Brandi Boatner – IBM – Oct. 5, 2020

Brandi Boatner, an award-winning digital communications professional and prolific public speaker, joined Scripps PRSSA Monday for our virtual meeting. Due to the current climate around racial discrimination in the United States, Brandi has taken a temporary role leading social justice communications both internal and external for IBM globally. In this newly created assignment, Boatner works to develop clear messaging and drive activities for IBM’s response in combating implicit bias, discrimination and racial inequality known as Emb(race). Brandi is based in New York City.

Who is Brandi?

Prior to this current assignment, Brandi serves as the social and influencer communications lead for Global Markets in IBM corporate communications. Additionally, Boatner has extended responsibilities serving as the Brand Communications Manager for IBM Marketing supporting external engagements including press, events and social media for IBM’s Senior Vice President of Digital Sales and Chief Marketing Officer.

Brandi describes herself as the “Beyoncé of the Business World,” which is underscored by her girl boss mentality. She attended Hawaii Pacific University and was the first Black Female National President of PRSSA in 40 years, representing Hawaii. Inducted in the PRSSA Hall of Fame in 2018, Brandi knows her own skill and talent: “I know what I bring to the table, so trust me when I say I am not afraid to eat alone.” 

TopRank Marketing listed Brandi as one of the top 20 B2B influencers to follow in 2020.

IMB Today

IBM is a global tech and innovation company headquartered in Armonk, NY. They are the largest tech employer in the world, employing 350,000 IBMers serving clients in 170 countries. In 2019 alone, they generated 77.1 billion in revenue. Each year, IBM invests more than $6 billion into R&D and just completed a 25th year of patent leadership. IBM is the intersection of business and technology. When IBM first started, they sold meat grinders, but they’ve come to invent things like the barcode, helped put a man on the moon and invented lasik eye surgery. IBM also invented the merchandising database systems used at airports and stores. Essentially, IBM is secretly imbedded so much into our society, business and technology.

Career Journey

After being the first Black Female National President of PRSSA, Brandi graduated in 2009, and the state of the economy was in shambles. Brandi told us that she refused to take low-ball offers. But finally, on January 1, 2010, in Armonk, NY, Brandi took a job at IBM in the external relations department for two years. In 2012, Brandi was approached by the marketing side of IBM, where she took the role of a digital experience manager. Brandi told us that this position didn’t exist before—in fact, her employers told her to define this role. They knew Brandi was good at social media and mentoring industry leaders on building social media presences. IBM launched the Newsroom with Ogilvy, doing award-winning content and digital campaigns. Brandi worked closely with this team, saying it was one of the finest moments in her career. 

In 2017, Brandi had been in marketing for five years: “I learned about agency relations, but I’m not a marketer—I’m a PR person,” said Brandi. However, in that five years, Brandi did not get a salary increase or promotion, which led her to wonder “What am I doing wrong that I’m not getting promoted? In five years, I haven’t grown? I’m not worth a salary increase?” Brandi went directly to the senior vice president of IBM for a breakfast meeting where they talked about social media and marketing options. Ultimately, Brandi ended up making her own position, rules and responsibilities, coming back to IBM Communications after five years of being on IBM’s marketing side––a total girl boss move! Under this, Brandi got a salary increase and promotion. Brandi got a salary increase of 22% (wow!), but she says they owed her this money! In 2018, she was asked to extend her responsibilities as Brand Manager for IBM SVP and CMO.

In October of 2018, Brandi was inducted in the PRSSA Hall of Fame, then inducted in the Loyola University New Orleans Hall of Fame. 

Diversity & Inclusion

Then, Brandi took a moment to tell us about how the pandemic put a crossroad in her career path––from social media to social justice. Brandi said she felt the responsibility to take on social justice roles. She struggles because she does not want to exclusively be a chief diversity officer and instead focus on what she knows best: social media marketing. Brandi’s background, previous experiences and conditions of the pandemic led her to take this role.

“So, what does inclusion really mean?”

It means creating a safe space so that everyone can be who they REALLY are and share their insights, thoughts and perspectives. When voices are heard, when everyone shows up as their authentic self, and we listen with empathy and agility, our need for connection is met. The term Imposter Syndrome was coined in 1978 by two clinical psychologists. Imposter syndrome is the worry that you have been “faking it” so you will not be out to be a fraud. The impact of unacknowledged imposter syndrome fears is tremendous. Imposter syndrome is the primary cause of the following: 

  • procrastination
  • resistance to start something new
  • self-doubt
  • positioning yourself as “Just a xxxx” or “I am only XXXX.”

“YOU CAN BEAT IMPOSTER SYNDROME BY EMBRACING IT – IT’S A SIGN YOU’RE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY. IT’S THE VULNERABILITY OF BEING SEEN AND THE UNKNOWN THAT YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH. WE WILL ALL EMERGE AS INCLUSIVE LEADERS PRACTICING INCLUSIVE COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVE AND SUPPORT.”

– Brandi Boatner

Navigating Through COVID Times

Word of Wisdom and Advice 

  • Be your authentic self. Not a filtered version.
  • Embrace failure. That is how you learn
  • You are enough. Just as you are.

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