VML’s God-is Rivera Fosters Diversity Inside the Agency and Among Clients

She's director of inclusion and cultural resonance

God-is Rivera: "I don't think that agencies are paying enough attention to resonating with cultures."
Raquel Beauchamp

Whether she was launching her own PR agency or overseeing social media strategy at digital firms like iCrossing and T3 or covering entertainers as a freelance writer, God-is Rivera has always been passionate about including people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds not just in the marketing industry, but in the creative work that agencies produce.

It’s that same drive that led Rivera to her current role as the director of inclusion and cultural resonance at VML, where she focuses on bringing diverse talent into the agency while also helping clients create messaging for a diverse audience.

“I don’t think that agencies are paying enough attention to resonating with cultures. It’s not a tool you can buy,” said Rivera, adding, “As the advertising industry, we have to understand that we only have a sliver of the story.”

After joining VML in 2016 as an associate director of social media strategy, Rivera immediately began thinking of ways to ensure that messaging for brands ranging from Motorola to the NBA was speaking to consumers from all socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities.

About one year into the job, Rivera encouraged the agency to have an open and honest conversation about race and what it meant to be black in the U.S., helped to launch VML’s inclusion and diversity council, and gave a company-wide presentation on Black Twitter’s role in culture and what the agency could learn from it. Her wide-ranging skills—“I was still working on channel strategy while really helping to build out and formulate inclusion and diversity,”
she recalled—led to the creation of her current job, a truly unique position that spans both the HR and business sides.

“I want to know that whatever I do in this industry to change things, I took on the responsibility that we have to put out an ad that millions of people will see [and know that] we took it seriously,” she said.

Curriculum vitae

Director, inclusion and cultural resonance, VML
2017 – Present

Associate director, social media strategy, VML
2016 – 2017

Senior social
media strategist, connections, T3
2015 – 2016

Senior social media strategist, iCrossing
2014 – 2015

Freelance journalist
2009 – 2014

Founder and CEO,
319 Public Relations
2009 – 2012

Job profile 

At VML, Rivera tasked herself with heading up cultural resonance and diversity. Her work touches all aspects of the business, from scouting and recruiting diverse talent for HR to overseeing client strategy to ensure messaging is inclusive to all consumers.

How she got the gig 

Rivera joined VML nearly two years ago to work on social media strategy, but after helping create the agency’s inclusion and diversity council and leading a presentation about Black Twitter, VML’s head of HR saw a larger opportunity for Rivera to completely revamp the way the agency thinks about culture and diversity.

Pro tip 

Rivera’s advice to businesses: It’s important to not just listen to employees when they speak, but to truly hear what they have to say. “Give a voice to the voiceless and say there’s more talent in places we are not looking,” she said.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 9, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.