Arlene Amitirigala believes marketing can be ‘a force for good’

Arlene Amitirigala is principal and chief communications strategist at TrulyArlene Communications. A communications strategist with expertise in internal communications, behaviour change, employee engagement, and building a culture of inclusive leadership, she has spent more than two decades in marketing and communications.

Amitirigala was attracted to the industry through her love of language. “Growing up in Jamaica, I was captivated by the written word and the dramatic arts,” she said. “I love how advertising uses storytelling to connect with people in a powerful way. Also, I believe that marketing communication and advertising can persuade people to change and adopt new behaviours that benefit humanity. It’s an industry that can definitely be a force for good.”

Her love for language continues to fuel her newest passion for podcasting. Now into its third season, her podcast The Change Diaries is geared towards helping people embrace change, spark change, or be the change they want to see.

Change is such powerful word, and it’s what’s needed in our industry as it seeks to become more inclusive, said Amitirigala. “I’d like to see more diverse teams in ad agencies, so that they can tell authentic stories that resonate with multicultural audiences.” 

“Lack of diversity is a blind spot that we need agency heads to become more aware of and to change. I’d also love to see deeper interrogation of the content that is served up to audiences so that we avoid tropes, stereotypes and misrepresentations.”

But change is not easy when faced with bias and microaggressions. Although Amitirigala never considered gender, age or ethnicity to be barriers, she did go through a challenging period where the microaggressions came fast and furious—eroding her confidence.

“My route to recovery involved learning more about systemic oppression and diving deeper into understanding diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) in societies with minoritized groups,” she said. “It helped me to understand what I had been through and to expunge what I had internalized so that I could regain my confidence and be fully self-expressed in sharing what I had learnt with others.”

She offers up this sage advice to young Black talent starting out in the industry: “Network. Step outside and join professional associations. Get your feet wet by volunteering in advertising or marketing roles and make your value visible. Believe in what you have to offer.”

Amitirigala relocated to Toronto in July 2020, making Canada the seventh country she has lived in. While she admits to feeling like a nomad or perennial tourist, being perpetually immersed in new cultures is what makes her truly unique as a leader and someone to watch in our industry in Canada.

This profile was written by POCAM steering committee member Joycelyn David, owner and CEO of AV Communications.