Behind the B: Storytelling with WePresent

WePresent features unexpected stories about creativity from all over the world. Here’s how we ensure we’re being as representative, supportive and authentic as possible

Quite often when I look at the numbers that define WeTransfer, it blows my mind. Some 87 million odd people around the world, in 190 countries use WeTransfer every month to send billions of files. Now, I’m no mathematician (right-brainer here!) but I do know that that is what we call a lot. Every one of those millions of people is different, has their own story to tell and their own ideas to put out in the world that are formed based on their own experiences, culture and history. There are no two creatives the same. And that is the beauty of creativity; there is no single template or vision that anyone needs to adhere to.

That too is the founding principle of WePresent, WeTransfer’s digital arts and editorial platform. Since the very beginning WePresent has existed to tell unexpected stories about creativity from artists all over the world. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: we believe that more voices = better ideas. We want to represent our global WeTransfer network and prove that creativity can (and does) come from anywhere and everywhere. Representation is at the core of what we do. We want to tell stories across different communities – whether that's age, race, geography, gender or sexual orientation. 

Challenging ourselves

That can sound like a rather lofty sentiment at best, and performative at worst, so let’s break it down shall we. How do we actually make sure we’re doing this? Firstly, we’re not afraid to challenge ourselves. Each month we hold an editorial curation meeting that comes with set challenges based on countries, trends, types of artists or disciplines that we haven’t yet covered, or are lacking in, and push the team to answer this brief. This forces us as an editorial team to look outside of our own echo chambers and work harder in order to find more representative work. In practice this can mean using Google to translate the art sections of local papers from Ecuador, or getting in contact with a gallery owner in Lesotho, or learning to use social media in new ways. Secondly, when creating these stories, we follow a set of guidelines for ethical storytelling that align with our values as a B Corp  and help to govern our journalism. Want a read? You can check out our road to responsibility right here

After the artists have been featured on WePresent comes our internal analysis. We measure our editorial output each quarter and look at countries and artists featured, gender splits and disciplines covered to ensure that we are publishing work from creatives in different parts of the world, from different cultures and with different perspectives. But it’s not looking simply at the artists themselves⁠—we make sure that those hired to write the stories or draw the illustrations or create the accompanying visuals also understand the nuance of the work and culture surrounding it so that we can tell each story with integrity. It’s not just about who’s in front of the camera, but behind it too. Working in this way, we’ve so far featured more than 1000 different creatives from over 100 different countries. 119 to be exact.

At WePresent we want to ensure that our support is more than just a one time thing too. We stay in touch with artists once they’ve been featured, and last year began sending out a quarterly survey asking whether being on WePresent had impacted their careers in a positive way; be it through sales, website traffic or being approached for work. Understanding how a feature can affect a creative’s career in a real time way is important for us as we continue to evaluate how we can meaningfully contribute to an artist’s growth.

Creativity isn't free

And speaking of growth, let’s get real for a moment. It’s very hard to build a career as a creative unless you are actually able to make a living from it. Time after time we’ve seen artists call out brands on social media for asking them to create something new for them and then offering to ‘pay’ them with free promotion. Let’s be very clear here, promotion doesn’t pay the bills. Every time a creative makes something new for us⁠—whether that’s an essay, an illustration, a film or takes a photograph⁠—they are paid. Properly and fairly. So louder for those at the back: Pay artists, their creativity isn’t free.

"Sometimes handing the mic to someone else is the most powerful thing you can do as a brand."

Holly Fraser, Editor-in-chief at WePresent

There’s also something important I’d like to point out because I don’t want this blogpost to sound like we’re giving ourselves one giant pat on the back. We’re by no means perfect. We make mistakes. We don’t have all the answers. The road to being an editorial platform that stands up for what it believes in, supports artists’ vision and actually does some good once in a while is long and full of unexpected turns, but we want to continue to do the best that we can. At WeTransfer it’s important that we recognize that we’re not always the ones that should be doing the talking, but that we have a website that is viewed and used by millions, and that is a powerful tool to amplify the voices of those that need to be heard. Sometimes handing the mic to someone else is the most powerful thing you can do as a brand. We are constantly striving to be the most representative and supportive platform that we can be, and we’re learning every step of the way. The key takeaway? We are no one without the creatives that we collaborate with, so treat artists with the respect that they deserve. Always.

Like this? Read this post about Celebrating B Corp Month by our CEO Gordon Willoughby