As Senior Vice President of People Development at LiveIntent, Abby Hamilton works to create cutting-edge talent programs with a digital-first mindset. Her critical HR work helps to fuel LiveIntent’s lasting partnership on numerous Ad Council campaigns, including Coronavirus Response, Love Has No Labels and Autism Awareness. A leader in the email marketing space, the organization works to place Ad Council campaigns alongside trusted content within email newsletters from thousands of publishers.
This year has presented numerous obstacles and truths. We checked in with Abby to discuss what she’s learned and how LiveIntent has adapted along the way.
Maya Warburg: What has 2020 taught you about yourself? About your work? About your teams?
Abby Hamilton: 2020 has been, to say the least, trying. I’ve discovered that human connection is more important than ever. Understanding an individual and meeting them where they are is critical if you truly want them to be successful.
I’ve learned that asking, “How are you doing,” with real intention to hear an answer is a simple yet powerful tool. Honestly, none of us are doing great. How many times do we really have permission to admit it?
When it comes to work, there are no best practice manuals for this era. LiveIntent’s value of “Putting People First” and leading with real intention and empathy is necessary to build the culture that will sustain and grow an organization during these times and beyond. People will remember how they were treated during this period—it not only impacts their discretionary effort in the moment but their long-term intentions to stay.
Then there’s the group you tend to interact most with, your team. Meetings with them can’t just be about tasks and to-do lists. Fun is important. You must be more intentional about creating safe spaces to laugh and joke and recapture some semblance of normalcy.
MW: In the months following the murder of George Floyd and so many other victims of police brutality and anti-Black racism, what do you feel the advertising industry needs to do to make sure the moment of reckoning isn’t fleeting? And what do companies do to ensure their efforts to become truly diverse, equitable and inclusive are sustainable, and not purely performative?
AH: This is possibly the most important conversation in our nation’s history, and the conversation should never stop. We are unwinding hundreds of years of history and injustices, and it’s penetrated every part of our society. We need to maintain the vigilance we’ve got now and not let it fade like we have, as a society, in the past. Advertising, with its close relationship to shaping how narratives are viewed in culture, needs to be a leader. We need to set an example as an industry that continues to lead the conversation.
Advertising, with its close relationship to shaping how narratives are viewed in culture, needs to be a leader.
LiveIntent acted quickly and made clear our position to our employees: we support Black Lives Matter and the demonstrations calling for justice. We’ve been working with several non-profits, including NAACP, Black Girls CODE, and in partnership with the Ad Council we’ve supported Love Has No Labels–including the Fight For Freedom campaign–to donate ad space to promote causes and ideas that match our values. Similarly, we donated cash to NAACP and Black Lives Matter.
Our company serves marketing and ads in the logged-in inventory of email newsletters and alerts as part of our overall mission to help brands and publishers enjoy their own identity framework that lets them thrive in a cookie-less world. Internally, we revisited our policies and procedures and put into place safeguards to protect against the possibility that the ads we serve might be racist or discriminatory in nature.
We also reinvested in our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), adding executive support to our diversity, inclusion and belonging mission. This included adding additional investment to and launching ERGs, including Parents of LiveIntent, focused on our parents, Women with Intent, focused on the women in the company, BlackIntent, focused on our Black employees, PrideIntent, for our LGBTQ+ employees and LiveIntent Neurodiversity, which focuses on mental health and disabilities.
These efforts aren’t the beginning, and they won’t be the end. By making every team member accountable, we will keep the conversation going.
MW: Now more than ever, why do you think it’s essential for brands to have a corporate social responsibility plan?
AH: Today’s brands go the extra mile to connect with their consumers in a deeply personal way. They recognize that people don’t just buy products, and that employees want more than just a job. Today’s brands invest in companies that personify and promote the values they care about. Values are no longer something that just go up on a wall. Companies must walk the walk for their employees, for their customers, and for the greater good. The world is taking notice.
MW: What age would you want to meet up with your former self, and what advice would you give to that younger you?
AH: At 20, I was a full-time college student, active in my sorority and working full-time. It was a grind and there were many times I questioned whether the effort was worth it. At that age, the gains often felt small and uncertain, and the personal sacrifices huge. Growing up in a small town, I had no idea the world of opportunities that I was unlocking for myself by taking those chances. I would tell my former self to trust my instincts and enjoy the journey. The foundation I was building would be sturdy enough to support my dreams and aspirations.
I would tell my former self to trust my instincts and enjoy the journey. The foundation I was building would be sturdy enough to support my dreams and aspirations.
MW: What’s keeping you energized and hopeful in your work these days?
AH: I’ve needed to find new outlets for my stress and anxiety. It’s been critical for me to get time for myself early in the morning before my two kids wake up and the chaos of the day begins. I sip some coffee and ride my Peloton bike or do a workout on the app. This has really helped me get into the right mindset for the day.
There’s so much injustice and a variety of concerning events happening in our world right now. I still find hope in making genuine connections with other people. Listening to them, offering guidance when needed, but for the most part, helping them to discover the answers they already knew but struggled to get to on their own.
I have to believe that we can come together as a nation and a world to make this a better place for our children. I refuse to stop or give up on that dream. I’m only one person but realize if I don’t speak up and act I’m complacent, which isn’t the type of person I want to be.