In November 2015 American mathematician Katherine Johnson travelled from her home in Virginia to Washington D.C. She had an appointment at the Oval Office. Upon arrival Katherine joined 16 other distinguished figures receiving America’s highest civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This was a long-awaited recognition of Katherine’s role in American space travel. Joining NASA in 1953, she was a woman working in a field where women were scarcely represented. She was black working at a time when people of colour faced institutional prejudice on a vast scale. And yet it was Katherine who calculated and verified the trajectories that took the first American to space and put man on the moon.
I first learned of Katherine’s story whilst creating an app to bring calculus to life and make it relatable. Katherine was the embodiment of what I was looking to communicate through the app – inclusivity. She became our figurehead for demonstrating that calculus is for everyone, regardless of gender or race. Her story allowed us to communicate our values.
Too often content creation is about answering a brief, and we become numb to the mark our work leaves on the world. But the very nature of this job is to influence perceptions and behaviours, and this means we have a responsibility to do more. We have a responsibility to communicate values that have a positive impact on our audiences. And adding one more step to the content creation process makes this possible – value placement.
Value placement is the practice of relating back to the values of your brand throughout the creative process. It guarantees these values inform a product from beginning to end. It allows us to use our role as influencers to create a product rooted in what’s most important to us, and what’s most important to our changing world.
Without value placement I would never have found Katherine Johnson’s story. Without making the conscious effort to dig deeper and find someone that represented our values, the app could have become another resource showcasing the usual all male mathematician figureheads and the stories we’ve heard time and time again.
Employing value placement is a chance to push the needle of recognition to others. It makes you question who you can champion, who deserves to be seen and how you can use your role to create positive change.
The process takes a brand’s commitments to shaping a better world beyond internal decision-making. You can hire more women. You can hire more ethnic minority professionals. You can create a more diverse team. And you can layer value placement into your marketing, your press, your advertising – in short, in anything you do this process ensures you communicate a message that ties back to your values.
Value placement is a simple, impactful process primed to become another step in the content creation journey. In a world desperate for positive change, this is our chance to use our influence for good by communicating our values in everything we do.
Clare Munn is the Founder and CEO of Box Media, a media-on-demand content and production company redefining normal and reinventing learning.