Member Spotlight: Ashley M. Williams

Ashley M. Williams is the Founder and CEO of RIZZARR. She is also a NAMLE Board Member and was recently named an honoree of Forbes’ Next 1000 entrepreneurs.

What do you do?

Through my company RIZZARR, my team and I help brands to create the right content, craft the right messages, and produce online experiences in which they are able to authentically connect with and build loyalty with Millennials and Gen Zers.

As businesses evolve in engaging customers and audiences online (especially now due to COVID-19), RIZZARR aims to help them with their content marketing needs. RIZZARR is a curated content marketplace that allows businesses to create digital media alongside everyday Millennial and Gen Z content creators. RIZZARR acts as an intermediator, enabling businesses to use its content-as-a-service platform to find and work with its network of over 5,000 talented content creators in producing purpose-driven articles, social posts, videos, podcasts, and photos.

I also equally love using my passion for content creation to empower as well as to inspire Millennials and Gen Zers to discover their purpose and to use it to positively change the world.

Tell us about your latest work or project in media literacy.

My latest work in media literacy was a research study called, “Connecting the College Aspirations of High School Students with Television Network News.” This research is the prelude to my dissertation that I eventually plan to pursue.

I was fascinated by how network news portrayed people of color and how that impacted the self-esteem and college aspirations of high school students, particularly those in predominant minority communities. For this particular study, I had students at Crenshaw High School take a survey in which they watched varies news broadcast stories and were asked a series of questions regarding them. If was a very interesting study and definitely of importance to me, especially because at the time I was pursuing a career in network news.

My research found that network news needed to showcase more positive images of people of color in their broadcasts because what they were showing at the time was actually hurting the self-image and self-esteem of minority high school students. The more that the high school students would see positive images of people of color, the more they felt eager to pursue a college education in an effort to pursue their ideal career.

Why is media literacy important to you?

Media literacy is especially important to me because my mom was a teacher and my dad has been on various school boards, including my hometown and its county. In fact, he is currently the president of one of the largest counties in Michigan. With my parents both being very passionate about education, my sister and I realize the gravity of its importance from a young age. As I got older and started my love of media, I realize how its depictions were often skewed and how that impacted my peers. Fast forward, seeing all that is happening in the world today between television news, social media, digital media, and more, I feel that it is imperative that help young people to better understand and digest the content that they are engaging.

Everything has moved at such a rapid place in terms of media, but there has to be more boundaries, guidelines, and teachings provided to young people so that they are able to analyze it in a cohesive, thorough, and tangible manner. Otherwise, I believe many will continue to face various mental health challenges further and our world may be shaped negatively by them due to our not providing them with the necessary media literacy tools they need to engage with content in ways that empower and help them; instead of ways that confuse, overwhelm, or negatively impact them.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?

I am excited about the possibilities that media literacy has to positively change the world, particularly the lives of our young people. Content is such a powerful thing and combining it with literacy only makes it that more powerful! I feel that it has endless uplifting possibility and can truly generate tremendous ripple effects for our society. To me, we are really just at the dawn of what is to come! The conversation on media literacy has truly come alive now — more than any other time in history.

By NAMLE and other wonderful organization as well as individuals leading the charge on driving this conversation and creating this change now, we each can truly have an impact on how media literacy impacts our world now and for generations to come.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?

I wanted to become a member of NAMLE because I just truly LOVE the mission of the organization. I admire its incredible impact and its legacy. I wanted to help it with further its mission and making an event greater impact on our world. I just wholeheartedly believe in what it stands for and its leaders. Its impact is so evident right now and I can’t wait to see all that it continues to accomplish in the years to come! It is an organization that is needed now more than ever before.

The views and opinions expressed in the Member Spotlight are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Member Spotlight is to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.