Posted 10 August 2023
Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Mention Mercy Abel

Creative storyteller Mercy Abel on being the “CEO of having a chat” and why you should get a mentor

Mercy Abel knows how to keep multiple plates spinning. Describing herself as the “CEO of having a chat”, the creative acts as John Doe’s cultural insights and content lead by day, bridging connections with underestimated communities to foster nuanced storytelling in advertising. Having previously completed a two-year stint as an inclusion consultant for The Unmistakables, Mercy’s dedication to uplifting Black narratives is equally visible through her self-founded platforms, Into A Black Mind and Strong Black Woman, which celebrate and amplify the voices of the Black community. On top of this, Mercy is also the founder of Gen Z careers podcast audacity of we, where she helps fellow emerging talent understand the industry around them. Here, Mercy tells us about the power of mentorship – and how it has led her to where she is today.

Mercy Abel

Mercy Abel

Job Title

Cultural Insights and Content Lead at John Doe Group
Podcast Creator and Host of audacity of we



Place of Study

BA International Business with Marketing, University of Strathclyde (2016-2020)

Selected Clients

Global commercial brands and agencies (Coca-Cola, BBH, Penguin Random House), National charities (Macmillan, Shelter), governmental departments

Social Media




What I do

How would you describe what you do?
In my 9-5 job, I am a cultural insights and content lead for creative agency, John Doe. I’ve been building and establishing the company’s new insights division called Elsewhere, and connecting with underestimated communities to create more nuanced storytelling in advertising. My passion is creative storytelling which can be seen through my founded platforms: Into A Black Mind and Strong Black Woman where I positively highlight Black talent and stories.

“I connect with underestimated communities to create more nuanced storytelling in advertising.”

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Mercy’s home graduation, 2020

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Mercy’s blog, Into a Black Mind

I’m also the podcast creator and host of two podcasts: audacity of we, a Gen Z careers podcast exploring the audacious stories behind different job titles of Gen Z talent and today’s current leaders. I also co-host something we gotta talk about, a podcast which brings Black, East African and Scottish perspectives to social and pop culture moments of today.

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year?
The evolution of my Strong Black Woman project. What started as a solo video has evolved into a storytelling platform that aims to rewrite the narrative of what it means to be a strong Black woman, demonstrating a hopeful narrative of the term.

What are the main influences behind your work?
The conversations I have with people. I get inspired by their stories – and even my own – to create content. I low-key call myself the CEO of having a chat as that’s really the core of what I’m doing in my work: having a chat and sharing stories in stimulating ways, whether that be visually or audibly.

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
The main traits you need to be a creative storyteller is to be curious, ask the right questions and be flexible with the output and the rest will fall into place!

In terms of skills, it’s always good to be organised and realistic with timings so that whatever you create can actually be released into the world. Procrastination can truly be the enemy of progress.

“The core of what I’m doing is sharing stories in stimulating ways, whether that be visually or audibly.”

How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
The plan I had post graduation was to travel and even potentially begin my career abroad but as a 2020 graduate, that plan had a strong and immediate pivot. I graduated in a pandemic, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and social unrest, with no plan or job prospects. All I knew is that I had to get a job somehow. But I had one non-negotiable – I needed to go somewhere that cared.

After looking for support available for covid graduates, I came across a platform called Home From College and was selected for a mentorship programme where I met my first ever mentor, Hugh Thomas, who helped connect me to my first full-time job. This was an internship with an award-winning equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) consultancy called The Unmistakables where I worked for over two years from intern to inclusion consultant – fully remotely.

It definitely wasn’t the start I had planned, but it’s the start that gave me what I needed to be even more inquisitive and approach creative storytelling in a nuanced way, which is serving me well in my role at John Doe!

“I was selected for a mentorship programme, which helped connect me to my first full-time job.”

Home from College mentorship announcement, featuring Mercy and her first mentor Hugh Thomas

How did you go about landing your first clients?
I came into both my roles with client bases already present and relationships already established. In my first role, my client portfolio included global commercial brands and agencies (Coca-Cola, BBH, Penguin Random House), national charities (Macmillan, Shelter) and English government departments.

In my current role this client portfolio has expanded to world-renown and national beverage companies (Diageo, Edinburgh Gin), fashion brands (Napapijri) and and cultural markets (Brixton Village).

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Other than getting a job during covid, my biggest challenge was leaving the ED&I industry and going to agency life. I went from an industry where ED&I was at the forefront of everyone’s minds to PR and advertising, where I quickly understood the very reason ED&I professionals are needed.

Although it was an adjustment, I am now much closer to creative processes and the execution of the work, which is what I was craving before.

“When I moved to the PR and advertising industry, I quickly understood why ED&I professionals are needed.”

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Mercy speaking at Meta’s BRiM inaugural event as an Emerging Leader award winner

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?

  1. Having conversations with people is always number one (some would call it networking…)

  2. Shameless plug but my podcast audacity of we is what I was missing when I was looking for useful resources as a Gen Z graduate. I learned a lot making it so hopefully others can learn a lot listening to it!

  3. Bozoma Saint John gave me the representation I needed to dive right into exploring the world of advertising and creative storytelling as a Black woman in marketing.

“My podcast is what I was missing when I was looking for useful resources as a Gen Z graduate.”

Mercy with Bozoma Saint John at the Cannes Lions Festival

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Massively! You never know who is looking…

For all the creative storytellers: have fun with your creativity, be proud of it, share it, even shout about it and most importantly – allow your creativity to exist yesterday, today and tomorrow! What I mean is give your future audience a chance to find you and your content, whenever it finds them. Who knows, that future audience might include the likes of Oprah, Issa Rae or your favourite brand who could instead come knocking on your door!

And please even as a creative, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn. Sharing my work and being present on this platform is how I’ve gotten many of my opportunities whether it’s being approached for a job, being invited to speaking events and even selected for awards.

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
The art of negotiation is key. If this isn’t your bag, find someone you trust to support you with this. This involves combing through the contract, analysing pay and salary offerings, discussing benefits and how future expenses (like travel) may be covered.

When considering how much you should be remunerated for your work, consider this tiered approach. Give yourself a range from your dream top number (which is what you ask for) to your bottom floor (which is the lowest you will accept).

The middle becomes your monetary comfort zone that you should be happy with if the number offered falls into that. However, you have to ensure your numbers are realistic and backed up with research. The final offer should match the value of work that you’ll bring to the company and vice versa.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
My mentor, Joss Patterson taught me to create a spark list when making decisions. This would involve writing down all the things that spark joy but equally writing down all the things that don’t spark joy.

For example, if you were having a networking call and learning about someone’s role that you’re interested in, pull up your notes app or a notepad and do exactly that. As you chat with them, write down all that sparks joy and all that doesn’t, which you can later review and use to help you get closer to your decision.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
The best and easiest way we can all learn is from each other. We are all figuring it out as we go along.

My motto is that I will (respectfully) ask questions to others who have come before me in the industry. If I don’t have to learn something from scratch, I won’t make my life hard in doing so!

Interview by Creative Lives in Progress
Mention Mercy Abel