"Be unapologetically yourself," Donna Hodge from Burrell

May 21, 2024

Meet Donna Hodge, SVP, Head of Media Services at Burrell Communications where she leads the media department and is responsible for helping brands effectively reach the African American consumer. Donna strives to break barriers for Black-owned media companies to create sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships. She has spent the last 25+ years creating innovative, data-informed solutions that drive culture and conversation. Donna is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of advertising and media professionals and empowers them to use their gifts to push the industry forward. 

In her Pass The Mic interview, Donna sat down with Nicole Buchanan, Senior Sales Director, Multicultural, where she discussed the moments she had to speak up and use her voice, how to lead by example, and how important it is to show up and be unapologetically yourself. Check out her full interview below and some of our favorite highlights from the conversation. 

Pass The Mic with Donna Hodge - Full Interview

My advice to you is figure out who you are, get clear about that, and be unapologetic.

Donna HodgeSVP, Head of Media Services, Burrell

Show up as yourself. 

Show up as yourself, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “When you get to show up as your full, authentic self at work without fear of judgment or recrimination… it results in happier, more productive and committed employees… When you see people just being accepted for who they are and you see the way that the agency embraces them, and you're treated like everyone else, you feel good about working for that organization.” - Donna Hodge 

Speak your truth.

Speak your truth, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “Don't be afraid to call out unfair treatment. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. I’ll speak up, and I will just plainly let people know: ‘That was offensive, even if you didn't mean it, and that made me uncomfortable’… Call it out, and do so with facts. You don't need to be angry, or belligerent, or aggressive. Speak your truth and feel good that you at least acknowledged it. Let them know that what they did wasn't right. And, if you need to, plan your exit strategy and keep it moving.” - Donna Hodge

Don’t let fear stop you.

Don't let fear stop you, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “Don't let fear stop you from doing a thing. You can be scared, but do it scared. I have personally learned there is something usually amazing on the other side of that fear, facing that fear, and conquering that fear. I have done many things and been like, ‘I can't do this, I'm not prepared, I'm not qualified.’ And I did the damn thing. You got to do the hard work. Don't get me wrong, it's not easy, and I'm not saying that it's going to be easy. You got to do the work, but face that fear, and do it. Do it anyway.” - Donna Hodge 

Go the extra mile.

Go the extra mile, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “Sometimes you just have to go the extra mile even when it feels like It's going to take everything you've got or take a lot out of you. If you really care about the industry, the results on the other end, the reward… It makes the work so much more satisfying when I see a partner grow. And I've seen many partners grow. When I know that I had a role and a hand in that, there's nothing more satisfying.” - Donna Hodge

Pay it forward. 

Pay it forward, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “How do I pay it forward? I pay it forward by being that (a mentor) for this next generation. It’s really important that I give people opportunity. I've trained and coached and counseled so many young professionals who have been under my leadership. I've seen them go on to excel in their careers and I am so proud… I feel really good that I had a hand in preparing them for that success. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction in discovering and nurturing new media talent and really helping them grow professionally.” - Donna Hodge 

Lead by example. 

Lead by example, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “I think I lead by example by continuing to be an advocate. I am on the front line for these media publishers with the general market agencies who are investment partners as well as our clients. And I am going to continue to advocate on their behalf. It is my responsibility to make sure that they are being given fair and equal opportunity, as any other media publisher. That's my role, and that's my charge… I take it very personally and make sure that not just me, but my team feels empowered to have these conversations with the stakeholders.” - Donna Hodge

Take a risk. 

Take a risk, Donna Hodge - Pass The Mic

Highlight: “I have to remind brands that if they really want to truly connect with the multicultural consumer in a meaningful way, you have to be in those spaces where they're actively engaged and consuming content… If you really want to connect with these people in an authentic way, sometimes you've got to take a risk. And our goal is to make sure that that risk is minimized, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk. That is how I pay it forward. That is how I advocate on behalf of the black media community. My advice for media publishers who are trying to get in front of these decision makers is do your homework.” - Donna Hodge 

We’re taking Donna’s advice by showing up in our power, using our voice to advocate for others, and pay it forward any chance we get. If you’re ready for more inspirational content like this, check out our Pass The Mic page

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