Ford Head Of Brand Strategy Raj Register On Uplifting Black Culture and #ESSENCEFest 2020
The ESSENCE Festival, widely recognized as an unprecedented weekend of cultural celebrations, empowerment seminars and nightly musical performances by top tier artists has continued to be regarded as the event of the year for black talent and culture.
As ESSENCE Festival 2020 has gone virtual for the first time ever, their exclusive automotive sponsor has committed their continued support of African American women, highlighting panels addressing black women in entrepreneurship, empowerment, mental health, and wellness.
This year’s theme: Uplifted (Healing Now + Empowered Future) aims to show Black women they are seen and heard during these tumultuous times through clearly defined actions. Ford Motor Company is proud to support Black women’s entrepreneurial spirit and future growth through a series of educational and informative virtual panel discussions.
Head of Brand Strategy and Growth Audience Marketing at Ford Motor Company Raj Register joined me to share details on their commitment to African American women, their presence at ESSENCE Festival and what we can expect to see from the panel discussions.
Ford has been a sponsor of the festival for a long time. Tell me a little bit more about the history between Ford and Essence.
This is Essence’s 26th year with us Essence Festival, and this is the first time they’ve done it virtually. Ford has been a major sponsor and auto exclusive for the last 12 years. We’re the second-most longstanding partner that they have. We are absolutely committed to continuing this partnership with them.
I know firsthand how much of an amazing job that Ford does during the festival. I was fortunate enough to attend a few years back, and Ford’s presence was phenomenal from beginning to end. Festival-goers are accustomed to the in-person experience. With the Festival going virtual this year, how will Ford’s involvement look different from previous years?
That’s a great question, I think for us as a brand, people like yourself that have experienced us before know the amount of presence that we have, and it’s usually one that’s pretty full of energy and excitement and learning and fun. One of the things that we wanted to do is still continue that, but virtual style.
We still have a theme. Every year we have something different that we’re trying to focus on. The thing that came to us was uplifted; and envisioning an empowered future. We wanted to make sure that we still showed up in this space.
We actually have a virtual booth in very similar fashion as what we would have had at the convention center. We have a panel discussion, we have virtual vehicle walk around, we have consumer engagements with a photo booth and color wall. We have a main stage where you can really dig into some of our content.
We also still have our partnership with Sirius XM where there’ll be celebrity interviews, a Ford owner’s lounge with a special VIP experience for those that are brand owners. We’re still doing our infamous car giveaway, virtually. We’re pretty excited to still have the chance to engage, but also be a part of this healing time that everyone, I think, needs.
You are absolutely correct. This is something that is much needed. Very grateful to you and Essence for continuing to show up and for putting this together this year, especially during these times. What else can we expect to see from the Ford series of panels that will be offered at the virtual Essence Festival?
We have four panels this year, and they’re focused on women’s entrepreneurship, empowerment, mental health, and wellness. The first one is on breast cancer awareness and giving some tips of things that people should be doing during the pandemic and after. We have the medical specialists as well as a breast cancer survivor.
Our next panel is powered by Sean Robinson and it’s called Power Suit. It’s focused on women that are in male dominated fields. We have a boxer, a female pilot and travel journalist, as well as a mechanic. She was a former engineer and switched careers, to help with this space that a lot of women aren’t normally in, getting their car serviced. I think that’s going to be a lot of fun and very informative.
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The second weekend of #EssenceFest kicks off this TOMORROW with #EssenceWellnessHouse! Join @tarajiphenson, @indiaarie, @hellodrjoy, @egyptsherrod, @koyawebb & more. Enjoy meditation, conversations, workouts, and tutorials designed to boost your mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial wellbeing. Streaming on ESSENCE Studios and on Facebook & Twitter. See schedule details and RSVP using the link in the bio!
We have one called Overcoming Overwhelm, and that one is with Taraji P Henson, and it’s basically talking about black women at work and this discussion and very direct conversation on just mental, social and occupational wellness as we go through all the things that we have in life, especially around this pandemic, and how do we still show up?
Then lastly, we have one called the Current State of Black Women Entrepreneurs, and excited to bring that to life. We have Beatrice Dixon from The Honeypot, focusing on these stories that women have had to go through being in business, but also thriving and staying in business, which is also important. During those panels, we’ll be highlighting their stories, but also donating to specific foundations that are relative to the individuals that are participating. We’re very excited for that.
A lot of women entrepreneurs and just women in general are trying to find your footing and keep that footing and stay inspired and empowered during these times. Give us an overview of some of the things that Ford does outside of Essence Festival to support African American women.
One of our other initiatives that we have is a partnership with Ford Fund as well as with the National Urban League. One of the things that has been brought to our attention is there are cities that were more impacted than others by this pandemic. We want to support those entrepreneurs and women in heavy hit cities and help them. They’ll be able to do things like pay rent and thrive in their businesses.
That’s an additional $600,000 that we have in place for six major cities. We are thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to have a true call to action and not just provide programming, but have something where we’re saying we ‘believe in you and we want to be able to help.’
Lastly, a head of a major company with a successful career, what words of inspiration and empowerment would you personally like to give to African American women during these unprecedented times?
My advice would be two pieces of advice for people that I have a huge amount of respect for. One of those things was that you can’t connect the dots looking forward. What speaks volumes to me [with that phrase] is I’m a planner and I try to make sure that I have everything in place. But you never know where you’re being led, you never know what’s meant for you. If you are so focused on having every box checked before you can move forward, you limit yourself, your possibility, and what you were brought here on this earth to do.
The second piece of advice I’ve received from a mentor is be unapologetic about your God-given talents. When we do something that we are talented in and we have the ambition behind it, that’s when you receive that success. Many of us have these talents and we don’t want to shine, and if you’re good at something, it’s okay to say like, “Yeah, I did that. Yeah, I’m good at that. Yeah. I can help others at that.” I always just try to reflect on those talents and make sure that I’m always giving back, and I’m reaching, making sure that I don’t create a silo of myself. I try to make sure that I’m opening doors and pulling people ahead as well as trying to make connections so others can help me along as well. Those are things that I always want to make sure that I communicate, and I live by.
Last weekend was the official kickoff of #ESSENCEFEST! Catch up on any segments you may have missed now on ESSENCE Studios!
Tomorrow at 5PM ET, weekend 2 will kick off with fitness, meditation, conversations, and tutorials designed to boost your mind and body at Wellness House.
On Friday, 7/3, unique beauty product tutorials and the industry’s best-kept makeup, hair, and skincare secrets will take place at Beauty Carnival. After, keep the party going with music from Jam Africa’s hit artists at ESSENCE After Dark.
On Saturday, 7/4, tune in during the day for Black love, politics, equality, entrepreneurship discussions and more at Wealth & Power, followed by celeb Q&As and exclusive sneak peeks at the Entertainment All Access Pre-Show.
For the Ford Virtual Experience, you can go to essencestudios.Com/Ford, and what Essence has to offer over the course of both weekends, which Ford is a part of as well, you can just go to Essencestudios.com.
Be sure to visit the Ford virtual booth at essencestudios.com/ford during Essence Festival 2020! Live July 2–5, the interactive booth will feature:
• A premium giveaway with registration (while supplies last)
• Digital vehicle walkarounds
• Uplifted entertainment from the Ford Stage
And much more. See you there!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends 7/4/20. See Rules; for details.
Stream it all on ESSENCE Studios or watch via Facebook Live when you follow @essence!