Let's talk about inclusion more than diversity - interview to Fiorenza Plinio

di Rossella Forle’ & Fiorenza Plinio

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What was your first ever job?

Apart from working as a hair-model or babysitter to get extra cash in my teenage years…my first ‘real’ job was as a reporter of an Italian newspaper called la Gazzetta di Mantova.
I was 20 years old and was studying to become a journalist. I learned a lot. I didn't only focus on one area. I started writing about cinema, music and theatre but also did politics, and then moved to write about business, and ended up reporting on all sorts of subjects. That experience taught me a good deal about the day-to-day of a newspaper and how to navigate a professional workplace. It also taught me that good journalism is finding that story that hasn't been told yet, which will affect people’s lives deeply, and letting them know about it.

What do you do now?

I work as Head of Creative Excellence Development at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. There are two major sides to my role. On the one hand, I am responsible for nurturing creative excellence across all our company’s products and for creating new opportunities for growth and engagement with the global creative community and wider organisations.
On the other hand, I work closely with our key clients to create highly focused, customised experiences for them at our festival and beyond with the aim of raising the creative bar across their central marketing function.

Why did you get into creative events?

I moved from Paris to London over ten years ago. I was looking for a new challenge and ended up getting a job in PR and marketing for an international luxury services’ company first but I quickly realised it was not what I wanted to do so I decided to take some ‘time off’ work and I went travelling around Asia for a couple of months. That trip helped me to get a fresh perspective on what I really wanted and how to get there. So when I came back to London I landed a job at Cannes Lions.

What drew me to Cannes Lions and kept me here all these years is the fascination that I have with the creative industry and its ever evolving nature.

Every day there’s a shift, an innovation, a new way of doing things. Cannes Lions reflects those shifts. I’m also privileged that I get to work with inspiring people through the Festival that influence my thinking and expand my knowledge.

The culture we have at Lions ensures that I’m pushed to experiment and launch new projects, and that’s quite addictive! People often ask me “So you work for Cannes Lions, but what do you do the rest of the year?” Cannes Lions is much more than just a festival with awards and world-class talks. It’s the global benchmark for effective creative marketing communications. It provides the industry with access to new ideas, pioneering consumer research and emerging technologies which will help make and shape popular culture.

All through the year we work on our awards’ structure, connecting with relevant industries, producing inspiring content for our digital and social channels, expanding our educational and training programmes and launching new initiative that resonate with the creative industry. Plus we run three other creative festivals: eurobest, Spikes Asia and Dubai Lynx.

What are some things you’ve learned that you still apply day-to-day at work?

First of all, I learnt that you don’t know what’s possible until it’s done. And this applies to all industries. All it requires is for someone to question the status quo and think about how they can go about solving it. This takes creativity. We don’t know what we’re truly capable of doing until we try. We need to push through those uncomfortable moments and use our creativity to map out how we would overcome them. Even if it’s just an imaginary scenario.

And I’ve also learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. We are humans! Work is not a constant trajectory, there are lots of ups and downs. And it’s ok to go explore several different directions.


There is still lack of women in senior positions in the industry. What do you think has changed in the creative industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

There’s been great progress in recent years, but it’s not enough to discuss ways to overcome gender bias in the workplace. I believe that we have reached a point at which we must try to take some practical steps to drive change, rather than simply prolong the debate. We need to normalise the initiatives that get it right, while calling out the ‘bad stuff’.

And instead of talking only about diversity, let’s start talking more about inclusion. “Inclusion”, in my opinion, is a more positive word that emphasises our shared dignity and humanity. It does a good job of reminding us that we’re all members of the same species, with a single planet to share. As cultural innovator Verna Myers, also recently made VP, Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, put it: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”


With the #MeToo and #TimesUp landscape, what advice you would offer women who want a career in your industry?

I’d encourage them to get advocacy and mentorship. Especially in the creative industry, the reason that men progress faster, is often because traditionally advocacy and mentorship are more accessible to them. Said that, mentors are not there to give you all the answers, rather they unlock what you already know and help you work out what you really want.

And another thing that it’s important in this industry, is to build your profile, your network and your portfolio. Go forth and network, you never know what might come out of it.

And don’t forget that in an increasingly fast moving world it’s important to carve your own niche. “You don’t want to have to ‘break into’ the industry. You want to reinvent the industry so you can own it”, as Cindy Gallop once said in an interview at our festival.


How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? What advice would you give to your younger self?

First piece of advice I would give to my younger-self? That it can be tough to deliver project after project, target after target. So be sure to surround yourself with good people. People who will support you through the tough times and allow you to experiment and make mistakes.

Also, you have to trust your knowledge and your experience. In other words, always keep in mind that you deserve to be where you are right now.

And, last but not least, you can be incredible at what you do while at the same time, enjoying it. Otherwise, why doing it?. 

Fiorenza Plinio on “Human Creativity, Bridging the Gap between Technology and Humanity” at the Italians Festival in Milan

If you want to get in contact with Fiorenza you can email her at fiorenzap@canneslions.com.

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Fiorenza Plinio

When it comes to creativity, passion is key. As Head of Creative Excellence Development, Fiorenza is responsible for nurturing creative excellence across all the company’s products as well as for creating new opportunities for growth and engagement with the creative community and wider organisations. She is also a frequent speaker on brand’s reputation and creativity in the advertising and communications industry.


Rossella Forle’

With experience in business development in publishing, events and in "people relations" business I work at the nexus of marketing communications for Cannes Lions.

Launching my own startup We Hate Pink, a creative cultural force built on feminism, improving gender diversity in the workplace and everyday life, it has given me the strength and the power to believe that good ideas can really have an impact on people life.