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Johnson: NAMIC Confab Has Evolved

Kathy Johnson, president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, struck an ubpeat tone about the prospects for NAMIC’s upcoming 25th annual conference, set for this week (Oct. 4-5) at the Hilton New York. Johnson, who will leave NAMIC later this month after serving as president for 13 years, spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the conference’s impact over the past quarter century.

MCN: How has the NAMIC Conference evolved and influenced the way cable looks at diversity?

Kathy Johnson: The focus [in 1986] was urban markets and helping cable operators move into the urban markets and major cities, so the conference’s focus was marketing to those communities. Over the years, it’s evolved to become a more comprehensive conference focused on diversity. We try to give our attendees a more holistic experience around diversity. For the past 10 years, we’ve been off ering various education tracks so that they appeal beyond marketing to human resources, diversity practitioners and people across a wide variety of disciplines aimed at anyone who is interested in maximizing the opportunities with multiethnic consumers and a multiethnic workforce.

This year, we’ve revamped our tracks and added a new one called audience development that speaks to the new world and the new consumer and the emerging demographics.

MCN: What have been some of the biggest program developments over the years?

KJ: I think over the years we’ve been able to attract big names for the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Achievement Award, and people seem to be engaged and enthused around that. Also popular was the implementation of tracks around leadership development and corporate diversity and inclusion — those seem to be the highest-rated learning tracks that we have from year to year, so we think people are finding that the content in invaluable to them. As a result, I think we’ve changed the perception of the NAMIC Conference from a conference just for minorities to a conference for anyone, no matter who they are, [if they] are interested in leveraging the benefits of diversity.

MCN: Will there be any new wrinkles added to this year’s conference?

KJ: We will have a NAMIC conference mobile app this year, which is brand new. It’s been developed for NAMIC by Turner Broadcasting, and it has lots of fabulous features.

You can browse the sessions and create a personal itinerary, get live program updates and directly link to the sessions that are marked as favorites. You also have complete access to the conference agenda by date, time, session descriptions and speaker bios; sponsor media partner websites; New York City hotel maps; and real-time access to the NAMIC Twitter site and links to NAMIC’s Facebook page.

It’s pretty comprehensive and looks gorgeous. It’s all part of NAMIC’s commitment to ensure that we’re at the forefront of emerging technology.

MCN: Are you concerned at all about conference attendance given the packed Diversity Week schedule here in New York?

KJ: We all have a common objective around diversity, and with the NAMIC Conference sandwiched between [the] WICT [Leadership Conference] and the [Walter Kaitz Foundation] dinner it should be very helpful to us.

It’ll be interesting to see if people are amenable to staying the entire week in New York, rather than just being in for two to three days. There may be some people who will be forced to make some choices if they cannot be away for an entire week; they might have to make choices depending on their disciplines and their interests.

MCN: Having said that, any estimate as to how many total attendees NAMIC will draw to this year’s conference?

KJ: Our goal is 600 and we’re hoping to hit that goal. We had 550 attendees last year, in a rebound year after being in Denver. I think the industry is very East Coast-centric and New York is very easy for people to get in and out of.

The largest constituencies for NAMIC and WICT are in New York, as are most of the industry, so some people see New York as having a built-in audience that doesn’t have to get on a plane and travel.