Following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn., and the extensive protests that took place over the summer in response, many local business owners became affected by those chain of events.
“Unlike other past tragedies, our employees were across the board communicating a need, want and desire to do something,” said Paul Kasbohm, senior vice president of advertising and chief revenue officer, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It caused us to reflect on what we might do to help—together as a group of advertising, sales and marketing professionals—to create positive change in our community.”
The result was the creation of Star Tribune Connect, a program to help accelerate the growth of underrepresented and minority-owned businesses through advertising and marketing collaboration. The program will award up to four qualifying Minnesota businesses a total of $200,00 in credits—$50,000 each—that can be applied toward advertising and marketing campaigns that leverage Star Tribune media properties to be used in 2021. The paper will also work with the businesses to discover their challenges and form a cross expertise team within advertising, sales and marketing to be their consultative team for the full year. They will help design products and services as well as offer creative services, according to Kasbohm. Additionally, businesses will have access to the paper’s first party research, data people and more.
Eighty-six applications were accepted from Nov. 5 to Dec. 5, 2020, and winners will be selected this month by the Star Tribune’s Selection & Oversight committee, which is comprised of employee volunteers.
The program was open to licensed businesses registered in the state with underrepresented or minority ownership defined as: Asian, Black, Hispanic and/or Latino, Native American, LGBTQ+, women and/or persons with disabilities. Religious and/or politically affiliated businesses did not qualify. Aside from these standards, the Star Tribune considered a few other things such as the business’s mission and size of the company (the company is seeking to help small to medium-sized businesses).
So far, Kasbohm has heard positive feedback from businesses, colleagues around the industry and other entities. Many people want to know how the program will play out and even requested from Kasbohm progress updates. Whether the Star Tribune opts to provide these updates will depend on the businesses they partner with and how much they want to publicly reveal.
Kasbohm shared that although the ethnic makeup in the Twin Cities market is largely white, the number of minority-owned businesses within the community is growing, and he is confident that they will be successful in awarding the entirety of the prize, even if it is spilt among less than four businesses.
“Our view in the advertising and marketing space is that we have an obligation to be as inclusive as possible both (internally) but also externally,” Kasbohm said when asked about the significance of the program. “How can we foster more inclusion? How can we strengthen efforts of those who are pushing for additional diversity? What is our role in stopping systemic racism? We think these are all important conversations.”