make improvements any ways they can.
Doug: The Paladin award is a tremendous honor in communication and we’re honored to be talking with this year’s honoree, Torod Neptune. Thanks so much for being with us.
Torod: Thanks for having me.
Doug: And congratulations on winning this award. As chief communications officer at Lenovo can you tell us a little bit about how being honored with this award fits in with what you’ve been trying to accomplish during your career?
Torod: So I think the thing I’m most excited about tonight and certainly the recognition from the industry is the conversation that we’re having in a very consistent interval about the priority that is diversity and inclusion. And I’ve certainly made that one of the key priorities for my career. And I think as the industry over the last four to five years has gotten more focused on it as well. I do think in some ways recognizing where we have organizations brands not just individuals who are doing great work both as a model for others to imitate but also as a bit of a call to action becomes more important, so in as much as I think tonight and the recognition is an opportunity to recognize work that I have tried to do that I hope can be a model for others in terms of practices that can be implemented is where I hope there’s great benefit and then to the last point the opportunity to really challenge ourselves as a collective perhaps a little less celebrating and a little more focus on what we can do to have meaningful impact on this issue that we all agree is so significant.
Doug: Share some of the things that you’ve done at Lenovo to help move that process along at the company.
Torod: Sure. So we’ve done two things the most significant in the last 18 months or so we established a mandate for our global agencies and this began through an RFP process that we began for a fairly large relationship that we established for agencies to compete and consider and ultimately to win business with us they had to verify their commitment to diversity and inclusion and had to go as far as providing the data for professional creative managerial staff. And that decision was used by us to determine agencies that again were and were not allowed to participate and ultimately is what we used today to have ongoing performance related conversations with our existing agencies. And as we plan to grow that expectation, we’re planning to roll that out across all of our marketing services agencies on the public relations side.
Doug: Now did that cause some changes in who you are partnering and working with?
Torod: Sure it did. So there are agencies that we didn’t partner with at all there agencies that did not make it through that process because quite frankly their commitment or lack thereof became more obvious through the review process. And there are agencies that quite frankly had some unbelievably creative ideas. But to stay true to the decision we made as a brand that we were going to put a stake in the ground and say that it had to be proven and verified and we had to see the data beyond the talking points. And so there was I think visibility and a little tension I think. But at the end of the day my hope is that it drove the kind of change within the industry or at least began to drive the kind of change that ultimately we know needs to come from the brands out, particular when you think about the agency business.
Doug: The color green tends to be a pretty significant motivator for people, how about for individuals within organizations from their own seat. What are some of the things they can accomplish?
Torod: And so one of the challenging thing I want to leave people with tonight when we walk away is this view that at the end of the day I do think we talk too much about this issue and there’s perhaps a little too much study a little too much conversation because that has a negative consequence as well which it has the potential to manufacturer view that we’re actually doing something. But I do hope believing tonight that we will rally around this view that I certainly share that at the end of the day progress boils down to individual decisions that we all make. And certainly depending on where we are in the leadership continuum that those decisions can be much more significant and impactful. But regardless of where you’re at in an organization’s hierarchy we all can make individual decisions that influence tomorrow what our organizations look like and the kind of influence we can have in them whether it’s as an individual contributor or as an organization leader and take that serious. I think the last mile for us at this issue is can boil down to what I say is leadership and commitment and leadership is probably the most significant of those for us in terms of making tough decisions and taking the power that many of us have been given and using it to drive an outcome.
Doug: Well thank you so much for your thoughtful insights. Congratulations again on winning the award, well-deserved.
Torod: Thank you. Thank you very much